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Forum discusses protest, APD action

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Many of the protesters objecting to Albuquerque Police Department’s fatal shootings stand by Sunday’s events, saying police sparked the confrontations by approaching them with riot gear, batons and gas masks.

About 100 people attended a community forum at the Peace and Justice Center on Monday evening, where local activists were encouraged to voice their concerns over both Sunday’s protests and APD’s use of force.

Some members of the crowd said they didn’t support the actions of the protesters, especially as the 12-hour-long protest wore into its later hours.

“The police should never be violent against nonviolent protesters, I’m not condoning that,” said K.C. Guest. “But the actions (the protesters) took surely contributed to what happened last night. We need to be more civil on our end.”

Some said that “black-shirted, black-masked anarchists” took over the protest at some point. But others said no matter what the protesters did, their actions didn’t warrant the type of response given by APD, which included lobbing cans of tear gas and arresting several people.

“I’m one of the young angry anarchists everyone’s talking about, I guess, and a lot of people I know feel like they were thrown under the bus,” said University of New Mexico student Alex Denbaars. “When the police escalated the situation, I wanted to be there. There were a couple of mistakes made during the protest yesterday, but they were corrected during the protest.”

Some said younger protesters should be trained by those more experienced in nonviolent tactics.

Local politician Paul Heh – who ran against mayor Richard Berry in the last mayoral election – circulated a petition calling for Berry to be recalled.

Mike Gomez, who entered a $900,000 settlement agreement with the city after his son Alan Gomez was shot and killed by APD in 2011, said the protesters – while he didn’t agree with all their tactics – were successful in giving attention to the issue of police use of force.

“When the protesters get out of hand, they start giving the city ammunition to use against the cause and yesterday was getting to that point,” Gomez said. “But … hopefully it made them realize if they don’t do something about it now, it could get worse.”

Also on Monday, a small group of protesters gathered at the UNM bookstore, waving signs at passersby and chanting.