Around 150 people gathered at the Center for Peace and Justice to create a list of demands on Monday night.
A block or so away, a couple dozen protesters gathered in front of the University of New Mexico Bookstore to continue to chant and call for reform of Albuquerque’s Police Department.
The center was wall-to-wall with activists from many backgrounds and organizations. Though opinions varied widely, the group eventually narrowed a list of 30-plus demands to three. They include:
• Release video of all shootings, including lapel and helmet camera footage
• Drop charges against protestors arrested on Sunday, March 30
• Indict officers involved in the shootings
Some attendees also talked about distancing themselves from destructive activities and educating young demonstrators about etiquette. Others said official spin about outlandish behavior from protesters was meant to obscure the real issues and to explain police use of tear gas.
One person said he’d been gassed twice on Sunday, March 30. He said the group’s goal should be the criminal prosecution of the officers who shot James Boyd. “It doesn’t matter who commits it, murder is murder,” he said to a round of applause. “This was a peaceful protest. “
At a press conference earlier that day, Police Chief Gorden Eden said Sunday’s march turned into a “mob state.” Mayor Richard Berry characterized it as “mayhem.”
Paul Heh, a 25-year veteran of the police force and 2013 mayoral candidate, said citizens should recall Berry. He passed around a petition for registered voters to sign, adding that 11,203 signatures are required.
Friends and family of people who’d been hurt or killed by APD also spoke. “My son was unarmed,” said Michael Gomez, whose son Alan was killed in 2011. “I’m glad everybody’s here. A lot of people have died needlessly. Hopefully the citizens of Albuquerque will listen so their loved ones won’t die either.” The city was ordered to pay a $900,000 settlement with the Gomez family at the end of 2013.
Amanda Gonzales grew up with Santiago Chavez, who was first tear-gassed and then shot and killed by APD in 2012. She thought of Chavez, she said, as she was experiencing the gas first-hand on Sunday. “You’re blinded. Your body feels like it’s on fire. And you can’t even speak to find the people that you care about. To imagine my friend spending his last moments probably unable to breathe, probably unable to move, how was he supposed to comply?”
Gonzales said she wonders whether officers are given adequate support in dealing with the trauma and tough situations they face on the job.
Alfonso Hernandez spoke of knowing James Boyd, who was camping in the Sandia foothills on March 16, when he was shot and killed by APD. “He would come down and share a meal with us. He normally kept to himself. He never gave us any problems.”
Hernandez is with the Metro Campers Fruit Stand, a group of homeless people who gather on the Fourth Street Mall in Downtown Albuquerque on Sundays to eat and listen to live music. He said homeless people are being treating unfairly by APD. “There’s something innately wrong with targeting a group of citizens just because they are poor.”