Churches launch protester, APD mediation efforts

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – There’s a new plan to help keep the peace amidst the controversy over Albuquerque Police Department shootings and it involves local churches.

The church leaders behind the movement say they’re worried the protests are getting out of control and now they’re hoping to bridge the gap between police and the community.

For months, there’s been no shortage of outrage in Albuquerque over the high number of police shootings. Some of the first uproar happened in late March. Hundreds of protesters marched through the Nob Hill / UNM area and downtown, blocking traffic and taunting police officers.

“And be in there faces! Because that’s what they need!” shouted protester Nora Anaya to a group in front of APD Headquarters in late March.

Weeks later, some even took over Albuquerque City Hall, demanding something be done in response to the Department Justice’s investigation and their subsequent recommendations.

“The people’s city council has just unanimously voted no confidence in Mayor Berry,” said protester David Correia as a group shutdown a city council meeting in May.

But all of the uproar has some people very concerned about the message it’s sending.

“What I’m worried about as a person of faith and someone who’s committed to non-violent action is the possibility that we’ll go from violent police incidents to violent protests,” said Angela Herrera.

Herrera is a reverend and associate minister for the First Unitarian Church in Albuquerque. She and about 40 to 50 others from different churches throughout the metro area are now trying to change the conversation between the community and police.

She says the move came after protesters took over in late March, a night that ended with people climbing traffic lights, vandalizing an APD substation and riot officers deploying tear gas.

“One thing we discussed is the need to humanize everybody in this situation,” said Herrera.

Herrera and the Albuquerque Interfaith community are now in the process of trying to organize sit down sessions with the police department and community members.

She says the goal is to talk about concerns on both sides. Already, she says they’ve gotten feedback.

“Really concerned about those officers and their safety and we of course have lots of clergy who congregations are really upset and worried as non-uniformed people in Albuquerque,” said Herrera.

The group says it’s still waiting to hear from officials in the police department, but Angela says she has confidence they can help bridge the gap.

“In the middle there is a place where the community is healed and we can practice non-violent action and focus on defeating the injustice rather than people,” said Herrera.

The Interfaith group plans on meeting Tuesday, June 10 at the First Unitarian Church for a prayer service that will be focused on the problem. They’re also organizing a sit down for the end of the month.

While this group also hopes there are no future police shootings, if there are, they plan to hold vigils at the locations of the shootings to try to make sure there is a peaceful response.

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