An open letter to Sunday’s protesters:
First, let me say that I applaud the main goals of your protest on Sunday with regard to grievances with the Albuquerque Police Department’s questionable shootings of 37 people over the past four years, 23 of which were fatal.
However, around 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, my regard for your protest became more mixed.
That time, when protesters left APD headquarters, marked a turning point for the nearly 12-hour protest. It marked the point when the protest started to become more about the violence of a few particular protesters than the original cause of justice and ending police corruption.
Even after this turning point, I do applaud the protesters who stayed peaceful and who talked down Devon Bay, the man with the AK-47, who was, according to the Daily Lobo, willing to “swing lead” and start shooting in order to “take back the country,” as he phrased it.
However, I could not be more displeased with Bay himself, nor with the protesters who blocked I-25 after departing APD headquarters and who refused to let an ambulance through. This act endangered the protesters themselves, the drivers on the highway and the injured person the ambulance was trying to reach. As for the protesters who climbed the streetlight at Central and Yale, and the protesters who vandalized the APD substation at Triangle Park in Nob Hill — that was sheer idiocy.
To those violent and disruptive protesters: what were you trying to accomplish with these acts? To the I-25 group, I would say that your right to protest and demonstrate ends where you begin endangering other peoples’ lives and property. To the violent vandals on Central, I would say the same, as well as remind you that no amount of violence or force will bring down the APD. “Murder the murderers with badges,” a slogan I saw on Twitter a few times Sunday night, is not an effective way to combat the corruption in APD that we are all against.
Yes, we in the U.S. do have the right to demonstrate and exercise free speech and petition for a redress of grievances, but the key here is to keep civil disobedience … civil. You can get your message across and make your points in mass demonstrations and marches without hurting or killing anyone, and without damaging property.
It’s also very important to remember that such demonstrations aren’t enough; you need to put in the hard work and learn about the issues in-depth. Knee-jerk reactions and parroting slogans handed to you by Anonymous and Occupy aren’t everything. You need to attend city council meetings and public forums and voice intelligent opinions and viewpoints to the people in power.
It’s also not enough to be against something — you have to be for something, and you have to be able to offer your own solutions to get things done.
People may point to the recent protests in Kiev and Caracas as excellent examples of violence accomplishing political goals. However, here in Albuquerque, the city is willing to work with protesters and those affected by APD’s misconduct. In Ukraine and Venezuela, that wasn’t the case; police were using live rounds, and governments were more than unwilling to negotiate with dissenters.
Violence is a last resort. Here in Albuquerque there are many more options to exhaust before gun battles erupt between police and rioters.
To the peaceful protesters, I say keep up the good work. Keep advocating for your cause, keep putting political pressure on the city and police, keep demonstrating and marching and keep bringing intelligent debate and solutions to the table, all in a non-violent way.
To those who would advocate violence against APD and the city at large to accomplish their goals, I say keep off the streets and take your violence with you.