The other day, on our way home from Red River, my family passed an open-pit mine. The three young girls in my car — aged 7, 8 and 4 — were genuinely horrified by the destruction.

Why are they allowed to do that, they wondered.

A conversation about democracy, protest and politics followed. I told them about Julia Butterfly Hill, and the years she spent in a tree.

We talked about the Civil Rights Movement and how Rosa Parks took a seat on the bus. I also told them about David Correia, my professor at UNM, who was protesting police violence in Albuquerque.

They were impressed, and staged an impromptu protest on the Taos Plaza. We’re here to save the Earth. No more guns for fun. No more coal-fired power.

What, then, was I to tell them when I learned the following day that David Correia had been arrested for protesting at City Hall?

Not just arrested, but brought up on felony charges for battery against an officer.

Does brushing past a policeman in street clothes to hold open a door for protesters warrant felony charges? Only when we live in a culture of fear and violence that gives inordinate power to police and governments in the name of “security.”

As Edward Snowden pointed out, when the same unrestrained powers to police terrorism around the world are turned against us, we no longer live in a democracy.

I point this out because I don’t believe the police are the enemy. The real enemy is the unrestrained power citizens give to our government to police and discipline our voices and actions.

Should David Correia be forced to stay quiet and lay low in order to save his job, what message does that send to my daughter, to UNM students and to citizens across the country who are following this case? Shut up and put up? Or do we have the right to our voices of dissent and fury?

None of the protesters, including David, harmed anyone. Their only crime was to confront a violent and corrupt system that abuses power in the name of keeping us “safe.”

Kirsten Mundt

PhD Student, American Studies