ABQ Citizens Show What Democracy Looks Like, & It’s a Fine Sight
Comments on my recent diary ‘What’s going on in your town?’ demonstrated that a surprising number of FDL denizens live in or near ABQ (and Sacramento, as well). Given that, I thought it might be time for a post on what’s been happening with ABQ actions against the APD over the past two months. As no one else had done so, I reckoned that I’d muddle my way through it, knowing that so many of you will be able to bring more information and verve to it. Please do. And if any good Burqueño should want to help host the thread (hint, hint), please say so.
Since 2010 nearly 25 people have been shot to death by Albuquerque police, and just since March, four have been slain. Citizens groups had been protesting over the years without forcing a change to the trigger-happy cop culture, but when APD released the helmet cam video shown here on March 21, citizens cried Basta! Enough! James Boyd was homeless, ‘illegally’ camped in the Sandia Mountains above ABQ, and on March 16 police exterminated him like a rabid dog about to attack. He had a history of mental illness and violence, but was dropping his knife when they unloaded their guns into his body.
All of the videos of the March 24 peaceful protests against the APD’s execution of James Boyd and their continuing culture of brute force have been removed from Youtube, reading ‘Error Occurred’; hmmm. A coincidence? I think not. Suffice it to say that at some time close to midnight, scuffles erupted, and protesters came under teargas attack. Most attendees say that by the time they left, all was peaceful, but they didn’t know what occurred after that. But the over-reaction by the cops was horrific.
This is the recently released harsh report by the US Justice Department on officers’ use of force and interactions with suspects with mental illness mentioned by Correia above.
Without adequate response from the city government or NM Attorney General Gary King, residents with strong moral and spiritual beliefs organized efforts to pressure the ABQ City Council. Rarely, if ever, did the Mayor attend.
— David Correia (@DavidCorreiaUNM) April 21, 2014
By last Monday night, the pain of families whose friends and relatives of the slain, coupled with citizen outrage at the deadly persecution of their spiritual brothers and sisters, culminated in a citizen take-over of the council meeting. Here is part of the Tweet Storify version a friend sent me:
— Dan McKay (@mckaydan) May 5, 2014
— ReformAPD (@ReformAPD) May 5, 2014
— KRQE News 13 (@krqe) May 6, 2014
The APD protestors have shut down the City Council meeting. Here's the empty dais pic.twitter.com/q6YMMiGGjs
— Jeff Proctor (@cjproctor74) May 6, 2014
Albuquerque citizens take control of city council meeting over recent police shootings. http://t.co/1drR1hTBlt
— William Aranda (@_WilliamAranda) May 6, 2014
Now the People’s Council has taken some harsh criticism in the media, of course, especially her co-editor David Correia (on Twitter), so Kay Matthews of La Jicarita wrote in defense of the citizen actions of Monday night (in part):
In the larger scheme of things, however, it is a defense of all of those committed activists who have brought attention to the abuses of the Albuquerque Police Department to not only New Mexicans but to citizens across the country and the world. That the mainstream media reduces a diverse, communal coalition to one white male—’Correia & Co.’— says volumes about who it listens to and who it represents: the power elite.
David is a community activist and professor of American Studies at UNM as well as managing editor of La Jicarita. There is no incongruity in these positions, or conflict of interest; together, they define a citizen. Academic activists bring their scholarship to the struggles in which they engage all over the world: to end apartheid in South Africa; to end the occupation of Palestine; to resist tuition increases and the dismantling of the great University of California system; to combat police violence in Albuquerque. Activist journalists do not subvert an ‘objective’ journalism that doesn’t exist. They employ their knowledge and skills to critique and analyze situations in which they engage not only as reporters but as catalysts of change.
David’s fields of study include Spanish and Mexican land grants and the history of law, property, and violence that surround them. His book on the Tierra Amarilla Land Grant, Properties of Violence: Law and Land Grant Struggle in Northern New Mexico, was published last year, and his research into these issues also extends to the history of Chicano social movements in Albuquerque against police violence.
Mark Schiller and I founded La Jicarita in 1996 as the voice of a watershed coalition engaged in environmental and social justice issues in northern New Mexico. We were members of the coalition that fought many battles—industrial mining near Picuris Pueblo, bureaucratic cooption of the acequia system, and Forest Service mismanagement—as well as writers who helped clarify just what was at stake. The paper became a separate non-profit in 1998 and we expanded its coverage—and our activism—to include the many issues of social injustice that impacted, and continue to impact, the lives of New Mexicans: the economic hegemony of Los Alamos National Laboratory; globalization; the Disneyfication of our national forests; and the privatization of water.
