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Monday, December 22, 2014

Protesters hijack City Council meeting

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By William Aranda / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Protesters throw copies of “arrest warrants” issued for Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden during a city council meeting held Monday afternoon at the Vincent E. Griego Chambers at City Hall in downtown Albuquerque.

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Protesters commandeered the Albuquerque City Council meeting Monday in a bid to highlight a perceived lack of accountability among city officials.

The Albuquerque Government Center was shut down and cleared around 6:30 p.m. A police officer who helped clear the building said the council meeting would not resume that evening and the building would be closed. He cited the protest as part of the reason.

The afternoon’s movement began when protest participant David Correia approached the council and presented a “warrant” the protesters had drafted for Police Chief Gorden Eden’s arrest, Correia said.

“We issued an arrest warrant,” he said. “I read the charges, and then Gorden Eden’s rights. When President of the Council (Ken) Sanchez tried to call the meeting to order I told him that it was no longer his meeting, it was our meeting. That is when we took over the meeting.”

According to a copy of the “arrest warrant” crafted by the protesters, Eden should be charged as an accessory to the murder of James Boyd, for willfully harboring fugitives from justice and for committing crimes against humanity.

The group of citizens took charge of the meeting by refusing to return the microphone to Sanchez, Correia said.

Before long the citizens in attendance occupied the seats of the council, at which time they unanimously voted no confidence against Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry, and called for the resignation of Eden, Correia said.

Other issues the citizens voted on during their council takeover included making it mandatory for all officers to wear lapel cameras, which are to be on at all times, and to establish an independent organization with the authority to discipline police officers, Correia said.

Andrés Valdez, one of the citizens who sat in a councilor’s chair after the takeover, said the movement was symbolic, and that this form of public action has been long overdue.

“What occurred, really, was a symbolic coup d’état of the City Council,” Valdez said. “This has never happened before, but it has been a long time coming. We have been fighting police brutality for 20 years and people are fed up.”

Valdez said that during the 30 minutes he sat in a councilor’s seat, he heard public comments and listened to the demands of those in the audience. He said official Council members Klarissa Peña and Rey Garduño remained and attempted to speak with protesters.

“We heard public comments and talked about some of the demands being made,” Valdez said. “A couple of these demands are for the police chief to resign and for independent civilian oversight of the police force.”

Valdez said the takeover was not violent at all, and that he believes the movement was able to succeed at least in some way.

“It is very important, what happened today, because there is a lot of corruption in city government and the Department of Justice is not going to fix it,” he said. “They are here only to fix the systemic problems, but not the corruption.”

Protesters said they are planning another large protest to take place in a few weeks’ time.