Tonight’s meeting of the City Council started with a minor disturbance when Council President Ken Sanchez directed city security officers to remove an activist from the room.
The activist, Silvio Dell’Angela, had refused to take down an upside-down American flag hung in front of his seat, a violation of the council’s rule against signs and props.
But the meeting rolled along rather quietly after that, even as protesters outside City Hall carried signs and chanted slogans in opposition to police violence.
The council spent hours inside the chambers Monday listening to public testimony and debating how best to reform the civilian oversight system for the Albuquerque Police Department, among other proposals.
They agreed to schedule the oversight proposal for final consideration in mid-August, a move intended to give the city time to take into consideration any recommendations made by the U.S. Department of Justice, which is expected to propose reforms for APD this summer.
Federal investigators released a report earlier this spring that found APD had a pattern or practice of violating people’s civil rights through the use of force.
Several speakers asked the council to wait until the DOJ makes its recommendations, some of which are expected to touch on strengthening civilian oversight of the police department.
“I feel strongly we need to get it right this time,” said Peter Simonson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico.
Councilors Rey Garduño and Brad Winter are co-sponsoring a proposal to abolish the city’s current oversight system and replace it with a new one that has expanded powers and more funding. But they agreed Monday to postpone final action on the measure while debate continues over the details.
Also postponed was a measure to increase taxes to fund mental-health and homelessness programs. Some of the people shot and killed by police in recent years have struggled with mental illness and homelessness.
All that discussion came after city security escorted out Dell’Angela, who said something about “fascist” behavior as he left the room.
Outside City Hall, just before the meeting started, about 40 protesters gathered to protest the number of people shot by Albuquerque police in recent years.
Many held signs offering support for the 13 people arrested inside the mayor’s office last week during a sit-in held to protest police violence. The 13 have been ordered not to return to City Hall.
Caden Rocker, who participated in the last week’s sit-in but left before the arrests, was among those who gathered across the street Monday. He said he was there to support those who couldn’t go inside to attend the meeting.
“Many people don’t have a voice today,” he said.
Monday’s meeting was a special one called to make up for last week’s meeting, which was canceled when the sit-in led to a lockdown of City Hall.