The DOJ is preparing a consent decree that it hopes will resolve APD’s ‘culture of aggression.’ Some think it’s time to bypass that step and put the APD into federal receivership, although that’s no guarantee that substantive, systemic change will suddenly occur (just ask the citizens of Seattle, which was taken over by the DOJ in 2012). What is clear is that the citizen activists who have worked for years to expose the APD’s excessive use of force against Albuquerque’s most vulnerable citizens, who have turned out to testify before the DOJ, who have attended administrative meetings and city council meetings without any compensation, are the ones who will bring about change.
As David said at the end of the May 5 city council meeting: ‘This meeting is over but the movement is not.’
The LiveStream of the takeover of the city council meeting can be seen at (un)OccupyNM. Some of the transcript:
‘Mike Gomez, father of Alan Gomez, who was shot and killed by APD, said, “The citizens of Albuquerque want justice. We have spoken for years and the city council has always been unresponsive. We, the people, are sick and tired of the Mayor not listening to us. Tonight, we took over city council and held the People’s Council. We are prepared to continue until APD stops killing people like my son. My son did not deserve to die; he was unarmed and shot in cold blood. No one deserves to die like my son did.”
Mary Jobe, whose fiancé, Daniel Tillison, was shot and killed by APD, said: “City Council finally heard our voices and that we are tired of APD killing our loved ones like my fiancé who was unarmed. We are not quitting, we are in the fight… this is just the beginning.”
Nora Anaya, whose nephew George Levi Tachias was killed by APD, stated, “We took a stand to make sure that they know that we want change today, not tomorrow. We are done waiting. There is no more waiting for APD to be reformed and stop killing good people like my nephew, who was a veteran.”
A People’s Assembly of Albuquerque voted unanimously on three resolutions, including:
(1) No confidence votes against Mayor Berry and Rob Perry, and an immediate resignation of Eden.
(2) Also, People’s Council voted to have the DOJ-ABQ consent to include that lapel cameras worn by APD will be on at all times when they have any encounters with civilians. If this is not the case, that officer will be immediately terminated from service.
(3) Also, People’s Council approved to implement an independent civilian oversight committee with the powers to discipline, hire and fire any officers.’
Ahead of last night’s ABQ City Council meeting which was primarily slated to be on budgetary issues, with two new laws concerning the hiring of the Police Chief, new rules for citizen ‘decorum’ (pdf) were posted online, perhaps at City Hall: no signs, props, outbursts, etc., after warning, violators would be escorted outside, and more.
From the ABQ Journal, part of their report from last night’s meeting (how cool is this?): ‘Protesters quietly take a stand at meeting’ (Chief Eden was in the wind again…)
Protesters made their point on Monday by seizing the Albuquerque City Council chambers and holding their own raucous meeting as city employees fled the room.
They took a much quieter approach on Thursday.
Some addressed the council silently – standing at the podium for two minutes with a fist raised in the air.
At Council President Ken Sanchez’s request, they were escorted by security out of the building, apparently for failing to make comments germane to the agenda item they’d signed up to speak on.
City security removed at least seven people in all, some of whom received a criminal-trespass notice ordering them not to return for 90 days.
Michael Gomez, whose son was shot and killed by police three years ago, resulting in a large settlement with the city, stood silently at the podium after putting a picture of his son, Alan, on the projector.
‘You’re not worth addressing,’ he told councilors before he was escorted out.
Two competing Albuquerque Police Department-centered proposals were up for discussion Thursday. Each would ask voters this fall to amend the City Charter.
One amendment would ask voters to make the police chief an elected position, removing the job from mayoral control.
The other would allow the mayor to continue hiring the police chief, but make the job subject to City Council approval. Councilor Isaac Benton successfully proposed that the council also be allowed to remove the chief with a two-thirds vote.
The proposals must get at least two hearings before councilors act on them. Thursday was their first, and they’re scheduled for action May 19.’
Seven protesters were removed from the building, issued Criminal Trespass citations, and were barred from attending meetings for the next ninety days. Included were David Correia.
The Guardian has more on the link he sees between the 1960’s social movement and the present one; fascinating parallel.
They were given citations, barred from meetings…for being silent.
From May 7, some righteous news: ‘James Boyd’s family to file wrongful death lawsuit’
Where will it all lead? We can only hope to something far, far better. But in a major salute to all the good Burqueños and citizens all over the nation and world taking principled stands against police brutality, financial injustice, the rape and destruction of the planet, I offer by way of a bit of a reprise, Karine Polwart’s hymn to the Occupy Movement, ‘King of Birds’ (the better live version has embedding disabled). Yes, you, all of us who struggle against oppressions are those Wee Wrens, dedicated to bringing peace to the realm.. Love, peace, and resolve to you all.
(Cross-posted at Café-Babylon.net)