For the second time in less than one month, the regularly-scheduled Albuquerque City Council meeting was abruptly canceled due to ongoing protests over fatal police shootings and other instances of alleged police brutality.
This reporter was barred entry into Albuquerque City Hall by two officers around 5 pm on Monday, June 2, as the meeting was set to get underway. Asked their reason for preventing entrance into a public meeting,
the officers only said that nobody was allowed in the building and that the meeting had been canceled.
FNS soon learned, however, the reason behind the sudden cancellation of the meeting. A short while earlier, on an upper floor of City Hall, police had arrested 13 protesters who staged a sit-in at Mayor Richard Berry’s office demanding to speak to the city’s top official about their grievances with the Albuquerque Police Department (APD).
“We want the mayor to talk to us. He’s been running and hiding from us,” activist Mary Jobe later told FNS. Jobe’s partner, Daniel Tillison, was unarmed when he was shot and killed by an APD officer in 2012.
Present for the sit-in, Jobe nonetheless decided against getting arrested after her children expressed concerns about their mother’s safety.
“My kids come before everything else,” she said.
Up the block from the closed City Hall, Jobe joined a small group of other activists across the street from the Bernalillo County Public Safety Center where the 13 protesters were taken for booking. A thick cloud of black smoke visible over a nearby building added to a confusing scene, but word circulated that the smoke was from an unrelated vehicle that caught on fire.
Fellow activist Sayrah Namaste criticized the cancellation of the city council’s meeting as an overreaction to an act of civil disobedience. “This is an absurd reaction to non-violent protesters,” Namaste said.
According to an official statement, the meeting was cancelled by City Council President Ken Sanchez “out of concerns for the safety of both the general public and staff, and in order to comply with the State Open Meetings Act which requires that all persons desiring shall be permitted to listen to the deliberations and proceedings.”
The June 2 regular meeting has been rescheduled as a special meeting for Monday, June 9. However, no public comment will be allowed at the June 9 meeting under the city council’s special meeting rules. Since the June 2 meeting agenda will be followed, the no-comment rule means no public discussion will take place on two proposed measures aimed at replacing the controversial police oversight commission.
“It’s a joke. We’re not violent. We’re not a threat. (Police) were grabbing us and pushing us around,” Jobe said in response to City Council President Sanchez’s action. “They’re violating our rights.”
Benjamin George, who also participated in the sit-in but was not arrested, said the protest group arrived to Berry’s office with several demands including the resignations of the mayor, APD Chief Gorden Eden and Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg; the arrests of officers involved in deadly shootings; lapel cameras requirements for officers; and the production of the gun allegedly carried by 19-year-old Mary Hawkes, who was shot dead by APD officer Jeremy Dear last April; Chief Eden later revealed that Dear’s lapel camera did not record video of the shooting, as stipulated by APD rules.
George said he was careful to tell officers outside City Hall that the protest wasn’t about police per se, but concerned law-breaking officers who “put the police and the city in a precarious spot.” The young activist contended that the issue at hand wasn’t complicated. “It’s an easy fix but there’s no political will,” he added.
Inside Berry’s office, protesters chanted and one woman, who is affectionately known as “Grandmother Nora” by her compatriots, briefly chained herself to an object before being led off to the hoosegow.
A small group of activists waited for a couple of hours across from the Bernalillo County Public Safety Center as their arrested friends were readied for transport to the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center on the city’s far West Side. David Correia was led out first to a transport vehicle, followed by a dozen other detainees.
“Scary, scary, scary!” blurted out artist Barbara Grothus, as she entered the prisoner transport van. “Lots of cops in there.”
“We love you, Nora,” yelled supporters as Nora Anaya, decked out in a suit, climbed aboard the prison transport, sat down and shouted back, “This is what democracy looks like!” Soon “Grandmother Nora” and several other women were singing a jailhouse rendition of the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love.”
12 of the protesters were variously charged with trespassing, unlawful assembly and interfering with a public official while Correia, a UNM professor who has been very visible in the anti-APD violence protest movement, was slapped with the most serious charge of alleged battery on an officer.
Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico
For a free electronic subscription