ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A group of community members staged a protest outside the city shooting range Saturday to criticize the National Police Shooting Championship, which is taking place despite federal scrutiny of Albuquerque police practices and more than two-dozen fatal officer-involved shootings since 2010.
About a dozen protesters arrived at the range west of Albuquerque after a motorcade Saturday morning before holding signs criticizing “killer cops” and city leadership. The group was confined to a corner of the parking lot by pink, spray-painted lines drawn by police.
“The whole idea of this thing happening today — for me, it’s a slap in the face for the families of people shot by police,” protester Bernadette Garcia said .
The competition, which is organized by the National Rifle Association and continues through Thursday, takes current and former law enforcement officers from local, state and federal agencies and has them compete against one another in a wide range of shooting scenarios. For example, one calls for officers to simulate shooting at drunken men with knives who are charging them after leaving a nightclub.
The competition has been held in Albuquerque for the past eight years.
Lars Dalseide, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association, has said he expects more than 500 officers to compete in the NRA-run shooting contests.
“We have 27 killings since 2010, and I believe they should have another venue, another state, with all due respect,” demonstrator Nora Anaya said.
Other activists at the protest called it “ironic” and tone deaf for the competition to be held in Albuquerque. In April, the U.S. Department of Justice concluded its investigation into the police department and found that a majority of shootings it examined were not constitutional and that the department had gaps in training, accountability and organization.
Protesters also said they would have preferred a competition that instead rewards officers for successfully de-escalating situations that could otherwise end in an officer-involved shooting.
“It’s not about who can get the better shot and kill the most people,” protester Renee Garcia said as gunfire rang out from competitors at the shooting range.
Albuquerque police Lt. Steve Altman said the department confined the protest to the eastern portion of the parking lot to ensure demonstrators’ safety around the gunfire.
“We wanted to respect the protesters” and let them be seen and heard, Altman said. “But there are also safety issues.”
The group held signs that included “Hands up, Don’t Shoot”, a rallying cry from recent unrest in Ferguson, Mo., in addition to some that read “Jail Killer Cops” and “Cease Fire. Stop the Killing”. They also yelled to people driving to and from the range.