APD’s critics convene to hash out demands
As protests against the Albuquerque Police Department subsided Monday, protesters came up with three demands for police.
At a community forum held at the Albuquerque Peace and Justice Center on Monday night, more than 50 APD protesters voted to declare their concrete demands against the department’s excessive use of violence in the city.
Protesters’ demands included the release of videos of all fatal APD shootings since 2010, the acquittal of all people arrested in Sunday’s protests and the indictment of all officers involved in fatal shootings.
Sayrah Namaste, an activist with (un)Occupy Albuquerque who helped to organize the forum, said she was content with the results of the event.
“This was an amazing democratic participation,” she said. “It was tremendous, wonderful community input. People got heard. We got three demands, and we’re all in agreement.”
Namaste said protesters from various activist organizations in the city rushed to put up and publicize the event right after a 12-hour standoff among protesters and police Sunday.
“All the events of that 10- or 11-hour standoff with police really pushed it to ‘let’s have it as soon as we can.’ We put it all together at about 12 a.m. We knew we wanted to do it before the City Council meeting.”
Hundreds rallied across downtown Albuquerque and along Central Avenue starting at noon that day, resulting in multiple confrontations and prompting police to teargas protesters near the end of the night. The standoff came after hacker group Anonymous posted a video press release on YouTube urging residents to protest against APD’s excessive use of violence.
Namaste said that although the three demands issued by protesters at the forum are not the most important ones, they are effective short-term goals.
“I don’t think those were the most important, but those are the ones that we can do immediately,” she said. “Some of our demands are extremely important, but it would take a lot of time to put a lot of detail in those, whereas asking them to release all the videos can happen right now.”
Initially, attendees were introduced to a list of 14 demands to APD that was formulated by the Albuquerque Task Force for Public Safety, a civilian organization including family members of people shot dead by APD. At the forum, protesters voted on the three almost in consensus as the initial demands to pursue with APD.
David Correia, a member of the task force who introduced the initial list, said his organization has been talking about a list of demands for some time now. He said the three demands, which they issued on March 24 after the killing of James Boyd, would push for more effective action among protesters.
“Those are doable right now,” he said. “It’s an important choice, because we have to start making demands and seeing them through … I think the important thing as we walk out of here tonight is to have demands that we know can happen immediately.”
On March 21, APD released a video of the killing of Boyd, who was illegally camping in the Sandia foothills. The video shows him turning away from officers as they open fire on him.
Correia said that as a long-term solution, the city should establish a civilian oversight of APD that has more checks and balances.
“One, for me, that is very important is binding civilian police oversight that includes disciplining and firing officers,” Correia said. “I think that the police are a social institution, but they’re not treated as a social institution that has carte blanche to do whatever they want. When the police police the police, you get killer cops.”
Namaste said she supports this idea. She said that although the Police Oversight Commission is in place right now, it does not have a direct impact on APD.
“I was in the Police Oversight Commission last week. There were about 40 of us, and they usually have like four people,” she said. “They told us that they are very frustrated that they don’t have teeth — they don’t have power, they don’t have authority. They’re just being ignored.”
At the forum, some people demanded the resignation of Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and APD Chief Gorden Eden.
But Lissie Perkal, a UNM student who attended the event, said this would not be an effective long-term solution.
“In the short term, I support recalling the chief of police,” she said. “But, honestly, it’s a structural violence. It’s not those individuals who are evil, it’s the positions. I think we really need to redo the whole system. Getting them out of office would just be a short-term victory, especially with the police chief.”
Perkal said APD should be held accountable for using force against protesters during the Sunday protests.
“Police officers who engaged to shoot and kill need to be held accountable,” she said. “They also need to be held accountable for what was happening (Sunday). They had a militarized response to people who were protesting, which is a totally inappropriate and unnecessary response … Protesters should not have gotten that treatment. They should not have gotten tear gassed.”
Namaste said protesters are planning to convene a small group of individuals to talk about issuing long-term demands in the future.
“We obviously have a problem, and everyone in the world now knows it,” she said. “We need to, as a people, say what changes we want.”