On the altar of the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, five masked women prayed. They prayed for an end to President Vladimir Putin’s rein. They prayed for the virgin to become a feminist.
The February protest aimed to highlight the ties between Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church that put him into power. The words convey the weird tangle of church, culture and state. Scope the full text.
Three women were arrested days after the prayer—five had participated in the minute-long event—and have been held in prison ever since on charges of hooliganism. There was a time when this would have seemed more outrageous to free speech-prizing Americans. But we’ve gotten used to arrests after political protests.
Their trial began yesterday and they could do seven years in prison. Two of the defendants have young kids.
The women’s lawyers say they’ve been deprived of sleep and not fed. And though polls indicate most Russians think seven years in jail is too severe a punishment, they seem to agree Pussy Riot should do some time.
Musicians like Tobi Vail of Bikini Kill and JD Samson of Le Tigre stood in solidarity with Pussy Riot from the start. Hannah Lew of Grass Widow wrote that she feels spoiled as an American musician, and U.S. performers should be inspired to engage in nonviolent protest.
In this week’s opinion slot, Andrew Beale recounts his trip to the City of Wind to film and participate in the protests against NATO. He argues that biased mainstream media accounts are part of why more people get their news from Internet sources and from shaky cell phone videos posted to YouTube. Online, Beale’s piece “Don’t Believe the Hype” includes video footage he shot at the demonstration.
The image of veterans flinging their medals in the direction of McCormick Place, where the summit was held, provided an incredibly strong statement that our columnist will never forget. As powerful as that was, the act was far overshadowed by the violence immediately afterward, he writes.
There were two fatal shootings by Albuquerque Police Department officers last week. On Monday, March 19, officer Martin Smith killed Daniel Tillison, who rammed two vehicles as he tried to avoid arrest, according to police. On Wednesday, March 21, SWAT officer Russ Carter killed Gary Atencio near Laguna Pueblo. Police say Atencio fired shots at his wife on the Westside of Albuquerque then led officers on a chase down I-40.
On Friday, the Albuquerque Journal revealed that the police union cuts checks for $300 or $500 to officers who’ve shot people. They money is intended to help officers and their families get out of town for a while, according to the union. Mayor Richard Berry and Police Chief Ray Schultz weren’t happy about it, with Berry saying he was “shocked” and Schultz calling the practice “troubling.”
This afternoon, the families of those who’ve been killed by APD will be joined by local activist organizations on Civic Plaza. The rally will start at 4 p.m., and demonstrators will demand the federal Department of Justice examine Albuquerque’s police force. Citizens have long been calling for such an investigation, and though the Council passed a measure requesting one last year, the mayor vetoed it.
Organizer Mike Gomez’ 22-year-old son Alan was shot and killed by police in May 2011. Alan was holding a plastic spoon. “We will bring signs and photos of loved ones,” says Mike Gomez in a news release. “We will let everyone know we still want justice. We have them on the defensive. We must continue the pressure.”
A friend who moved here from another part of the country told me he calls the hoodie the Albuquerque raincoat. I’d argue it’s our suncoat, too. And our hanging-out-at-home-coat or going-to-the-opera coat. Hell, put on two or three, and that’s blizzard-ready gear.
Well, tomorrow folks can break out the 505 all-weather, all-eras jacket of choice to show solidarity with Trayvon Martin.
Martin was walking home from a convenience store in Florida, talking on his celly with his girlfriend, when he started to feel like he was being followed. He was approached by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, who shot and killed the African-American teen.
People around the country are outraged and demanding the gunman be arrested.
Tomorrow demonstrators will gather in Union Square and march to the United Nations. Wednesday also marks the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
In solidarity, you can wear your hoodie, and upload a picture of yourself to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #millionhoodies. Or you can sign this petition on change.org, which was started by Martin’s parents.
Thank you for arresting me Tuesday night. Thank you for dragging more than 30 of my comrades with me to the Metropolitan Detention Center. Thank you for providing a continuing show of force at Yale Park, arresting two more people Wednesday afternoon and, now, closing the park to the public indefinitely.
Thank you for calling in the State Police and APD Tuesday night, with their riot gear, their helicopter and their SWAT team dressed in military fatigues. Thank you for sending so many police cars they formed a line literally as far as the eye can see. Thank you for your decisions that led to a gray-haired older woman being handcuffed, while hundreds of people yelled “Shame! Shame!”
