At least 20 UNM and state police officers showed up at midnight Sunday with plastic zip handcuffs and canine units and informed the 30-40 Occupy Albuquerque protesters on campus they would have to leave the University.
Protesters gathered their blankets and bags and left Yale Park, the movement’s campsite, en masse under glaring police lights. Many of them headed to The Albuquerque Peace and Justice center parking lot located at Harvard Drive and Silver Avenue. Protesters have been camping out on campus since Oct. 1.
Protester Derek Minnowbloom said the measure was unnecessary.
“It was kind of sneaky for them to come in the middle of the night when none of us have a place to go,” he said. “They came prepared for a riot.”
University Spokeswoman Karen Wentworth said Administration repeatedly told protesters they were not allowed to stay on campus overnight because it is in violation of University policy and is unsafe for protesters.
“Central (Avenue) is just not a safe place,” she said. “We don’t have enough police to stay there and make sure nothing happens. … We’re very short-staffed.”
Under policy 2.9 of the University’s Visitor’s Code of Conduct, “unauthorized presence in or use of University premises, facilities or property, in violation of posted signs, when closed, or after normal operating hours” constitutes a matter of disciplinary action.
Wentworth said protesters applied for a convention permit when they should have applied for an outdoor activities permit. Administrators told them to apply for the proper permit, which the protesters had not done, she said.
Protester Benjamin Hansen said the police came without University warning.
“I heard rumors that Monday we would have to leave, but I thought we were working in good faith with the University to get the permits,” he said. “This shows us a lack of faith.”
Wentworth said the University had received complaints about the cleanliness of the campsite. She said people told Administration they had seen excrement in and around the site.
Protester Chad Otoski said he had never seen or heard of any protester defecating on campus.
“No person’s choice or action can represent the group’s,” he said.
Protesters argued about the best course of action after they vacated the camp. Protester Roland Jumbo, a former organic grocery store owner, said the group should stay.
“You will stand up if you’re brave,” he said.
Minnowbloom said the group’s best move would be to confer at the Peace and Justice center, and he said the group could show up tomorrow with more people.
“We can resist with a 100 people,” he said. “We are going to come back tomorrow.”
Patrick Ostrout, a CNM student, and Hansen stayed at the University and paced along the city sidewalk to watch the campground to protect supplies left by other protesters. Ostrout said no matter what happens the protest will remain nonviolent.
“The cops showed up expecting violence,” he said. “They even brought the dogs, but we aren’t going to get all violent. It’s all about nonviolence.”
UNM student protester Jordan Whelchel said the move by the University seemed like a bit of trickery, but he said he expects more students to show up now.
“It’s hard to say what happens now,” he said. “A likelihood though is that a lot more students come around now that they can see we are actually willing to stand up for what we believe in.”
Whelchel also said as a UNM student he has no hard feelings toward the University for its actions.
“It’s precisely the kind of reaction you would expect,” he said. “There’s no use in getting upset. This is our business, and this is what we look forward to.”
Wentworth said the University waited a week to remove the protesters because they wanted to be patient with protesters and make sure they fully understood University policy.
“Maybe we were too patient, I’m not sure,” she said.