Albuquerque activists eye history in new protest

Comment: Off

FILE–In this Feb. 2, 2012 file photo, Chicano Movement leader Reies Lopez Tijerina, appears at an event honoring the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in Santa Fe, N.M. In 1967, Tijerina and armed followers raided a courthouse in Tierra Amarilla, N.M., to attempt a citizen’s arrest of then-District Attorney Alfonso Sanchez over Hispanic land rights issues. As Albuquerque continues to see public demonstrations over a rash of police shootings, activists said they are looking to New Mexico’s history of resistance and protests to draw attention to what they say are major problems within the police department. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File)

FILE–In this Feb. 2, 2012 file photo, Chicano Movement leader Reies Lopez Tijerina, appears at an event honoring the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in Santa Fe, N.M. In 1967, Tijerina and armed followers raided a courthouse in Tierra Amarilla, N.M., to attempt a citizen’s arrest of then-District Attorney Alfonso Sanchez over Hispanic land rights issues. As Albuquerque continues to see public demonstrations over a rash of police shootings, activists said they are looking to New Mexico’s history of resistance and protests to draw attention to what they say are major problems within the police department. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File)

FILE- In this March 30, 2014 file photo, riot police stand guard near a crowd protesting police shootings in Albuquerque, N.M. As this city of 550,000 continues to see public demonstrations over a rash of police shootings, activists say they are looking to New Mexico’s history of resistance and previous protests to draw attention to what they said are major problems within the police department. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File)

FILE- In this March 30, 2014 file photo, protesters sit during a rally against recent police shootings in Albuquerque, N.M. As Albuquerque continues to see public demonstrations over a rash of police shootings, activists said they are looking to New Mexico’s history of resistance and previous protests to draw attention to what they said are major problems within the police department. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)

Protesters take over the City Council meeting, Monday May 5, 2014, in Albuquerque, N.M. Alan Gomez was fatally shot by an APD officer in 2011. (AP Photo/The Albuquerque Journal, Bob Brawdy)

Mike Gomez, whose son Alan Gomez, was fatally shot by an APD officer in 2011 expresses his frustration to the City Council members during the council meeting, Monday May 5, 2014, in Albuquerque, N. M. (AP Photo/The Albuquerque Journal, Bob Brawdy)

Buy AP Photo Reprints

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — As the threat of another tense standoff at an Albuquerque City Council meeting brews, protesters angry over a series of police shootings are harkening back to the city’s long history of civil disturbance and modeling their demonstrations after those including a notorious 1960s citizen raid of a northern New Mexico courthouse.

In 1967, protesters contending the U.S. government stole millions of acres of land from Mexican-American residents stormed a courthouse to attempt a citizen’s arrest of the district attorney. During the raid, the group shot and wounded a state police officer and jailer, beat a deputy and took the sheriff and a reporter hostage.

Now, a leader of this week’s protest cited that episode as the motivation for the City Council demonstration in which protesters attempted a citizen’s arrest of the police chief.

“That’s where we got the idea for the citizen’s arrest,” said David Correia, a University of New Mexico American studies professor and a protest organizer. He wasn’t advocating violence, but a focus on civil disobedience, saying participants were willing to be arrested.

It’s an interesting turn of events in Albuquerque, where distrust of the Police Department is at an all-time high after an officer shot and killed an armed man following a weekend SWAT standoff. Police in the city of 550,000 people have been involved in 39 shootings since 2010 and are under tough scrutiny following a harsh report from the U.S. Justice Department over use of force.

On Monday, activists stormed the City Council chambers and forced city leaders to abruptly end the meeting, and they planned more unrest at a Thursday meeting.

The rowdy disruption of the City Council meeting, protesters say, also follows the tactics of another 1960s Mexican-American group — the Black Berets. Similar to the Black Panther Party, the Berets mounted community patrols, opened free clinics and protested police brutality in Albuquerque. To draw attention to their causes, they often attended meetings and events unannounced to force authorities to hear them out.

The latest protest also highlighted the dilemma facing Albuquerque police. Police Chief Gorden Eden was hired just three months ago to bring reform to the troubled department, which recently implemented changes such as lapel-mounted cameras on officers to lead to more transparency about police actions.

But video of recent shootings, especially one in March involving a knife-wielding homeless camper, has only inflamed tensions once the footage went viral. And police insist that the suspect in the weekend shooting was a threat because he was armed and putting his family and others in danger.

Deputy Chief Eric Garcia stressed that officers patiently negotiated with suspect Armand Martin and attempted to de-escalate the situation but had no other choice when he exited his home with handguns.

On Monday, protesters called for a citizen’s arrest of Eden, charging him with “harboring fugitives from justice at the Albuquerque Police Department” and for “crimes against humanity” in connection with recent police shootings. The police chief quickly left the City Council meeting after the citizen’s arrest was announced, and no protesters tried to apprehend him. Had anyone touched him, authorities said they could have faced charges of battery on a police officer.

Protesters also could have faced charges of disrupting a City Council meeting under a city ordinance. But no arrests were made.

A state Attorney General’s Office spokesman said it was likely illegal for citizens to arrest a police chief.

The 1967 courthouse

Comments

comments

About the Author