Joining nationwide protests over the grand jury verdict in the police murder of Breonna Taylor, protesters in Albuquerque have taken to the streets every night since the decision to not indict the officers was announced on Sept. 23.
Taylor was a 26-year-old Black woman killed in her apartment by Louisville, Ky. police officers during the execution of a no-knock warrant in March. A grand jury indicted one officer, Brett Hankison, for wanton endangerment for his actions that night, but none of the three officers who fired shots are facing charges for Taylor’s murder.
Night one, Sept. 23: Four-mile march on Central
Roughly 100 protesters met at the University of New Mexico bookstore at 6 p.m. and occupied the Central and Cornell intersection, where Black New Mexico Movement (BNMM) organizers gave impassioned speeches.
Organizer Barbara Jordan spoke about the wanton endangerment charge, which Hankison is only facing because several of the bullets he fired outside of Taylor’s apartment went into a neighboring unit.
“(Taylor’s) mother was reminded that a fucking wall is worth more than her Black life, and we’re supposed to be OK with it? When will my Black life matter?” Jordan said.
The crowd marched west on Central Avenue, where they briefly encountered a lone counter-protester who shouted, “Blue lives matter, the police department matters.” Organizers tried to defuse the situation by keeping the crowd moving as the man followed along before eventually leaving.
The march stopped downtown near Robinson Park, where speeches continued and a moment of silence was held for Taylor, before protesters went back up Central and dispersed at the campus bookstore.
Night two, Sept. 24: Protesters march through a busy Nob Hill
Meeting again at the bookstore, protesters went north through main campus before circling back to Central and marching through Nob Hill.
Organizers instructed the crowd to move from the street to the sidewalk to see if the Albuquerque Police Department — which, throughout the summer, responded to protests by barricading streets — would allow traffic to pass through, which they did.
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Protesters then moved back into the middle of the street, where cars drove by on either side and restaurant patrons looked on.
“It could’ve been even one of you all, so just know that everybody in this street would be riding for you all just the way we’re riding for who? Breonna Taylor!” organizer Arthur Bell said, addressing the restaurant patrons.
The protest ended at around 9 p.m.
Night three, Sept. 25: Driver attacks crowd at vigil
Friday’s action was called by BNMM to celebrate Taylor’s life. Attendees, some of whom had brought their children, took to the intersection in front of the UNM bookstore.
“Breonna has her own legacy. We will not count her out. We will not make her the date that she was taken away,” Jordan said to the crowd. “This is about celebrating her life and that’s what we’re going to do tonight, OK?”
Shortly after 8 p.m., a driver rammed through the crowd, which journalist Shaun Griswold captured on video. There were no reported injuries.
Since racial justice protests began in late May following the police murder of George Floyd, car attacks — a terrorist tactic used by ISIS — on protesters have become increasingly frequent. On July 9, USA Today reported that people had driven into protesters 104 times over the summer.
Benjamin López, who was at the vigil, said that the person who drove through the crowd had been antagonizing people earlier in the night and had yelled “all lives matter.”
After the attack, APD circled overhead in a helicopter and spoke over its public address system, threatening protesters with enforcement action if they didn’t move out of the street. Protesters held their ground, sitting down in the intersection and chanting “First Amendment” and “peaceful protest.”
APD has typically blocked off streets for protests. They didn’t do so on Friday night until after the car attack, however, stating in a press release that they were unaware of the protest before the incident. APD claims to be investigating and attempting to locate the driver.
The crowd dispersed shortly before 10:30 p.m without further incident.
Night four, Sept. 26: Students lead conversation about racism
UNM students Sarah Dighigh and Franny Bevell, with the support of BNMM, organized an event in front of La Posada Dining Hall, where dozens of students convened and participated in a discussion about systemic racism and inequality.
A student who identified himself as Ryan said he ascribed to hateful, alt-right ideologies — like men’s rights activism — in high school and shared how he got out of it.
“The best thing that I can share is that even though these people that disagree with us really don’t understand what may be happening, it’s still important to try and expose them to something that will force them to question why they are scared,” Ryan said. “That was the only reason why I was able to come out of it.”
Another student spoke about the need to include all Black people in the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Nobody really talked about Tony McDade. He was a trans guy. I’m a trans guy. He was shot by police in Florida. What could happen to me? I could be in his shoes. That could’ve happened to me, and that’s super freaking scary,” the student said, adding that he and his friends had been pulled over by the police the previous night and that they had been fearful of what might happen.
The student organizers ended the night by thanking everyone who attended and announcing that they will be at La Posada every Saturday at 6 p.m. to try to engage other students in conversation.
Bella Davis is a senior reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @bladvs