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Sunday, December 21, 2014

APD’s defenders show support downtown

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By Ardee Napolitano / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Santiago von Straussburg, a UNM student studying computer engineering, waves the American flag in front of the Albuquerque Police Department headquarters at a pro-APD rally Sunday. About 300 people gathered in front of the building to support the department and to dispute claims made in recent weeks by APD protesters that the police department is excessively violent.

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After several recent rounds of protests against the Albuquerque Police Department, supporters have rallied to back the city’s police.

Albuquerque residents on Sunday gathered in front of the APD headquarters to defend the department and to dispute protesters’ claims that the department is particularly violent. About 300 people attended the event.

Mark Manary, president of the Albuquerque Lodge No. 1 Fraternal Order of Police, a local organization for law enforcement rights, said his organization attended the rally to insist that APD is not a killing machine.

“Obviously, any police department — whether it’s Albuquerque or anybody — don’t bring violence,” he said. “We’re a peaceful organization. The problem is you got citizens who arm themselves and then try to hurt other citizens or police officers. That’s when escalation of force happens.”

Manary said APD protesters haven’t yet seen the whole picture.

“You can’t just look and see one video on TV and think to yourself, ‘Oh my god, this video looks bad,’” he said. “You have to, first of all, realize that we aren’t putting the videos out there, the media is. And the media is going to put things out there in a way that’s going to look favorable or not favorable to the way it should be.”

Santiago von Straussburg, a UNM student majoring in computer engineering, waved a United States flag during the rally in support of APD.

“They’re doing a good job for the city, and, honestly, they need our support,” he said. “Most people don’t really know why they were at the protest last week. I brought a flag because the flag was completely disgraced by the protesters … It was not a pretty sight.”

Von Straussburg said APD officers’ fatal shooting of James Boyd was justified because Boyd was armed with knives.

“Many of the times that they have to defend themselves, they will defend themselves,” he said. “If there’s an armed individual and the situation calls for it, they will use their better judgment to take care of the situation. Most of the time it’s completely justified.”

On March 16, Albuquerque Police Department officers shot and killed 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.

Von Straussburg said police’s use of tear gas on protesters on March 30 was warranted because they were disturbing civilian operations that day.

Haley Tethal, a UNM fine arts student, also showed up to support the police. She said protesters should have expressed their complaints against APD more civilly.

“I think they’re doing a good job,” she said. “You can call them if you need help, and they’re always going to be there for you … I just think that this could be done differently to get their message across.”

Manary said he urges protesters to be more informed about APD before voicing their complaints in the streets.

“Don’t come out here and protest against law enforcement without knowing everything,” he said,