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Editorial: Judge’s decision reasonable on City Council protester

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To be clear, banning University of New Mexico professor David Correia from returning to City Hall is not about limiting his right to protest or turning Albuquerque into a Third World dictatorship.

It’s about reasonable conditions of release set by a judge for a felony charge alleging battery on a police officer.

Correia says he is “proud to stand in solidarity with the victims and families of the victims” of shootings by the Albuquerque Police Department. Fine. Many people feel the same way and have every right to make those feelings known – as does Mr. Correia.

Unfortunately he is accused of doing more than standing proudly June 2 – he allegedly “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 mayor’s office, according to a criminal complaint.

Correia and 12 other protesters were arrested in this, his third anti-APD protest in around a month and the second in which the City Council has had to adjourn without addressing anything on its agenda.

Of course these are only allegations, which Correia says are without merit. That will be up to the criminal justice system to determine. Metro Court Judge Cristina Jaramillo has set Correia’s conditions of release at $5,000 cash or surety bond, not returning to City Hall and not talking to the other people arrested or potential witnesses in the June 2 incident. Correia, who in an earlier council protest tried to serve a citizens arrest on Police Chief Gorden Eden, has pleaded not guilty and his lawyer plans to ask the court to ban him only from the Mayor’s Office while allowing him to attend City Council meetings – which are held in City Hall.

APD and the city must be held accountable in cases of improper use of force, and new policies and procedures must be put in place to change that culture. The Department of Justice and city are setting up parameters for a federal consent decree to oversee police reforms.

In Correia’s case, a judge considered the charges and his plea and made a reasoned decision not to allow the defendant to return to the scene of the alleged crime, where there is plenty of potential for further eruptions, or to converse with anyone else involved about the incident.

Barring a new ruling by Judge Jaramillo, Correia can continue exercising his First Amendment rights and protest APD and the city, albeit with new colleagues at new sites. And the Albuquerque City Council can try to hold a meeting where taxpayers’ business is addressed.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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