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APS cancels socialist candidate’s talk at Manzano High

Party for Socialism and Liberation presidential candidate Gloria La Riva and vice presidential candidate Dennis Banks. (Courtesy of Gloria La Riva)

Party for Socialism and Liberation presidential candidate Gloria La Riva and vice presidential candidate Dennis Banks. (Courtesy of Gloria La Riva)

The only socialist candidate for president appearing on the ballot in New Mexico, Gloria La Riva of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, says fear of her party’s politics led APS officials to pull the plug on her Wednesday visit to Manzano High School – her alma mater.

“Perhaps fear that parents will get upset, fear of an alternative party, or fear the Albuquerque Public Schools would appear to be supporting socialism,” La Riva, a New Mexico native, said during a phone interview.

APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta said fear of PSL’s politics was not a factor; rather, the cancellation was because the visit, originally approved by Manzano’s principal, would violate APS district policy.

District officials only learned of the visit on Tuesday when someone from La Riva’s campaign called the district office to inquire if the media would be present, Armenta said. The district immediately notified Manzano Principal Karen Webb that district policy prohibited the visit, and Webb subsequently contacted La Riva’s campaign to cancel it.

“The school made a simple mistake and wasn’t aware of the policy and didn’t check in with the district,” Armenta said. “There was no malice.”

The APS policy says that during the campaign season, candidates can only appear on school campuses outside the instructional day – except where they are invited by the district with the approval of the superintendent.

La Riva was supposed to speak to a social studies class, but her visit had not been submitted to APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy for approval.

Armenta said another concern was that La Riva’s visit this close to the election would seem unfair without the presence of the other presidential candidates. An exception for La Riva places APS in the uncomfortable position of also offering exceptions to other candidates, and not just presidential candidates, Armenta said.

“The sheer volume and number of offices makes that problematic when you’re trying to carry on an instructional day,” she said.

La Riva wasn’t buying it.

“If Hillary Clinton wanted to come to the school she would be welcomed with open arms and they’d throw open the school auditorium for her,” she said.

Not so, said Armenta. Earlier in the campaign season someone from Hillary Clinton’s campaign reached out about having an event featuring Bill Clinton at Jimmy Carter Middle School or Albuquerque High School. That event, which would have occurred on an instructional school day, also was rejected by the district, she said.

Activist and organizer

La Riva, who now lives in San Francisco, has worked for decades as a community activist and labor organizer. She has been active in the anti-war movement since the 1970s. Her running mate, Dennis Banks, from the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota, is the co-founder of the American Indian Movement.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation is also on the ballot in California, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, New Jersey, Vermont and Washington. The PSL’s 10-point program includes making jobs, free health care, free education and affordable housing constitutional rights; closing U.S. military bases around the world; raising the minimum wage to $20 an hour; and support for unions, immigrants and the LGBT community.

James Friedman, a member of the Albuquerque PSL chapter, said he helped set up the Manzano High School visit about a week ago. La Riva was expected to speak before the social studies class of teacher Andrew Houser.

Neither Houser nor Principal Webb returned Journal calls seeking comment.

Friedman agreed with La Riva’s assessment that her invitation was canceled because she is a socialist, “which for too many in the United States in 2016 is still a dirty word that carries a lot of baggage.”

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