Thank you, also, for informing us ahead of time that you would be arresting those of us who chose to continue exercising our First Amendment rights, allowing us to alert the public and ensure heavy exposure of your injustice. I heard the arrests were broadcast live, via Internet in Palestine, Libya and Egypt, adding legitimacy to our assertion: “The whole world is watching.”
You may think my thanks are insincere. I’d like to assure you that I am writing this in earnest. I truly thank you for your ridiculous authoritarian display of the power of the state.
The reason for my gratitude is this: You have revitalized our movement and added more to our numbers in one night than we could have in weeks. All the people that came out of Brickyard and the other surrounding businesses got a firsthand view of the violent suppression of free speech. The students, faculty and staff that have stopped by the last few days and wondered why there are so many police in Yale Park have been given a quick education in the way the First Amendment works in this country—“You have the right to free speech, as long as you’re not dumb enough to actually try it,” as the English revolutionary Joe Strummer so eloquently put it.
Perhaps a little explanation of what actually happened that night might make this clearer. As I said before you, as a faceless, corporate entity—that is, the administration as a whole—decided to stop the protesters from staying overnight and distributing food on campus. You basically cited the rationale that the rich, respectable Popejoy patrons and UNM foundation donors don’t want to look at homeless people any more.
It may be that a lot of people agreed with you in that decision. But I expect you will find far less support in your decision that there is absolutely no expression of the First Amendment right to free assembly allowed on campus.
Spokeswoman Cinnamon Blair personally explained to me on Monday that the protesters would still be allowed to gather on campus during “normal business hours,” they would just have to remove their semi-permanent structures and leave at 10 p.m.
“If they want to come back during the actual day and be in that area with their signage, they’re still welcome to do that,” Blair said during her meeting with me and Alibi news editor Marisa Demarco.
But on Wednesday, during the general assembly meeting, UNMPD’s Sgt. Trace Peck arrived at the general assembly meeting and told us we had five minutes to be out of the park or we would be arrested.
The group moved across the street and held the general assembly meeting in front of Schlotzky’s. The next day, we gathered on the sidewalk directly in front of Yale park.
This creates an interesting spectacle for anyone passing by. They can clearly see an organized group peaceably assembled being closely watched by over a dozen police officers. They can see for themselves that the paddywagon parked on Redondo Drive is completely unnecessary. They can see for themselves what it looks like when those in authority are terrified of the power of the people’s voices and simply don’t know how to react.
The arrests served another purpose, too, as they made those of us who were arrested aware of the incompetence and waste of the jail system. Most of us were released on our own recognizance in under 24 hours, but we got a brief glimpse of the inside of the prison-industrial complex.
I had my documents lost by the clerks at the jail, meaning I had to repeatedly agitate in order to be processed instead of being left to sit indefinitely. It quickly became clear to all of us that no one among the police and correctional officers had a clear idea of what they were doing. First in the paddywagon, and then in the cell, officers came by seemingly every 15 minutes looking for someone they had already moved or who was never there to begin with. The fact that there were two Andrews arrested also seemed to present a huge problem for all officers involved, and I quickly learned to ask “Andrew Beale?” every time they called my name.
We also saw firsthand the mean-spirited callousness of your system. A man who, apparently, was simply walking his dog through the area and stopped to see what all the fuss was about was arrested with us. His dog, as it turns out was a service dog, a fact that didn’t stop the police from carting him off to jail simply for trying to walk through the park. Many of us, myself included, witnessed several corrections officers literally laugh in his face when he asked for nutritional information about the food they served us—information that was critical to him, as he is diabetic.
I suppose we were lucky that no one was seriously injured. At the same time you were attacking our peaceful assembly, police in Oakland fired a rubber bullet into the head of Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, who is now in critical condition in the hospital with a fractured skull and brain swelling. We realize that next time, you may elect to use force like this, and we are prepared to take that risk. We know you can beat us with brute force, but we will win more hearts and minds every time you do.
I would like you to know, as well, that you have not broken the spirits of anyone you arrested (except, perhaps, the guy we shared a jail cell with who was there to shout at us to go home and ended up arrested himself). To the contrary, in fact, we sang “Solidarity Forever” in the paddywagon and passed the time laughing and joking in the holding cell. Several people are still in jail for various reasons (including prior records that caused them to have elevated bond amounts) but we are raising a bail fund for them and will soon get them out, and they will immediately rejoin our struggle.
