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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Students reflect on Sunday night’s protest

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By Frida Salazar/Daily Lobo / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Sevak Tarpinian, lef, Dominka Lopez, center and Brendan Welch raised banners on the corner of Central and University Monday afternoon as passers by showed their support. This is the third day protesters have taken to the streets against APD within a week.

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Groups in protest of the Albuquerque Police Department organized two follow-up demonstrations Monday at UNM.

Several organizations promoted the events by way of social media. One protest was scheduled to take place at 1 p.m. on Central Avenue in front of a Denny’s next to Columbia Drive. Four protesters showed up to the event.

Justin Gaudian, who was the first protester on the scene, said he decided to attend after watching the video of APD shooting James Boyd.

“I heard about the shooting of James Boyd, and I watched the video,” he said. “It made me sick and really angry. I feel like something needs to be done; APD has a history of violence and injustice. The best way to stand up to that, if the authorities aren’t doing anything, is to get out in the streets.”

On March 16, APD shot and killed James Boyd, a homeless man who was caught illegally camping in the Sandia Foothills. In a video that was taken from an officer’s helmet camera, Boyd can be seen turning away from APD officers as they open fire.

Gaudian said he would like to see a change in policy that disallows officers paid leave after their offenses.

“I would like to see more therapy for police officers in the line of duty because there’s a lot of angry cops out there looking for someone to pick on,” he said.

Officers have nonlethal options when it comes to eliminating threats, and the use of firearms should be a last resort, he said.

Michael Lovelace, who also arrived to protest, said he showed up to redeem the original message of Sunday’s march.

“I’m here today because last night got a little rowdy and the message was lost, so I want to get out here with people that are really down with the message,” he said.

Their message was well-received, he said, until the protest got out of control

“I’m just trying not to get shot by APD, man — bottom line, that’s all there is to it,” Lovelace said. “I feel bad that I have to live in fear almost. There are good cops in APD and there are a lot of bad ones, and the good ones don’t seem to be saying much about it. You’re guilty by association and you know I don’t stand for death.”

More protesters showed up to the second protest, which was scheduled to take place at 4:30 p.m. at the intersection of Central and University Boulevard. About 10 people were present at 5:30 p.m.; By 6:15 p.m., there were almost 20 people at the demonstration. At around 7:30 p.m., the protesters moved to the front of the UNM Bookstore.

Jefferson LaRouche, a UNM sophomore studying communications, said he was protesting APD’s excessive use of force. LaRouche said that while he is sure there are good officers on the force, there are too many who “bend and break the rules.”

“APD needs every forum, so this is a good way to begin that,” he said.

LaRouche said he was only at Sunday’s protest for a brief time, but he did watch APD use tear gas on protesters near Columbia Drive and Central. He said residents who live in UNM’s Alvarado Hall with him, as well as people in other dorms, may have been affected.

“My friends in Redondo and Coronado, they were all affected,” he said. “My windows were shut. I think the people who had windows open, they were affected.”

LaRouche said people he spoke to who had been at the scene claimed one person was attempting to block traffic while the rest of the protesters attempted to restrain him. He said he didn’t think the use of gas was warranted.

“Because of how much of an overreaction it was, and how much it affected completely innocent people, it was an extreme measure and it needs to stop,” he said.

At a press conference on Monday, APD Chief Gorden Eden said tear gas was used on the protesters at UNM on Sunday because of fighting among the group.

Eden said the police also used tear gas on protesters downtown in part because one protester brought what he claimed to be an AK-47 to the protest.

At the conference, Eden confirmed that the man’s weapon was real. He said protesters at Fifth and Roma also failed to follow police orders to peacefully disperse.

Eden justified the police’s use of force by saying protesters disrupted civilian operations in the city.

“They started on Central and Edith, and that’s when they blocked the emergency access to Presbyterian (Hospital),” he said. “There were people with their families in their cars. (Protesters) were preventing people who were just trying to get from point A to point B. That was no longer a peaceful protest.”

Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry said protesters were instigating the use of tear gas, and police waited as long as they could before using it

“There was remarkable restraint exercised by the police department,” he said. “The groups were trying to antagonize the police department, who was trying to do good work.”

Some UNM students think the police dropping tear gas may have been justified.

April Grijalva, a freshman studying performance in cello, said she believed police acted appropriately. She said the protesters were entitled to voice their opinions, but some of them should not have resorted to disturbing the peace.

“There have been protests before where it’s been peaceful and it’s been civilized, and people have gotten what they wanted,” she said.

Grijalva said she was not at the protest.

Isaac Melero, a sophomore studying sign language, said that though he also did not attend the event, he heard the police acted suitably on Sunday. Although he agrees that the police should crack down on shootings, he said some of the people who attended the protest acted inappropriately.

“I heard that the response from the police was actually really good,” he said. “The ones from the protest were the ones destroying stuff.”

Nathan Martinez, a sophomore majoring in engineering, said he was at his house when the tear gas was released. He said he heard from an attendee that protesters were given multiple warnings before the gas was fired.

“At some point, some of the protesters had earned the tear gas,” he said. “Not necessarily the ones who were cooperating and leading a peaceful protest, but there were some who were still trying to incite some sort of violence.”

Lucas Gallegos, a sophomore majoring in engineering, said he knew someone from his dorm who had gotten tear gas in his face while trying to escape the area.

Gallegos said he hadn’t seen the video of James Boyd before the protest started, but if he had, he might have felt the need to attend.