ALBUQUERQUE PEACE AND JUSTICE CENTER — On May 31, a crowd of roughly 800 people gathered for a vigil honoring George Floyd, a Black man who was murdered last Monday by a law enforcement officer and has since become a symbol of the systemic racism and police violence against people of color that pervades the country.
Video evidence showed Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis policeman, pressing a knee into Floyd's neck for around nine minutes while Floyd pleaded for him to take his knee off of his neck.
Floyd eventually stopped breathing and was pronounced dead later. Chauvin has since been arrested for third-degree murder and manslaughter charges.
Nationally, vigils and uprisings in most major cities have been building intensity and momentum.
The vigil began at 5 p.m., with many Black leaders taking the podium to express their outrage, grief and sadness over the death of Floyd.
The speakers included church pastors and members of the community, who all echoed sentiments that have been ringing across the country: a call for justice and change.
"Jesus would have been insightful and honest about calling all of us out on this bullshit," Reverend Debra Hill said, calling for introspection about toxic whiteness.
Erica Davis-Crump, an activist with the non-profit grassroots organization ProgressNow New Mexico, said that, "We shouldn't have to watch Black deaths go viral for you to feel something."
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller was present for the vigil and expressed support for the protesters, adding that the organizers have helped him be a better person and a leader.
"There are no words that I have that can express the pain that so many people, especially people of color, are experiencing right now," Keller said.
A small group of protesters began a chant of "defund the police" while Keller was speaking.
Sonia M. Gipson Rankin, a law professor at the University of New Mexico, also spoke at the event. She thanked the organizers for their leadership and challenged the attendees to "do more than just stand in one place."
"You can already think back on yourself in the last two weeks where you have wasted a chance to speak out for what has been happening to Black people in this country," Rankin said.
Nichole Rogers, co-chair of the African American Complete Count Committee, talked about her son and how she fears for his life.
"Am I going to teach him to say, 'no sir, yes sir' when he is in front of the cops? Because I want him to live and come home?" Rogers asked. "I am terrified — we cannot continue to go the way we are going, or my son will not see his 21st birthday."
The vigil continued until around 7 p.m., when the event ended with a chant of "Justice for George Floyd." After the chant, people that attended the vigil began to go their separate ways.
Later in the evening, a splinter group of protesters from a separate demonstration headed downtown and were met with a massive police presence. That escalation marked the largest law enforcement mobilization and use of force against New Mexico citizens since the police murder of George Floyd last Monday.
Police then began to throw tear gas canisters and shoot rubber bullets at the remaining people downtown — including clearly identified Daily Lobo reporters — until the remaining crowds disappeared. Two people were arrested.
The Albuquerque Police Department reported that gunshots were fired at the police in the vicinity of the KiMo Theatre, but the downtown scene was quiet by 4:30 in the morning. Only a handful of protesters remained as dozens of riot police lounged on side street curbs behind the perimeter, waiting for orders to disperse.
Andrew Gunn contributed reporting to this article.
Spencer Butler is a sports reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SpencerButler48