So again, sincerely and from the bottom of my heart, thank you. You have picked an ill-advised and unnecessary fight with us. It is a fight that you cannot win. You cannot win because you are simply wrong. You cannot win because every move you make against us only adds to our numbers and makes it clearer that any system that deprives people of their right to free speech is doomed to fail.
As folk singer and labor organizer Utah Phillips said, “The state can't give you free speech, and the state can't take it away. You're born with it, like your eyes, like your ears.” Thank you for reminding so many people of that fact.
In solidarity with oppressed people everywhere,
Alibi contributor Andrew Beale has followed the occupation since it reached Albuquerque. His opinions are solely his own and do not reflect those of the Alibi or the (Un)occupy group.
After protesters and reporters crossed Central to re-organize, another person was cuffed in Yale Park on Wednesday, Oct. 26. The criminal? A student reading a book.
The First Arrest
The police closed off the park to everyone—not just people associated with (Un)occupy Albuquerque. I watched several officers approach a student who did not appear to be related to the protesters sitting at a park bench on the edge of Yale Park.
After the first arrest that other news outlets reported, this student was not causing a disturbance or even attempting to be noticed. He was reading quietly and unobtrusively. But he apparently refused to leave the park, at which point officers surrounded the bench.
The student on the bench
The student was handcuffed and put into the back of a squad car.
UNM's Police Department recorded two criminal trespassing incidents on their report log on Wednesday at the same time. But when Alibi attempted to contact the department to discuss the second detainment, we were told the department was behind on their reports due to workload. We filled out a request form, but an officer assured us it would take us several days to receive the police report to confirm the details.
There is no indignation like that of a Catalan. Yesterday, I brought my mother to Yale Park. At 71, having grown up under the fist of Gen. Francisco Franco, she knows what a totalitarian regime feels like.
For the last several weeks, supporters of (Un)occupy Albuquerque have been gathering at the park, situated on the grounds of the University of New Mexico, for general assemblies. They took out a permit, as the university requested, that allowed them to be on the grounds during business hours—7 a.m. to 10 p.m. On Monday, supporters were informed that the university, citing safety issues, would not be renewing the permit.
My mother and I arrived at the park on Wednesday at 6 p.m. to take part in the general assembly. Since the meeting was called well in advance of the park's closing, no one was concerned about the police. However, the meeting never had a chance to get started.
A Lt. Peck approached the group, backed by a squad of university police subordinates, and informed everyone that the university had opted, as of that afternoon, to make the grounds of Yale Park off-limits. I was incredulous. "That's impossible," I shouted. "That's unconstitutional! This is a public space. We have the right to free assembly!"
But even my indignation, which was a fury, was no match for my mother's. She came to my side just a few feet from the mustached gendarme and became apoplectic. "What is it?" the police lieutenant said, addressing her directly. In her state of indignation, all that she could summon, all she could manage was: "What is it, you!"
In her heavily accented English, this sounded a little crazy, but I knew what she was saying. I knew that indignation had tied her tongue so completely that she could not speak, could not think. As the police moved against the small group assembled in the park, my mother stood her ground. "I am not leaving!" she said. "I have a right to be here!" The police ignored her, moving past both of us but pushing the other members of the small group towards the sidewalk.
We remained there for a few more minutes, standing, as people chanted "Shame! Shame! Shame!" The police arrested one young man who did not vacate the park. Then officers remained with their backs to us, as though we did not exist. After a few minutes, seeing that the general assembly was now taking place across the street, my mother and I left the park but not before approaching the police lieutenant who rousted us.
"I served in Iraq. I was given the bronze star," I said. I wanted his full attention before continuing. "And your actions today make me ashamed to be an American." His companion turned to me, saying nothing, a slight smile on his face. "Alex Limkin! You hear me! You make me ashamed to be American!"
My mother, having had a few minutes to calm herself, contributed: "I know you are just following orders, but you are wrong. This is a public park. You should be ashamed!" And she was right, my mother, the brave Catalan who stood her ground and would not be bullied. I was still trembling when we got to the car.
Alex Escué Limkin served in the U.S. Army for 15 years, including a tour in Iraq from 2004 to 2005. He penned a previous column about his duty as a soldier to stand in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement.
