On Monday, during the first of two scheduled debates ahead of the May 16 general election for Los Angeles City Council District 1 , an audience member shouted “Go back to India!” at American-born city council candidate Joe Bray-Ali.
“I was born here,” Bray-Ali said in English, before repeating the phrase in Spanish, according to video footage of the event.
“I’m a child of Los Angeles,” Bray-Ali said, a visibly offended, in English and Spanish, before adding, “I’m sorry,” in what appeared to be an apology on behalf of the individual who made the statement.
The debate was held in Westlake.
A press release from Bray-Ali’s Communications Director, Michael Atkins identified the individual who lobbed the racial epithet as “a supporter of incumbent Councilmember Gil Cedillo,” whom Bray-Ali is challenging.
“We need [Cedillo] to condemn this action,” Michael Atkins, Bray-Ali’s communications director, told Breitbart News. Video footage shows Cedillo with his head down, writing notes, as the encounter unfolds and remaining unresponsive.
“This is not acceptable behavior from a political representative. To allow local members to be shouting racial epithets is not acceptable from a political representative and should have been admonished in the moment,” Atkins said.
According to Southen California Public Radio, at least one audience member urged Cedillo to denounce the female audience member’s comment. “But Cedillo, who was seated at table next to Bray-Ali, stayed silent,” SCPR noted.
The female moderator of the debate condemned the racially-charged statement, according to video of the event. “Yes. I do think the moderator heard it and she admonished it immediately,” Atkins told Breitbart News. He added that Cedillo “completely stayed with his head down. He did nothing to halt the bigoted, biased and racist comment.”
Both Bray-Ali and Cedillo are Democrats. California’s recently-adopted “jungle” primary system allows for the top two vote winners in the primary to compete in general elections, regardless of political party.
Joe Bray-Ali is a native Angeleno who claims mixed Indian, Hungarian, Irish, Jewish, and Muslim descent. His wife is of Mexican and Chinese descent.
“That was absolutely wrong,” Cedillo spokeswoman Helen Sanchez told LA Weekly. “The council member strongly denounces that. He didn’t hear it. Otherwise he would have said something.”
Cedillo also issued a statement of his own, which also included a reference to a YouTube video Bray-Ali posted nine years ago:
My campaign has already stated that I denounce the comments that were made at Monday night’s debate. I did not hear what was said, or I would have done so immediately. I know from personal experience how hateful remarks can hurt. That is why I would like Mr. Bray-Ali to explain remarks he made on a YouTube video on March 9, 2008.
According to a press release from his team, Bray-Ali expressed his disappointment at Cedillo for refraining from condemning his supporter’s racist comment:
My opponent condemns Trump for divisive statements, but is silent on his supporters’ bigoted attacks. I am asking for my council member to personally disavow this rhetoric, and for him to denounce his supporters’ comments for me to “Go back to India.” I have known Gilbert Cedillo for 25 years, and my family has stood by him through good times and bad. He is not a racist, and he must stop this behavior before it leads to the same type of attacks we saw at Trump rallies.
(At those rallies, Democrats often hired paid operatives to incite violence, using a tactic known as “bird-dogging.”
According to SCPR, “Cedillo is the only incumbent council member who did not win reelection outright in March.” He reportedly “earned 49.34 percent of the primary election vote and needed 50 percent plus one vote to avoid a runoff. Bray-Ali was the second place candidate with 37.97 percent of the vote.”