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.
Last night, Camp Coyote was removed peacefully—and without arrests—from University of New Mexico campus by a force of state and university police.
Spokesperson Karen Wentworth held a press conference at the UNM Police Department station, where she said the university does not allow people to camp out. “We don’t let students stay here overnight. You’re not allowed to stay here overnight,” she said. She told protesters they could be at Yale Park between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Wentworth said Occupy Albuquerque demonstrators had been repeatedly notified over the last week. Many occupiers said they were aware the university had asked them to leave. After being removed from campus, one protester who didn’t want to give her name said “The university completely reneged on their agreement with us.”
A group trying to raise awareness about homelessness camped overnight on Johnson Field last semester. What’s the difference? Wentworth said the group “went through a pretty rigorous vetting.”
The university’s Facebook page was updated yesterday by the UNM admins to say “The Occupy Burque protesters do not have permission to camp on campus overnight.”
There were 63 comments on the post, most of which were in support of the movement. Some were vitriolic. One person wrote “Kick them out there starting to bug any ways WTF when did loitering become leagle,” and another suggested “give em the gas then bash their skulls in.”
So, a Daily Lobo reporter asked, if they were in violation of the policy then why weren’t they kicked out the first night? “We were trying to make sure they understood this was a violation,” Wentworth said. “I don’t know, maybe we were too patient.”
Desi Brown, from UNM’s Peace Studies Program, has acted as a liaison between the university and the protesters. He said last week that the group filled out a permit request to stay on campus, and under “contact information” they wrote that the only way to contact them was to come to Occupy Albuquerque’s general assembly meetings, held every day at 6 p.m. Spokesperson Wentworth said the university didn’t want to go to the general assembly meetings “because we didn’t want to seem heavy-handed.”
Protester and UNM student Jordan Whelchel said the university certainly came off that way by having the demonstrators removed. “I’d say that sending out more police officers than there were people in the park is a heavy-handed gesture, if I’ve ever seen one,” he said. “Coming to an assembly meeting to let us know some crucial information is by no means heavy-handed.”
Occupy Albuquerque moved to the parking lot of the Peace and Justice Center on the corner of Silver and Harvard to spend the rest of the night and reassembled today at UNM.
The protest began at the U.S. Bank across from the mini APD substation in Nob Hill, but after police cars blocked the road, marchers decided to move so they would be more visible. Officers followed the demonstrators as they walked east from Dartmouth and blocked off every intersection they came to.
Unemployment, the economy and budget cuts can be boring topics, but once you start paying attention, they're scarier than that time you watched The Shining late at night, alone. Instead of cowering in fear of a federal ax hacking away at social programs, the American Dream Movement will rally at Civic Plaza today from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
The American Dream Movement, a progressive response to the Tea Party, includes MoveOn.org and 30 other organizations. It’s mission is to create economic justice for veterans, students and others in need. The movement grew out of the turmoil in Wisconsin and was named by Van Jones, who was the green jobs adviser to the White House in 2009. The debt ceiling deal and cuts to Medicare, education and transportation spurred a recent round of demonstrations.
“The priorities are upside down,” says Margo Morado, the council coordinator for the Albuquerque chapter of MoveOn.org, “Taxes have not been raised, and the cuts are going to affect the poor, elderly and disabled the most.”
Albuquerque's rally is one of 254 nationwide taking place today. Morado says 200 people have signed up, and she estimates an attendance of 250 to 400 participants. The demonstration will feature a reading of “A Contract for the American Dream,” a plan to get the economy back on track based on ideas from 131,203 people. The 10-point proposal was developed through online forums and house meetings.
Democratic state Sens. Eric Griego, Jerry Ortiz y Pino (an Alibi columnist) and state Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas will speak in support of job creation and halts on spending cuts. In addition to policy discussions, the rally will also include poets, music from the Route 66 Revelers and a flash mob.
Babes and Bullies members are chaining themselves to dog houses for 11 hours on Saturday at UNM. The group is participating in Chain Off 2011. This national event is held every year on Fourth of July weekend to highlight the plight of dogs that spend their whole lives on chains.
The demonstration from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. will and raise money for Kaya—a pit bull rescued from starvation in late May by New Mexico Dogs Deserve Better. Babes and Bullies will have a booth out there on Saturday and will sell merch. All proceeds will benefit Kaya.
Pit bulls tote around quite a reputation–from bad-ass guard dogs to evil attack hounds—and in keeping with the bad boy tradition, they are irresistible to babes.
Nearly 25 percent of the dogs placed in Albuquerque animal shelters are pit bulls, according to Babes and Bullies. The group started a couple years to fundraise, raise awareness and act as a resource for pit bulls and their owners.
Babes and Bullies is one of many groups across the country that challenges the premise that all pit bulls act aggressively. The group isn't a rescue service, but many of the women act as foster guardians for abandoned dogs.
While pit bull advocacy groups cite the breed's loving and loyal disposition, their history in dog fighting is hard to ignore. Over the past 160 years, pit bulls have been bred to obey humans, but their behavior against other dogs is another matter, according to the Pit Bull Rescue Central. Traditionally used as fighters, the dogs are trained not to back down in confrontations.
Megan Cooley, president and treasurer of Babes and Bullies says that the perceptions of pit bulls acting aggressively comes from their loyal disposition.
“They're so loyal to their owner, they'll do anything,” she says. “People take advantage of that.”
While many cities banned pit bulls entirely, the Albuquerque City Council ruled instead to place dogs of all breeds in three categories: “potentially dangerous,” “dangerous” and “irresponsible owners.”
Owners that fail to restrain their dogs are civilly liable for any harm caused. Of the 27 instances reported on the city’s website, 20 involve pits.
Last weekend, demonstrators gathered to speak out against the cut. Alibi photographer William Rodwell was on hand to take photos.
After more than a decade of work, the center was launched mid-2007. After a series of smaller cuts, it was expecting about $379,000 in 2011 from the state to operate. The center hadn’t yet acquired much additional funding yet, so it may be out of luck in June when the money dries up.
The move is a slap in the face to African Americans, Wallace told the Alibi in an interview last week. “We can no longer sit around and accept it.”
A series of demonstrations will happen around the country today in solidarity with the workers in Wisconsin. The events, organized by the national AFL-CIO, are also intended to commemorate the day Martin Luther King Jr. died.
In Albuquerque, people will gather at the corner of San Mateo and Central at noon. “Greedy banks and corporations destroyed our economy, and now they want to fix it on the backs of workers,” write ralliers on Facebook.
In honor of love on Valentine's Day, people will gather in Downtown Albuquerque to embrace LGBT families.
Civic Plaza is in Downtown Albuquerque near Third Street and Tijeras.
Kelly Hutton, one of the demonstration's organizers, said in an interview that she's committed to her family. As someone who's a good aunty and "wants to have her her own family one day, I deserve the same rights as any other family member in the United States or in New Mexico. I'm a person of faith, as well."
Calvary Chapel is organizing a march against marriage rights for the LGBT community in Santa Fe today.
Three bills in the Legislature aim to define marriage in New Mexico as between one man and one woman. (Such bills are commonly referred to as Defense of Marriage Acts.) Hutton says she's not surprised by the number of DOMAs in the Roundhouse this year because of the conservative shift in political power. "There's been a movement to fight off a DOMA bill every year," Hutton said. "We have a lot of help. Right now, we're working toward getting people to be active and holding our allies accountable. There still is hope. There's always hope."