To start, let’s admit something that hasn’t been talked about much in public yet: Thanks to its offer of free food and blankets, the (Un)occupy Albuquerque camp functioned as an improvised homeless shelter almost since the beginning.
This fact is the central theme of University of New Mexico’s news release announcing that the protesters’ permit would not be renewed after 10 p.m. last night.
“The nature of the (Un)occupy Albuquerque protest is that it attracts many different types of individuals, and there is no way to assess whether people are or are not part of the (Un)occupy protest, so as a result the university has chosen not to approve a permit extension,” the statement reads. It makes passing reference to “a number of incident reports” received by UNM’s Police Department, including an accidental death that occurred near the Yale and Redondo bus stop (which, incidentally, is not actually part of Camp Coyote).
According to police report, on Saturday, Oct. 22, officers were directed to the scene by a homeless man, who had been with a woman when she died. He told the officers that she said she had “finished a gallon of vodka prior to the incident.”
UNM writes in the release that the university sought suggestions from the city to help “address the issues with the transients who have been attracted to the protest.”
This could have served as a powerful wake-up call to the administration. Homelessness and substance abuse are not new problems at UNM. The fact that someone died on campus should have been met with a promise to implement social programs, to stop handing so much money over to construction companies and instead reinvest in making Albuquerque a better, kinder city.
Instead, the administration decided to scuttle the protesters so the unsightly homeless people won’t tarnish the university’s image. The basic message of all this? If you’re going to die in the street, that’s fine with us—just do it somewhere else.
It’s not like this is a new position for the university to take, either. UNM’s student-run newspaper, the Daily Lobo, published a story last month about UNMPD’s efforts to remove homeless people from campus.
For the first 90 minutes of every day, the university police force kicks homeless people off campus, a UNMPD spokesman told the Lobo. He went on to say the department has “a zero-tolerance policy” for homeless people that are bothering students.
UNM spokesperson Cinnamon Blair says it was no single person, but the university administration as a whole, that decided to remove the protesters.
“It was a collaborative decision. It was an administrative decision,” she says.
So what we have here is a literally faceless bureaucracy deciding that it’s unacceptable for the most disadvantaged members of society to be on campus—a decision which, conveniently, disrupts a class-based protest at the same time.
Blair references safety concerns on campus. “The concern is, there are people with families out there. There are people that have their kids and their spouses, and they’re just out there to protest and mind their business,” she says.
The problem with this reasoning is that there’s at least one homeless family—a father, mother, and child—that’s been taking advantage of the resources Camp Coyote offers. Walking by the camp on Central late one night last week, I saw the kid’s tiny shoes sticking out from under a tarp laid out next to the sidewalk, an image that has haunted me ever since. UNM claims to be concerned for families’ safety but offers no assistance of any kind to this particular family.
In fact, sleeping at Yale park was prohibited under the terms of the permit, denying the family even the relative comfort of sleeping on grass instead of sidewalk.
The safety issue is spurious for another reason: It’s not like UNM was such a safe place before this. A woman’s throat was cut outside the campus’ anthropology building in February 2010, a full year and a half before Camp Coyote was set up.
But there’s another part of Blair’s explanation that really gets to the heart of why the protesters have to go. She explained the university had to consider the safety of “all of (its) constituents” including students, demonstrators and “people coming in for cultural events over the weekend.”
Therein lies the most logical explanation for the university’s actions. It had to consider its other constituents, particularly rich, well-dressed Popejoy patrons who don’t want to pass a homeless shelter on their way to see the Blue Man Group.
The administration has therefore come down clearly on the side of the top 1 percent of Americans, the group that makes up its “cultural event patron” constituency. To be fair, it has also expressed that it may be willing to tolerate the next 98 percent, assuming they follow the rules. But as for the bottom 1 percent? Well, go die somewhere else.
Alibi contributor Andrew Beale has followed the occupation since it reached Albuquerque.His opinions are solely his own and do not reflect those of the Alibi or the (Un)occupy group.
Check back here for updates as this story develops.
In last week’s news section, Carolyn Carlson reported that three city councilors—Rey Garduño, Ken Sanchez and Isaac Benton—publicly backed the movement. Alex Limkin, an Iraq War veteran, penned a column on why it’s part of the soldier’s oath to protect people exercising the First Amendment. And finally, Don Schrader made an appearance on our letters page to say that he’s the original occupier.