On the evening of Thursday, July 14, dozens of protesters gathered at the corner of Wyoming Boulevard and Central Avenue to rally and march in support of defunding the police. The rally and march come after 15-year-old Brett Rosenau was killed in a house fire during an Albuquerque Police Department SWAT standoff.
Paula Arrietta was one of the cop watchers present on the evening of July 6 and documented the destruction that left Rosenau dead and a house demolished.
“It was heart-wrenching, watching the family. I mean, just watching their emotions … They were losing everything,” Arrietta said.
Arrietta has been a cop watcher for the past eight years and had witnessed the death of an unhoused person in a confrontation with APD just the night before. Arrietta said the continued militarization of the police affects not only their family, but “traumatize(s) the whole community."
On the night of Rosenau’s death, Arrietta said they were in shock when the house went up in flames.
“It was really weird. It was almost like they knew that (they) were really going to destroy (the) family's home. It was almost like they were antagonizing these people. I was in shock,” Arrietta said.
Arrietta also mentioned how Brett Rosenau’s father, also named Brett Rosenau, was killed at the hands of law enforcment in December of 2006. A grand jury exonerated Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Donnie Hix of any wrongdoing in February of 2009, according to the Albuquerque Journal. Hix was involved in another use of force incident in March of 2015, but this case was also dismissed in February of 2019, according to Casetext.
One of the speakers at the protest was Courtney Montoya from Millions for Prisoners New Mexico. Montoya spoke about the exclusionary clause in the 13th Amendment which outlaws slavery, “except as a punishment for crime,” and how the clause applied to Qiaunt Kelly, whom Rosenau was with. Kelly was wanted for a parole violation.
“The literal only warrant for him was … a parole violation because he wasn't reporting because he (was) staked property. They came to collect their property. Slavery still exists. These practices have not ended, they have only evolved. And that's what this is about,” Montoya said.
Onyesonwu Chatoyer, with the All African People’s Revolutionary Party, spoke about how the terror of U.S. police forces is being brought to other nations, including many in Africa.
“That model of policing is one of the U.S. empire’s main exports all over the world. As we speak, there are 46 separate U.S. military bases in Africa … They are teaching cops — pigs — all over the world to brutalize us. They are sharing strategies across borders,” Chatoyer said.
Multiple people at the protest voiced concern over the fact that there has been little said by politicians in New Mexico condemning the death of Rosenau.
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“I haven't really heard a single bit of remorse from Mayor Tim Keller … He is standing back, letting the narrative build about a murder in our community. The criminalization of our Black, Brown, Indigenous, queer, trans communities … It's happening every day,” Montoya said.
Many speakers at the rally also spoke about the continued importance of mutual aid and community work, like cop watching, to support and protect each other.
“The only reason why Brett's name is known around the nation is because the people here — the cop watchers, the folks that mobilized (it) — made sure that it couldn't just disappear,” Chatoyer said.
Madeline Pukite is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @maddogpukite