Thursday, May 8, 2014

Albquerque City Council Shut Down Again [CORRECTED]

Tumult at the Albuquerque City Council -- pic from Monday's meeting which was shut down by protesters
A delegation of Albuquerque's people once again shut down the City Council last night at their special meeting to make up for the one on Monday that was shut down by the same people's delegation.

I was surprised when I saw it happening on the livestream, because I expected the activists to be polite and to follow the new rules -- which prohibited the display of signs and banners at the podium and limited public comment to 2 minutes each, among other things.

The public remained polite throughout the council's special business (they were meeting as a committee of the whole rather than the Council per se) and when the public comment period commenced, most speakers were very polite, almost baroque in their politesse toward the Councilors (oh yes, they know how to play this game).

And then David Correia was called upon to speak, and tumult and uproar ensued. Ken Sanchez, the President of the Council, gavelled the meeting into recess (he said for five minutes, but it was less than two) saying "This meeting is out of control!" and the councilors left the chambers while activists took over.

When he returned, Sanchez found that the tumult hadn't abated a bit and declared the meeting adjourned. (I'm sure someone can dig into the formalities of it all, but I don't think that meetings can be adjourned without a motion and a second.)

There was a full City Council special meeting scheduled for 8pm but as far as I could tell, it didn't happen.

[NOTE: This posting was based on what I saw on the Abq city council livestream last night. It was labeled "live" but it was actually an archived video. It was a replay of Monday's debacle, which I had not previously seen, so I didn't recognize it as having run previously. No archived video of the Monday meeting was  available when I checked previously. Mea maxima culpa, for not being up to date on what was being shown.]

I noted that despite all the news cameras that were there, and the fact that the meeting was taking place during local or national news broadcasts (I was watching NBC, for example, and a fairly extensive report on Monday's shut-down, including an interview with David Correia, was aired just as public comment at last night's meeting began), there was no local teevee coverage of last night's shut down of the 5pm council meeting. How interesting.

None of the mainstream outlets -- whether print or television -- have so far even mentioned it, despite the fact that they were clearly in attendance.

Interesting indeed.

Even La Jicarita -- David Correia's news blog -- doesn't have a story up about last night's tumult yet. I can understand, somewhat, why there wouldn't be anything new at the Jicarita site, in part because of Correia's pretty intense media interview schedule of late, but no news at all, anywhere, is somewhat bewildering.

What I saw last night on the city's livestream was that the audience appeared to be mostly made up of anti-police abuse activists, ones that those interested in the topic have come to know relatively well. I saw many of them at the DoJ community meeting I attended, and the same ones have been active against the common "shoot first" culture of APD for a LONG time. These people are not amateurs. They know what they are doing, and causing disruption of this sort is a necessary tactic when the forces against which they are aligned refuse to budge.

The members of the audience held signs and chanted before the meeting began, but once Sanchez began the meeting, the signs were put away and the audience quieted. The proclamations and such that were on the agenda were taken care of, and the floor was opened to public comment.

Ken Ellis (whose son was killed by APD as he put a gun to his own head) was called, but he deferred to another who spoke eloquently against police violence, and so it went. One after another, people spoke in near unanimity about the pressing need to rein in police violence in Albuquerque. One man explained the moral duty the council had to do something about it, and deplored the fact that they hadn't done anything.

He was asked by a councilor to tell them what should be done, and the man said that he'd shared his opinions extensively with the DoJ and he couldn't possibly list all the things the council should be doing under the time constraints of the rules. Another councilor stated that not one of his constituents had ever told him that they agreed with the man's position. This led to a good deal of booing the audience and the suggestion that he'd probably never spoken with anyone who didn't have lots of money. He denied it, but it's probably true.

One speaker mentioned that once again, the same councilor "wasn't listening", he was looking at his I-Pad throughout public comment. And as he'd done before the councilor (whose name I won't bother to look up right now) showed his laptop screen (it wasn't an I-Pad) and said he "was reading the DoJ Report" while listening to public speakers. I thought I heard someone in the audience call out, "Liar!" but I can't be sure.

Other speakers brought up specific suggestions of what the council could and should be doing to rein in police abuse, and pointed out they'd done nothing. If a video is posted, I'll try to review these suggestions. They were made by one of the members of the Police Oversight Commission -- who resigned in disgust when the City Attorney and the City Administrator essentially made their jobs impossible by interpreting the ordinance that established the Commission "contrary to the plain language" of the ordinance and told them their only function was to agree with the Independent Review Officer who was charged with looking into police abuse complaints and had never found any to be justified. Ever.

One speaker very politely ended her comment with the subtle chanting of "No justice, no peace... no justice, no peace" -- a chant taken up by other members of the audience in such a low-key and quiet manner that I'm sure some of the councilors saw it as a threat.

When David Correia was called to speak, he began in a relatively low key manner, but he became more and more strident, making demands and calling for the people's arrest of the police chief. When Sanchez told him his time was up, he said he wouldn't stop speaking because the council wasn't listening to the people, and it was time the people held their own People's Council. Others joined in, threw papers into the air and that's when Sanchez said the meeting was in recess, and then, when the people would not sit down and shut up he called it adjourned.

It was quite a show. In my view, this sort of theater and disobedience, the discomfort and discommoding of the comfortable and complacent is necessary for there to be change of the kind called for here when the police and establishment insist they need to make no change and refuse to do so, as has long been the case in Albuquerque.

It's not that no one in office cares, it is that no one who can do anything about the appalling and bloody behavior of the police will do anything. Instead, they routinely divert, deny, and distract.

For its part, APD has been increasing the death rate under its guns, not ratcheting it back, and the police spokespeople have been nothing if not disputatious and defiant in the face of DoJ and international criticism of their behavior and killer culture.

Much of the media has become alarmed enough about the situation that they have taken to calling names and ridiculing the protesters as if they were somehow alien intruders who needed a lesson in deportment and courtesy, completely ignoring the fact that APD keeps right on killing people. This is the problem with the council, mayor, police chief, city attorney, district attorney, and city administrator as well. APD keeps right on killing and killing more frequently, all these city officials and much of the media take the opportunity before them to denounce and criticize the protesters not the police.

They claim they've criticized the police already, and they are "working on" reforms, but the people have heard that before, many times before, and nothing changes. The killing goes on and on and on, with the same official response or lack thereof.

Over and over and over again.

So the objective now is to make it impossible for the status quo to continue any longer. To shame the police, the council, the mayor, the police chief, the city administrator, the city attorney and the district attorney in as many ways and as frequently as possible. National and international attention is being brought to their failings -- and to the spiraling death rate from police gunfire in Albuquerque.

Many of those involved in the demonstrations have declared their willingness to go to jail over the issue, and the sight of them being dragged away is sure to raise even more antagonism and animosity toward Official Albuquerque.

So far, arrests have only been threatened.

The basic issue is that Official Albuquerque is digging in its heels or spinning its wheels while the killing continues unabated. They speak airily about "reform" but do nothing. They insist the protesters are the problem while people are being shot down again and again and again in the streets. Police violence has got to stop.

It's that simple.

And the people who are taking over the city council meetings will not relent until police violence is stopped. It's been a long battle already, but it looks to be reaching the climactic phase.

I wish them well.

David Correia's statement to the Council which he read on Monday night, and partially read at Thursday's special meeting.

CORRECTION!!!: There wasn't a city council meeting last night. It wasn't shut down again. I misconstrued an apparent livestream on the city video feed (labeled as "live") as a an actual, happening now, live event. It was instead a replay of Monday's aborted meeting. The actual live stream is going on right now. Lesson learned.

I hope!

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