David Correia, a protester arrested in the Mayor’s Office and charged with battery on a police officer, said Tuesday that he will plead not guilty.
“The charge is without merit,” Correia said in a brief interview.
He was one of 13 protesters arrested during a sit-in held Monday to protest police violence. The protesters face charges of criminal trespassing, unlawful assembly and interfering with a public official or staff. One protester chained herself to an art display, others strung crime-scene tape, and some read aloud from a Department of Justice report critical of the Albuquerque police force.
Police accused Correia of pushing a member of the mayor’s security detail as he entered the Mayor’s Office for the sit-in, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday in Metropolitan Court.
The complaint said Correia “pushed his way past other protesters with his hands in the air and hit (the officer) with his body in his chest area, causing him to lose his balance” and allowing protesters to enter the office.
Correia said there’s no truth to the accusation and that he’ll say more after his court hearing later this week.
He is an assistant professor of American studies at the University of New Mexico. The university issued a statement Tuesday afternoon that emphasized that Correia was acting as a private citizen, but because of the crime police say he committed, the university is monitoring the proceeding.
“While we respect all individuals’ legal rights, including the expression of their political beliefs, UNM in no way condones illegal actions,” UNM President Bob Frank said in the statement. “Faculty are expected to uphold the highest standards, and we will monitor this incident in that light.”
The statement also directed readers to the UNM handbook, which says that faculty members can be fired for a variety of reasons, including “commission of a serious crime.” Cause for firing can be determined, the handbook states, through admission of said crime or conviction in a court of law.
The handbook also appears to leave the decision of whether Correia’s job status is in question up to the UNM president, who would have to file a complaint with a faculty committee. Such a complaint would initiate a hearing among faculty committee members about whether there is cause to fire him.
At least 11 of the 13 protesters have since bailed out of Metropolitan Detention Center, according to the jail website, though Albuquerque PD in Crisis, a Facebook page devoted to those critical of the Police Department, said that all 13 protesters had been released from the jail.