ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – What was supposed to be a peaceful protest Sunday turned into a clash with police that ended with tear gas and several arrests.
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After more than nine hours of protests, APD released tear gas on a crowd on Central Avenue at 9:30 p.m. Several people were also arrested near Central and Girard, after protesters and APD officers had lined the streets. A little more than an hour later, more tear gas was released on protesters near 4th Street and Marquette.
After more than eight hours of walking through downtown Albuquerque, protesters started vandalizing property, with one person seemingly attempting to take down the street sign at Central and Yale, and other protesters spray painting property. This followed a long day that involved a standoff with officers in riot gear near APD headquarters.
Officer Tasia Martinez of APD confirmed late Sunday night that protesters left damage and graffiti all along Central Avenue that will have to be cleaned up at least all day Monday.
The protest began with hundreds of people upset over the recent fatal police shooting of a homeless man in the foothills. This is the second protest that’s taken place in Albuquerque in less than a week, but this one was much more chaotic than Tuesday’s.
Protesters angry over the recent shooting, and other APD shootings in recent years, gathered at Central and First Street around noon Sunday and marched toward APD headquarters shouting, “We want justice,” and other chants.
After marching to APD headquarters and the Civic Plaza, protesters started marching east on Central, which according to the protest organizer, was not part of the plan. Officers then showed up at Central and Yale in riot gear and protesters approached them, some yelling at other protesters to keep things peaceful.
The protesters blocked both lanes on Central, backing up traffic Sunday afternoon. After walking east for a while, they turned back west on Central and, at one point, protesters attempted to enter the I-25 northound offramp at Central.
A few protesters live streamed video during the march on various websites, some capturing what looked like people trying to push and move a police car with their own hands.
After more than five hours of marching, protesters returned to ABQ headquarters and officers in riot gear lined up on Fifth Street and Roma. Protesters faced them toe to toe for about an hour, some of them sitting on the ground in front of them. Officers looked ready to deploy tear gas if necessary. Eventually around 6:20 p.m., some protesters started walking away back toward Central.
From there, some of them entered northbound I-25 again at Central to protest, with some even laying down. That didn’t last long, however, and they ended up back on Central Avenue as the sun began to set. They marched in both lanes again, disrupting traffic.
Once the protest escalated in the Nob Hill area Sunday night, UNM students were told to stay inside.
APD officers and protesters filled Central Avenue near Nob Hill for hours until the tear gas was released and arrests were made. After that, the road cleared relatively quickly.
Mayor Richard Berry spoke with KRQE News 13 around 9 p.m. and said while people are always allowed to protest, it seemed by nightfall, the group’s “main goal is not to protest, but to put the public and themselves in danger.”
Several people dressed up for the protest with painted faces and posters in hand, many of them yelling, “Hey hey, ho ho, killer cops have got to go.”
As mentioned earlier, the recent protests have come in the wake of the fatal foothills shooting which took place March 16. Homeless camper James Boyd was killed by two officers.
Lapel video released by APD showed Boyd possibly turning away from officers as they shot him. Public outcry over the video has received national attention, with the the lapel video getting more than 100,000 views this week.
On Sunday at the beginning of the protest, protesters asked for police to take responsibility for their actions, and one woman said she wants answers from authorities on how they will help people’s lives, instead of damaging them.
“The police serve us, they do not kill us,” one protester said.
Another protester spoke through a microphone to others in the crowd, telling them to fight for their rights. He added the protests weren’t about hating the police, but about standing up for injustice.
Some protesters were emotional as they shared stories of how police shootings have affected their lives. Another person sang an original song to the crowd called “Love Makes a Difference.”
After spending some time at the APD headquarters, the crowd moved to the Civic Plaza in Albuquerque, chanting along the way. At the Civic Plaza, more protesters spoke to the crowd.
At some points during the protest at both APD headquarters and the Civic Plaza, members of the crowd became upset with some of those who spoke through the microphone, saying they wanted to hear from other people. They crowd did not want to hear any justification of APD’s actions.