It wasn’t the biggest anti-police violence demonstration Albuquerque has seen—fluctuating between around 50 and 100 people. But tensions were high, especially when law enforcement seemed to outnumber protesters.
On Wednesday, Oct. 12, activists gathered in front of the courthouse with signs, chanting, beating a snare drum and giving speeches through a bullhorn. It was the day after the trial concluded for two officers charged with second-degree murder for shooting a killing James Boyd, a homeless man with mental illness, in 2014. The jury was deadlocked, and the judge declared a mistrial, which leaves the door open for ex-officers Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy to be retried.
“I’m going to talk to Raul Torrez, the new DA, and they’re going to have a retrial,” demonstrator David O’Malley said. “These people should not walk for murdering people, especially the mentally ill.”
Kathy Green carried a homemade tombstone bearing Boyd’s name. She said there were others, each representing people killed by the Albuquerque Police Department from 2010 to 2014, a time when APD had one of the highest fatal shooting rates in the country. The federal Department of Justice investigated APD. Green said the trial itself and the fact that there were criminal charges was a victory. “The killings in Albuquerque have really decreased,” Green said. “And it’s not because the DOJ is here. It’s because of this trial. They’re [police officers] thinking.”
Over the course of the evening, tactical officers could be seen looking down through binoculars from the rooftops. More, dressed in military-style green uniforms with helmets and rifles, appeared in a building’s exit. Blue and red police lights flashed on top of cars and motorcycles that blocked nearby roads. Four helicopters circled Downtown. At one point, at least 60 officers dressed in riot gear filed off three city buses to line Lomas.
Nikki Archuleta said the show of force was ridiculous. “It just shows you how militarized our police are,” she said. “That’s not something that should be present at a protest where people are peacefully protesting.” She said she was there to call for accountability. “This is an epidemic, police brutality, murders going on across the nation right now.”
Tanya Frazer and Lavona Linson also stood in front of the Bernaillo County courthouse, but their poster-board signs showed support for police officers. They both have family members who work in law enforcement. “I would hate to think that they would have to go to jail for doing their jobs,” Linson said. “That’s wrong.”
Frazer agreed. “Everybody is so quick to judge police officers,” she said. “They don’t get much support.”