Friday, June 13, 2014
Come, Let Us Reason Together
The situation hasn't quite reached the Reasoning stage, but I sense it's getting there.
I went to the fundraiser/event up in El Dorado-Santa Fe that David Correia mentioned yesterday on the radio (Yesterday's program has not been uploaded yet). It struck me more as an informational get together for Santa Feans who may not be particularly current about what's going on regarding the actions against police violence in Albuquerque than it was a fundraiser -- although some money was raised.
David Correia spoke at length as did Mike Gomez (his unarmed son, Alan, was shot and killed by APD sniper Sean Wallace -- his third shoot, second fatality -- in 2010, and the Gomez family received a $900,000 settlement from the city last December). There was also a flutist named Karma Lama (video above) and a story-teller from New York named Regina Ress. It was a well rounded and spiritual evening.
David was arrested and charged with a felony on Monday at a sit in at the mayor's office and said he had to get permission from the court to travel outside Bernalillo County (ABQ) to come to this event.
Many of those in attendance (I'd guess there were 40 or so all in all) had experience as activists against police violence, as have I. Information was shared widely. One had come from Taos and had been involved in the protests against the state police shooting at a van full of children, and there were others associated with Occupy Santa Fe (or is it (Un)Occupy? No one seemed to know...;-) and the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition -- which is much more active in NM, it seems, than I can recall it being anywhere else, and which has been doing yeoman service on behalf of the movement. I believe about half of the 'Burque 13 arrested at the mayor's office on Monday were from the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition.
There was a lot of talk about media attention and how to create the conditions that cause -- or force -- change in the police culture in Albuquerque, and once that's done, how to spread those ideas well beyond ABQ. There was recognition that the problem of police violence is not unique to Albuquerque. National and international attention has been focused on Albuquerque because of the Boyd killing in March and the numerous demonstrations since then. But the problem is nationwide, and finding ways to address and correct it in Albuquerque is intended to lead to positive change in police culture around the country.
It's a daunting task, in part because of resistance by the police and the city's power elites. The police are openly defiant, deeply resentful, and frankly terrified of those they are supposed to be policing. The point was made that they are trained to believe everyone is armed, and they are taught to be afraid for their lives in almost every encounter -- which is part of the reason why they shoot so often. David refrained from going into the detailed history of APD, but he acknowledged that they see their role and position (and the risks they take) very differently than the public at large. He pointed out that many of those he met when he was in jail are terrified of the police, live in mortal fear of what they are capable of doing, and this mutual fear infects whole communities.
The police fear the public, and a significant portion of the public is terrified of the police.
It's an unsustainable situation.
Activists have been attempting to get the city to acknowledge the problem and change its ways for many years, but every previous reform effort (and there have been many) has either failed or had mixed results at best. The opportunity now for some kind of success is better than it has been for years, but there is still intense resistance by the city's entire power structure. They don't want to change, and if change is forced on them, they don't want those changes to be more than cosmetic.
The underlying problem is a deep and pervasive level of corruption that would expose many city officials, including police officers and higher ups, to criminal prosecution. The FBI and DoJ are -- apparently -- investigating that aspect of the problem as well as the matter of police violence itself. David mentioned that many police officers quit in disgust when they discovered just how corrupt the department is, and they've joined the activists advocating for change.
It was obvious to me, as it has been for some time, that these activists are clear headed, determined, and they are organized. They know what to do and they do it well. They have been able to disrupt and discommode the routines of the powerful, they have been able to de-legitimize authority within the city's administration, and they have kept the pressure on for months.
I wasn't able to provide them with a lot of financial support, but I contributed what I could. Money wasn't really the issue last night in any case. It was much more about community building, and that seemed to go darned well.
Note: there will be a demonstration and march in Albuquerque June 21 starting at 11am at Roosevelt Park.
(The moon hanging in the eastern sky as I drove home was magical too....)