Mayor Richard Berry says police are trying to identify about 30 “thugs” who threw rocks and engaged in other violence during this week’s protest against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Police Chief Gorden Eden said Thursday that protesters threw rocks, urine bombs, sharpened objects and Molotov-cocktail-like devices at officers, and that police heard seven shots fired near Third and Gold.
“It sounded like a rainstorm,” Eden said, “but that rainstorm was actually rocks hitting our officers, our horses and people who were also attending the event.”
A team of officers is examining video and photos to build criminal cases for prosecution. They hope the public will help, with the lure of rewards of up to $1,000 each for information leading to an arrest.
In a news conference Thursday, Berry and Eden estimated that about 1,000 people attended the anti-Trump protest, and that perhaps 30 people engaged in violence.
“We’re not going to stand for it,” Berry said. “That’s not what our community is about.”
About six officers were treated for injuries to their face, nose, legs and arms, he said.
Thrown objects also struck police horses, Eden said, and one witness said someone punched a horse in the nose. One horse had leg abrasions after falling down, but he’s OK, the chief said.
Some protesters waved large Mexican flags, and others set fire to Trump material stolen from vendors. Video of the mayhem dominated national news broadcasts that night and the next morning.
Trump himself offered this appraisal on Twitter: “The protesters in New Mexico were thugs who were flying the Mexican flag. The rally inside was big and beautiful, but outside, criminals!”
Some protesters jumped on squad cars and smashed windows. Berry estimated the total property damage at $10,000 and said a window at the Albuquerque Convention Center will be fixed next week.
Some of the people who attended the Trump rally were kept there for a while by police, then ushered out a different door away from the street protests.
Berry said Thursday that he is setting aside $10,000 from his city discretionary fund for rewards to tipsters who can help identify people who violently broke the law.
The public can donate or offer tips by calling 242-COPS.
Rally drew 8,000
About 8,000 people attended the Trump rally inside the Convention Center on Tuesday, where the presidential candidate vowed to win New Mexico and criticized Gov. Susana Martinez, a fellow Republican.
The protesters gathered outside and marched throughout Downtown.
Berry, a Republican who didn’t attend the Trump rally, said Thursday that it wasn’t his place to get into the dispute between Martinez and Trump.
But he said, “I tell you, I like my governor.”
Berry said he isn’t endorsing anyone in the race.
As for the protest, Berry said the Albuquerque Police Department operated under a new plan – approved by a court-appointed monitor overseeing police reforms – for handling large crowds. About 300 officers and public safety personnel were on scene, Eden said, including State Police and other agencies.
George Lujan – a spokesman for the SouthWest Organizing Project, which sent “community peacekeepers” to the protest – said APD should share in the blame for the trouble at Tuesday’s protest.
To enter the rally at the Convention Center, Trump supporters walked along a narrow sidewalk adjacent to the protest area. That put both sides in close proximity.
“I thought it was a really great layout if you were trying to encourage conflict between different groups,” Lujan said Thursday. “There’s only so much community groups can do to ensure there’s a safe protest. There’s also a role for police. ”
Berry said the city is already reviewing how APD handled the protest and looking for ways to improve.
But officers, he said, “showed restraint, professionalism and good judgment” throughout the night.
Eden said some of the layout was dictated by the geographic footprint of the venue.
Officers also took steps to defuse conflict, he said. They endured rock-throwing, for example, and avoided overreacting in a way that would further inflame the crowd, Eden said.
Public help sought
Albuquerque police released pictures of at least two people they’re hoping to identify.
One is of a young man wearing glasses and what appears to be a Superman T-shirt. Eden accused him of throwing a large rock that hit an officer in the face.
“He has absolutely no remorse,” Eden said. “His face shows complete joy that he just pelted one of your public servants with a rock.”
The officer suffered facial injuries but didn’t leave his post, Eden said.
Police also released the picture of another young man, shirtless with a baseball cap.
Police spokeswoman Celina Espinoza said the man threw a metal rod at a group of officers. Eden said the rod hit one officer.
“We will find out who you are,” Eden said.