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Thursday, December 18, 2014

City Council disturbed by protests

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By File Photo / Daily Lobo / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Protesters occupy City Council seats after taking over the meeting on May 5, the first to be canceled as a result of protests. The bond not discussed at this meeting cost taxpayers about $170,000 in fees, according to City Council President Ken Sanchez.

Last Monday’s City Council meeting was the second in less than a month to be canceled due to protests.

Ken Sanchez, president of the City Council, said that when a meeting is postponed it often entails greater consequences for the city and its citizens.

“I think the biggest problem is that it’s a violation of other people’s rights who want to come into the meeting and speak,” Sanchez said. “I mean, we want to make sure that we give everyone the opportunity to attend the meeting.”

On June 2, Sanchez was told at about 3:30 p.m. that the building was to be on lockdown for an indefinite period of time. An hour later, he canceled the City Council meeting and scheduled a special meeting for June 9, he said.

Sanchez said that financial setbacks caused by the cancellation of Council meetings can occur as well.

During the May 5 meeting that was taken over by protesters, a time-sensitive bond was slated to be discussed by the Council, he said. Postponing this agenda item cost taxpayers around $170,000, Sanchez said.

As well, one of the agenda items for the June 2 meeting was a critical look at the Police Oversight Commission that has been the target of much protesting during the past months, he said.

“We had one bill that was going to abolish the Police Oversight Commission in its current form, and one of the other bills was basically introducing a completely new police oversight board that would take the place of the one we have now,” he said.

All of the recent troubles with City Council meetings are unfortunate, and hinder the process of finding solutions to problems being cited by citizens, Sanchez said.

“A lot of business was delayed, and I think it really impacts our city,” he said. “And you have people like David Correia, who I think is a professional agitator in creating some of these problems, when you have a lot of people who have come to meetings for a long, long time — for years — expressing their concerns about the Albuquerque Police Department.”

Barbara Grothus, one of the protesters arrested on June 2, said she did not believe the building needed to be locked down, and that the security measure was an exaggeration on APD’s part.

“That they thought they had to close the entire building down and cancel the City Council meeting because 12 people were going to get arrested on the 11th floor … was ridiculous,” Grothus said.

Benjamin George, an American Studies graduate student, said the protesters wanted to speak with Mayor Richard Berry about APD.

“Our primary goal was to have a dialogue with the mayor about the lack of forthcoming change in the cities,” he said.

Zach Pavlik is the assistant news editor at the Daily Lobo. Contact him at assistant-news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @zachpavlik.