By Rene Thompson, Editor in Chief | Photos by Rene Thompson
Demonstrators took to the streets on Tuesday, March 25 and Sunday, March 30 to protest against the Albuquerque Police Department’s use of force and killing of Albuquerque citizens.
Specifically James Boyd, who was shot and killed while squatting in the Northeast Heights Foot Hills at Copper Trailhead, on March 16, and protests eventually ended in people being dispersed by tear gas at Girard Blvd and Central Avenue and at APD headquarters twelve hours after protests began on Sunday.
Since the first protest on Tuesday that brought more than 1,000 people to the event, there has been a massive media frenzy online and many took to the internet on social media sites to voice their concerns, whether people were in support of APD or against APD’s use of force.
Former student and Activist with the ANSWER Coalition, Joel Gallegos said that this whole situation had blown up because it had been a long time coming and that the city should not be surprised by the blowback that occurred in the protest event on Sunday.
ANSWER stands for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, but also helps with organizing many protest events throughout Albuquerque, and Gallegos said that is why the ANSWER coalition is around, to give people the opportunity to participate in a safe way that is organized.
“The police were wrong to escalate the situation with a paramilitary response,” Gallegos said.
Gallegos said that whether it is direct action, civil disobedience, or political action, that the coalition wants to encourage folks to get involved.
History major, Zachary Case, who was at the Sunday event earlier in the day to observe protesters, said that he never saw protesting as a real way to change anything.
Case said that there were many touching stories at the event from people who had lost loved ones to police violence.
“I love freedom of speech and freedom of assembly; it’s just not exactly certain what will happen from all this,” he said.
Former President of ECOs, Stephen Martos said he believes people should be supporting APD instead of protesting them, because the police force is an essential part of the community.
Martos said that APD is necessary to serve and protect, but that there are times when that does not always ring true, as in the recent officer involved shooting.
“You cannot improve the situations by creating enemies, but instead by making partners. We are partners with our police force and are responsible for bringing our community together,” Martos said.
The Department of Justice has had an ongoing investigation of APD since Nov. 2012, after numerous misconduct lawsuits had cost Albuquerque taxpayers more than 24 million dollars in 2010 alone, according to a justice.gov D.O.J. press release and the Albuquerque Journal.
APD has been dealing with threats and personal information of officers being leaked from the activist and hacking group Anonymous, as APD’s website was attacked on Sunday which kept their site down for most of the day, Police Spokesman, Simon Drobik said in a statement.
Gallegos said that politicians do not start talking about problems until the people make it a problem.
He also said there is a city ordinance that allows protesters to march in the streets without a specific permit.
“We can’t control what others do, and we might not agree with the tactics used Sunday night but we fully support and stand with the people involved,” he said.
Case said that police should not be militarized— period, and that the city is just trying to control the population instead of protecting them.
Case said that he believes that if a cop is going to assault someone, then that person should have the right to defend themselves.
“This has been going on in Albuquerque since I was a little kid, and I remember there being issues of police brutality in our city since then,” he said.
Martos said that he believes that there are two camps of people protesting, with those that are truly interested in improving the APD, and those who are only interested in stirring the waters, because they are only focused on negativity.
It is necessary to alert our lawmakers and those administering training in order to improve in the ways we are failing, but Martos said that some of these protesters have lost sight of what the real issue is, which is the excessive force of APD.
“What is sad is they have done this in the name of James Boyd whom nobody worried about before he died. If the community cared so much, then they would have been out there helping him with food, water, shelter and healthcare,” Martos said.
According to justice.org, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 prohibits state and local governments from engaging in a pattern or practice of misconduct by law enforcement officers that deprives individuals of federally-protected rights.