Albuquerque Protest Turns Ugly

Central Ave APD Protest

The Albuquerque Police Department are being investigated by the FBI after a YouTube video went up last week, showing APD shooting a homeless man who was camping, after what was reported as a standoff that lasted for hours.

This is the 22nd police shooting since 2010, and outrage has poured out over the incident, sparking the interest of the national media and even Anonymous, which led to protests against police violence all over the city Sunday night.

APD has said that the deadly use of force was warranted in this instance, because the suspect, James Boyd, had a history of mental illness and was armed with multiple knives.

I’d barely noticed the story until the protests started, and didn’t really know what to make of it.  Maybe APD did have good reason to shoot Boyd.  I don’t know.

But after witnessing cops in bullet-proof vests and gas masks shooting tear gas into a street filled with peaceful protesters, innocent by-standers, and even children, I’ve decided to err on the side of the people who weren’t being assholes.

My introduction to the protests was through Thomas Dixon’s live video stream as he followed protesters along Central Avenue in downtown Albuquerque.

Hundreds were marching to the police station, but the only live footage was coming from Dixon’s phone and two other feeds.

Street Sign APD ProtestI watched as protesters began performing a few idiotic stunts that received more than their share of eye-rolling on Twitter.  At 7 PM, a large crowd gathered on Interstate 25, blocking traffic for a few minutes with no apparent reason in mind.  At 7:30, some dummy had the bright idea to shimmy up a traffic light pole at Central and Yale.  They were trying to remove the street sign.

The march stopped on Central and University, where a crowd began to gather.  A few minutes later, Dixon said his battery was dying and signed off.

After that, all I had left was the handful of tweets coming in and the APD police band, where the calm voice of an officer informed dispatch that all incoming patrol cars should park a block north of Central and Girard.

State Police APD ProtestCaleb James, of KOB4, began tweeting pictures of protesters climbing on an APD Police Substation.  The last picture I saw before jumping in the car was a blurry shot of a State Police Tactical Team wearing olive green, riding on the back of what looked like a goddamn tank.

I parked a couple of blocks from the intersection and started toward what appeared to be an army of police cruisers, lined up two deep along the side streets.

As I approached Central, a kid wearing a bandana over his mouth bummed a cigarette from me, saying “You’re late, man.  It’s already over.  Everybody’s just hanging out on the sidewalk, now.”

I still wanted pictures, though, so I walked the rest of the way to the street, where I noticed a large crowd further west.

Gas Masks APD ProtestCops in full riot gear were everywhere.  They had lined up along the middle stripe of Central, facing outward.  Up until then, I had been thinking of myself as a gawker, but I suddenly realized that these spooky storm troopers were staring at me with their batons ready.  I shivered.

Even weirder were the arriving State Police tanks.  Now I could see that they were some kind of armored transport.  They were letting off groups of olive vested and helmeted troops, holding what appeared to my highly untrained eye as rifles or some other nasty things.

Children APD ProtestFurther west, there were a few officers on horseback.  A voice was crackling over a loudspeaker, sounding just like Kermit the Frog with a cold.  I could only make out some of what was being said. “Unlawful assembly,” was one thing.  “Refusal to disperse will escalate the situation,” was another.  I also heard “Final warning” at least a dozen times.

I was surprised at the “Unlawful assembly” bit.  No one seemed violent.  There was definitely some, “Fuck APD!” being shouted at regular intervals, but at least the bad habit of walking in the roadway seemed to have stopped before my arrival.  Almost everyone was on the sidewalk, quietly filming the cops.

I looked around at the crowd.  It wasn’t huge.  Maybe a hundred or so.  Amongst them were a few families.  I counted at least two toddlers and one infant.  Fifty feet from the SWAT creeps was a laundromat, where a woman was folding towels and watching the craziness on the other side of the window pane.

Dennys APD ProtestA block west, in front of a Denny’s at Central and Columbia Dr, the tone turned from menacing to sinister as more state police arrived.  They hopped into formation, a single line of troops facing a mostly empty street, and put on their gas masks.  They began marching east, the armored transports rolling in behind them.

If the protesters had still been in the street, they would have been boxed in by the marching state police from the west, and the riot police from the east.  The only thing was that there were only a few people there, and most of them seemed to just be crossing the street.

I looked back the way I had come, and was nervous to find a police van blocking my escape.  Behind me was an alley that led back into the side streets, and I started to edge toward it.

Tear Gas APD ProtestMeanwhile, the state police continued their march toward the riot cops.  We were all watching this strange display of authority, when suddenly a sound like firecrackers went off, and tear gas swamped the street.

Luckily, it was windy, and most of it blew away.

I began to make a heroic retreat, and took one last look over my shoulderin time  to see the cops bursting off of the street and onto the sidewalks and parking lots, chasing protesters and rubberneckers, alike.

I took up a brisk pace down the alley and made my way back to the car.

I unlocked the door, and noticed my throat starting to get scratchy.  Above my head, a bat flapped around a light pole.

Caleb James APD Protest“Oh, that’s a big one.”

The voice came from the screened-in porch behind me.  An elderly woman.

“Look at me.  All this stuff going on, and I’m looking at bats.”  She laughed.  “Well, you can’t spend all your time thinking about the bad things.”

The Albuquerque Police Department is currently being investigated by five different agencies.



All original photos by J. Rodriguez Grisham

Frater Isla

Frater Isla also writes under the name Joshua Lee. He lives in Albuquerque, NM.For more of his work, visit .

