Full report on the protest from Monday’s paper: Showdown in Albuquerque
Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden said during a press conference Monday afternoon that the nature of the protest Sunday evening resulted in APD’s use of tear gas near UNM and downtown.
“It went from a peaceful protests to lawless acts by a very angry mob,” Eden said.
Eden said at one point protesters blocked emergency response to an injured person under I-25 on Central Avenue.
During the press conference, Eden showed a video of man carrying an Ak-47. He said the incident, which happened at the end of the protest, sparked tear gas at 5th and Fruit. The man was talked down by protesters, but police are still investigating, Eden said.
Eden said the use of tear gas near Central and Girard was sparked by a fight among protesters.
Mayor Richard Berry says Albuquerque police officers “did a wonderful job” handling Sunday’s protest, and they showed great restraint. The protest started and didn’t break up until around midnight, and several people were arrested. Police also deployed tear gas on crowds near the University of New Mexico around 9:30 p.m. and later at police headquarters Downtown.
The mayor said tear gas was not deployed until after there was concern for public safety and property.
Berry said officers showed restraint “even as protesters sought them out for confrontations.”
The mayor referred questions about the deployment of tear gas to the APD command staff.
But “I think they let it go as long they could,” Berry told Journal reporters and editors today.
He also repeated something he said last night — many of the problems seemed to center on people who weren’t necessarily connected to the original protest. There was even a report, he said, that one of the original protesters actually called police at one point to ask for help as the crowd grew more unruly.
“There was real concern for the safety of the protesters and the public,” the mayor said. “I think you saw a professional department acting in a professional manner.”
Gilbert Montano, the mayor’s chief of staff, said two protesters carried “automatic rifles” during the protest, and one was outfitted with gear and “fully loaded,” he said. Police have opened an investigation into the latter protester.
Berry said he could confirm at least five arrests as the result of last night’s protests, though there may have been others. The mayor noted that there appeared to be no serious injuries among protesters or officers, although he said one officer may have injured a knee.
Little damage was evident along Central Avenue this morning, other than graffiti denouncing APD at the department’s substation near Monte Vista and Central in red paint.