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Monday, December 22, 2014

Protesters not deterred by arrests

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By Sergio Jimenez / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Dinah Vargas shouts to fellow protesters that she has been trying to get Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry’s office on the phone June 9. Vargas, along with 50 other protesters, met in front of Albuquerque City Hall before the start of the City Council meeting last week.

Last week’s City Council meeting started alongside a crowd of about 50 protesters who gathered outside City Hall about an hour before the meeting.

Citizens stood across the street chanting demands to see Mayor Richard Berry.

Some members of the protest went into the meeting, while others were not allowed onto the premises.

“Because of the charges against me, I have a criminal trespassing charge on this block of Civic Plaza,” said Joel Gallegos, a member of the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition.

Gallegos attended a protest last Monday during which city officials closed City Hall after demonstrators went into the mayor’s office. He was arrested for criminal trespass during the incident, and is barred from entering the building and attending Council meetings.

Gallegos said he thought shutting down the building was an attempt by the city to “make something out of nothing.”

“This protest is to let the elected officials know that we’re still here,” he said. “We’re not going anywhere and we refuse to be intimidated.”

Nobody was arrested during this protest.

Benjamin George, a graduate student in American Studies, said the protest meant to show that the arrest of 13 people at the previous demonstration would not deter protesters.

“We fully intend to show the city that you can’t squelch public discontent,” he said. “Our voices need to be heard and they’re not being heard … you can’t quarter off a very important part of public space and say, ‘No, this is off limits to you,’ when we have a really important message that’s not being heard.”

George said the protesters are devoted to continuing until the city meets their demands, which include the release of all lapel camera videos, the prosecution of police involved in excessive force, better training for police, independent oversight and the resignation of Berry, Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry, Chief Gorden Eden and District Attorney Kari Brandenburg.

“We are committed to the struggle until we get the reforms we demand,” he said.

Chloe Henson is news editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or at Twitter @ChloeHenson5.