17 Comments on "Albuquerque Protest Turns Ugly"

  1. Tyler Zoom | Mar 31, 2014 at 4:06 pm |

    Fuck the police state this country has become.

  2. Rhoid Rager | Mar 31, 2014 at 4:50 pm |

    Suggested lexicographical entry to be included in a future edition of the DSM:

    Police: A shared delusional disorder in which patients present with delusions of authority deriving from highly abstract and esoteric texts formerly referred to as ‘law’. Symptoms of police include bizarre delusions where patients with shared delusions will often wear similar-looking clothes and tend to obsess over assuming an authoritarian role against others. Police patients are prone to exhibit violently psychotic episodes when this authoritarian role is challenged by individuals who do not share this delusion. Such violently psychotic episodes can be extremely dangerous as police patients tend to amass a variety of harmful implements to fulfil their authoritarian roles. The most common violently psychotic episodes involve driving cars at high speeds around highly populated areas, electrocuting others, forcing others to assume awkward and painful positions, applying painful metal hand restraints on others, kidnapping and confining others in locked rooms, and critically or fatally shooting or beating others. Epidemiologically, police is quite prevalent in society and prone to spread in times of economic downturn and political crises. Police is currently untreatable. Personal intervention by family and friends during early stages of police is recommended, but regression is common.

    See also: Military

  3. BuzzCoastin | Mar 31, 2014 at 6:09 pm |

    I have a flock of chickens
    they become unruly from time to time
    hence I have to put the fear of Buzz back in’um
    especially when they mob me for food
    my first inate reaction is to scare them with a show of force
    therefore, when I’m a chcken
    I stear clear of chickens hawks &
    avoid situations that engender a show of force

  4. Funny how the MSM and (approved) pundits have been spouting about how peacefully the benevolent APD handled the situation and that that somehow proves the protest unwarranted ( I mean, OMG, the murdered guy was HOMELESS right????). Nothing to see here….. just a bunch of wimpy,whiny, vicious, dangerous, anarchist, hippy, pacifists with nothing better to do but disrupt the business of the important people…..

  5. We don’t know how to protest anymore. Or maybe there’s no form of non-violent protest that still works.

    • “In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct
      action.” Letter From Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King

      In any civil disobedience, protesters have to be willing to take what comes and all of them have to behave impeccably. Anything less gives the state an excuse to view the people as “the enemy” and move on it. Without provocation, they wind up on the national news and once they start to wind up on the national news every night, people tend to turn against them. This is why law agencies use agent-provocateurs in any struggle: it enables them to paint people as “violent” and “out of control.”

    • General strike?

  6. Number1Framer | Apr 1, 2014 at 1:21 am |

    “I looked around at the crowd. It wasn’t huge. Maybe a hundred or so.
    Amongst them were a few families. I counted at least two toddlers and
    one infant.”

    Look, I know these things are always intended to be peaceful acts of civil disobedience, but people actually brought an infant and toddlers to a protest? There’s always goddamn fucking morons in every group no matter the purpose or ideology.

    • Reuben_the_Red | Apr 1, 2014 at 11:11 am |

      You mean the morons shooting chemical weapons (tear gas) at infants and toddlers? The morons threatening on their bullhorns to escalate the situation? Yeah, you’re right, morons in every group. Except are armed to the teeth and allowed to assault and murder with impunity and then assault and terrorize some more. For ideological reasons.

      • Number1Framer | Apr 2, 2014 at 1:09 am |

        You’re exactly right. So…why bring your toddler and infant if you know the police thugs will be there? Early shoe ins for parents of the year.

        • Frater Isla | Apr 2, 2014 at 11:17 am |

          From what I could tell, they weren’t protesters. Just people who were eating at the denny’s or doing laundry. They were just seeing what was going on outside.

        • Reuben_the_Red | Apr 2, 2014 at 12:20 pm |

          They must not have gotten the Police Determined To Attack memo.

    • InfvoCuernos | Apr 1, 2014 at 6:46 pm |

      That’s New Mexico. If this had gone on longer, somebody would be selling tamales out of a cooler, and the ice cream truck would be competing with the bullhorn.

  7. Reuben_the_Red | Apr 1, 2014 at 11:20 am |

    Here’s an interesting detail from the police killing of homeless man James Boyd, to which this protest was a response:

    “Video footage captured by a police helmet camera shows officers killing
    James Boyd, a homeless man who appeared to be surrendering to them at a
    campsite where he was sleeping. Boyd is seen picking up his belongings
    and turning away when officers deploy a flash grenade and then fire six
    live rounds at him from yards away.” (from Democracy Now)

    Any military vets reading this? Does that sound like a “shake and bake” operation to you? Deploying a flash-bang and then “taking him out”? I don’t ask casually, I’m assuming that these are military tactics, the same used against “enemy combatants” in foreign countries that for all intents and purposes actually look a lot like Albuquerque, New Mexico. How many of these cops are military veterans of recent US military occupations? How many of the cops nationwide are now deploying hostile military tactics against people with accents, people who aren’t white, and people who talk back, based on their own experiences terrorizing/occupying foreign nations like Iraq and Afghanistan?

    In other words, we should expect more of the same, a lot more of the same in every state in the country where military veterans take jobs as cops and bring along their military prejudices and experiences.

  8. InfvoCuernos | Apr 1, 2014 at 6:45 pm |

    This is all over nothing: its pretty clear that the homeless man had to be shot because if he was arrested, who’s the officer that would have had to go spelunking in his ass? Nobody got time fo that. (<==sarcasm).

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