The Albuquerque Police Department says it now has a protocol in place to “more consistently” enforce the ban on deadly weapons on city property – particularly during protests.
“In an effort to assure people that the ban is enforced consistently, APD and other city departments will use a standardized process to inform individuals of the ban on deadly weapons,” APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said. The new protocol will begin this weekend as local activists plan to protest in Civic Plaza.
The department came under scrutiny after officers detained two armed Black men who showed up to counterprotest a July 20 anti-mask event titled “we can’t breathe” in Civic Plaza.
Local activists say the ban unfairly targets people of color – claiming it was not enforced on armed white men at a previous “reopen” protest.
During a Facebook Town Hall on Friday, Mayor Tim Keller called those accusations “a myth” but he acknowledged there were differences in the application of the ban that the city is trying to address with the new protocol.
“We’ve got to do a better job. I think there were inconsistencies … in things like interpersonal interaction and the tone used and the method used,” Keller said of recent enforcement efforts.
Nikki Archuleta, an organizer with Black Lives Matter, called Keller’s statement a “complete disassociation from the reality of Black people, brown people and indigenous people.”
“They’re claiming that this ban is to protect protesters but it is doing the exact opposite,” she said. “Why are Black folks not allowed to carry in these spaces when white people … have been able to do it for so long?”
She later added, “We are the ones who experience the violence.”
The BLM organizer also criticized city officials for not doing more to notify the public about the ban when it was implemented back in June. She said she didn’t hear about it until weeks afterward.
“Nobody knows about this, so many people are unaware,” she said.
Making matters worse, Archuleta said the signs put up after the fact are small and “very easy to miss.”
Gallegos said the signs are only one part of APD’s new protocol.
In addition to new signage around Civic Plaza, he said any officer who encounters an armed person will inform them of the ban, order them to remove the firearm from Civic Plaza, or to leave the premises and tell them they may be cited or arrested and the weapon could be seized if they don’t comply.
During the interaction, Gallegos said officers will also direct the person to available exit routes and give “a reasonable amount of time” – no less than 10 minutes – to comply.
“Following two warnings, the officer will take police action to include arrest,” he said.
Gallegos said the same process will be used by APD and the City’s Security Division to enforce the ban at city parks, community centers, senior centers, multigenerational centers or health and social service centers.
Also on Friday, Keller’s office announced a “protest coordination service” for those planning to hold a protest or demonstration.
Jessie Damazyn, a spokeswoman for the Mayor’s office, said the Office of Equity and Inclusion rolled out a new webpage and hotline that “promotes dialogue with community members to help protect their rights and safety as they practice their First Amendment Rights.”
The phone number is 505-269-5927 and website is https://www.cabq.gov/office-of-equity-inclusion/protests-demonstrations.
She said the resources can provide guidance on limitations of different city properties and coordination of traffic control or street closures.
Archuleta called the announcement “an absolute joke.”
“This is just another one of his stunts – to make people think that he’s actually doing the work that needs to be done and make sure we’re safe,” she said. “Honestly, you put this coordination service in place and it’s just another way to police Black and brown, indigenous people.”
Archuleta added, “we have the right to protest; we don’t have to let the city know we’re doing something.”
Jessica Dyer contributed to this report.