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Peaceful protests were twice followed by tension, vandalism

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Police step in to quell the crowds after widespread destruction June 1 in Downtown Albuquerque. (Anthony Jackson/Albuquerque Journal)

The recent protests in Albuquerque didn’t go by without some tension and destruction – with at least two nights devolving into heated confrontations with authorities. In one, a standoff between officers in riot gear and protesters ended in a burst of tear gas and the other, in Downtown, resulted in crowds lighting fires, breaking windows and vandalizing everything in sight before police stepped in to quell them with tear gas. City officials and protest organizers say the rioting occurred after the peaceful protest had ended and involved a separate group.

Nobody was injured in the scuffles, a few arrests were made but widespread damage was done to local businesses and Downtown fixtures like the KiMo Theatre.

Local leaders and law enforcement stood by the officers’ actions and decried the destruction done as they praised the peaceful protesters.

The first incident, on May 28, was sparked when protesters confronted police as they detained four young men in a shooting investigation. The ensuing standoff between riot gear-clad officers and the crowd ended in a burst of tear gas and screams.

Arthur Bell, a local activist and demonstrator, said he and other protesters confronted officers believing the men had been “targeted,” asking what the charges were against the men and if they had been read their rights.

The Albuquerque Police Department has since released aerial video of the traffic stop and ensuing confrontation, which appears to show a gun being fired from the vehicle before the men are stopped by officers.

Police say Clifton White, a 36-year-old demonstrator, took the vehicle officers had initially stopped and drove it to the university area where White was detained briefly. White would be arrested days later, before a June 1 protest, on a parole violation after officers told his parole officer about the May 28 incident.

Many took to social media to speak out against White’s arrest, saying he was targeted for being involved in the Black Lives Matter movement.

The second incident got much more ugly.

It played out hours after a candlelight vigil and march for George Floyd.

Just before midnight police in riot gear responded Downtown as rioters shattered windows, lit dozens of fires and, authorities say, and shot at police along Central Avenue.

Over several hours police tried to disperse the vandals, lobbing tear gas canisters as a helicopter circled overhead. Two men were arrested for unlawful assembly and obstructing or evading the police, misdemeanor charges.

Bell wants to set the record straight on the destructive group in Downtown: Those people aren’t with us.

“I ask anybody and everybody to go back to those videos and point out a person of color, because I don’t see any,” he said. “So I say those people are the same people who are oppressing us. They are taking advantage of a movement and using it to make that movement look a certain way.”

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