Hundreds of outraged civilians took to the streets of Albuquerque, N.M. over the weekend to protest what many consider excessive force used by local police. Days after a homeless man, James Boyd, died following an encounter with officers, a demonstration developed that eventually turned violent Sunday evening.
Activists targeted members of the Albuquerque police force, throwing projectiles and spitting on them in response to their perceived predilection toward using firearms to settle disputes with citizens.
The city’s police have been involved in 37 shootings since 2010. Two-thirds of those incidents resulted in death. Reports indicate that number is higher than results from other cities of roughly the same population, including Denver, Colo. and Oakland, Calif.
“It has reached a boiling point,” one protester concluded, “and people just can’t take it anymore.”
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Albuquerque Police Chief Gordon Eden responded to the public outrage by promising to address concerns. Though Eden has only been on the job for about a month, he explained that he is working to establish a “new recruiting policy” designed to restore the relationship between police and the citizenry.
Martinez sympathized with the rioters’ position, though she pleaded with angry residents to allow federal authorities to complete their ongoing investigation of the department and the Boyd shooting.
“Albuquerque is going through a tough time,” she explained, “and they’ll figure it out through the investigation. We want confidence in the investigation; but I just don’t want to see anyone harmed.”
As for the protest itself, Eden thanked officers for remaining professional in their interaction with the unruly crowd. One officer received a minor injury, and a few protesters were arrested, he explained; but the incident could have ended much worse for everyone involved.
“The crowd completely changed its mood,” he said, transitioning from “peaceful to a mob” in which “protesters said they were being harmed by other people in the group.”
Computer hackers with the online group known as Anonymous reportedly released a video promising retaliation for Boyd’s shooting. The Albuquerque Police Department’s webpage was subsequently forced offline by a security breach, though it has since been restored.