Last August we had some crazy weather here in Albuquerque. It seemed everywhere I went there was some weather related story as it happened one amazing Friday evening when it rained so hard in such a short amount of time near downtown that it made for some dramatic images including the following of a man hanging on to a trash can to keep from being washed away as he looked at a flash flood headed his way. I've attached a short video I shot as well to give you a sense of how powerful the downpour was. The second photo was of a homeless man who was caught in another flash flood as he slept in a dry city arroyo but was quickly washed away with the massive current flowing downwards after heavy rains fell in the foothills. Luckily for him a witness managed to see him get swept away and called 911. I've also attached a shaky video to give you an idea of how he was saved by rescue personnel from Albuquerque's Fire Department who are trained in such types of rescue. NPPA chose these photos as first place for spot news in region no.8.
APD officers respond to a possible active shooter near the Air Force Base forcing a local elementary school to go on lockdown.
Linda Ortega chose to buy a house next door to a centuries-old South Valley church that she once considered her spiritual home.
San Jose Church sprang to life during the Christmas season, on certain feast days, and especially during Lent, when as many as 100 people crowded into the tiny church, Ortega recalled.
But the church at 2100 La Vega SW has remained silent since early 2013 when it was closed by the nonprofit that owns the property.
“They locked the gates and removed everything, including the bell of the church,” she said. “It was quite abrupt. It was shocking.”
Before the church was closed, a group of Penitente brothers say they opened the church regularly for religious services and welcomed the community to attend.
Today, the nonprofit that owns the property bars the Penitentes and plans eventually to reopen the church as a venue for public events other than religious services.
The church’s contents – including pews, life-sized santos carved from cottonwood, and even a wood-burning stove – were removed, people familiar with the church said.
Fences that surround the three-acre property do little to stop trespassers, Ortega said.
“Sadly, the property has been vandalized with graffiti, trash – lots of unsavory things going on behind the church,” she said.
The property recently showed evidence of visits by drug users, who left used syringes and other paraphernalia near a rear wall of the church.
The property today is fenced and locked while the legal dispute simmers between a group of Penitente brothers, who claim the church as their heritage, and the Atrisco Heritage Foundation, which has owned the property since 2006.
The Sociedad de Nuestro Padre Jesus, a group of Penitente brothers, filed a lawsuit last year in state District Court against the foundation, challenging the nonprofit’s legal right to bar Penitente brothers from the church.
The Penitente Brotherhood is a lay fraternity of Catholics that provided spiritual leadership for centuries in New Mexico and southern Colorado.
Even San Jose’s name is the subject of dispute. Court records refer to it as San Jose Church, but Penitentes call it the Morada de San Jose – the Spanish word for a Penitente church.
A spokesman for the Atrisco Heritage Foundation called it a Catholic church that for centuries was owned in common by heirs of the Atrisco Land Grant, who settled in the area more than 300 years ago.
Archbishop of Santa Fe Michael Sheehan called it a “chapel,” long used by Catholics as a place of worship. But the Roman Catholic Church does not own the property and has no stake in the outcome of the legal dispute, he said.
Eager to renovate
Peter Sanchez, executive director of the Atrisco Heritage Foundation, said the nonprofit is eager to renovate the church and open it to “the entire community” rather than a small group of Penitente brothers.
“Their argument is that five or six people should be able to use this church exclusively,” Sanchez said of the Penitentes, whom he called “tenants” of the church in recent decades.
“Our argument is that the community should be able to use this church. When we say the community, we mean the whole community.”
Sanchez contends that the Penitentes controlled access to the church and largely closed it to the broader community. Sanchez also contends the church is in good condition and that the foundation is maintaining the property.
Ortega and others reject the contention that the church was closed.
“It was open to the community as it was,” she said. “Anybody could come and participate, or just observe, if they didn’t want to participate in the prayers.”
The Atrisco Heritage Foundation was formed in 2006 by the now-defunct Westland Development Corp. to preserve cultural properties, including San Jose Church and three cemeteries. Westland was the successor to the Atrisco Land Grant.
A key issue in the lawsuit is the validity of a 50-year lease that Westland granted to the Penitente brotherhood in 2006, giving it use of the church, according to the lawsuit. The Atrisco Heritage Foundation in its response denied that the Penitentes have a legal lease with Westland.
Sanchez said the nonprofit intends to restore the church and develop the property into an asset the community can use for a wide variety of events.
The foundation is working with a group of University of New Mexico graduate business students “to develop a strategic plan and feasibility study to develop the property in a way that is more beneficial to the community,” Sanchez said.
He said the project is modeled on the Old San Ysidro Church, which is owned by the village of Corrales and leased for events ranging from weddings to performances, but not as a church.
The foundation also wants to register San Jose Church on the National Register of Historic Places, he said. The designation makes owners eligible for investment tax credits to pay for rehabilitation of historic structures.
Religious artifacts removed from the church “are stored safely under our control,” Sanchez said. The foundation would not oppose handing the artifacts over to the Penitentes if a judge determines the rightful owners.
“We simply want the courts to decide,” he said.
Tension between the Penitentes and the Atrisco Heritage Foundation led to a confrontation Oct. 4 when foundation board members opened the gate to allow UNM students to view the church and a Penitente leader tried to enter the property, according to a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office report.
The conflict began when Jose Maria Perea, a spiritual leader of the Penitente group, drove his motorized wheelchair through the open gate when board members ordered him to leave, according to the report. Perea told a deputy that board members grabbed him and his wheelchair in an attempt to force him off the property.
Sanchez said of the incident that Perea was “trespassing onto our property, trying to disrupt a meeting between our organization and UNM. We had to call the police and have him escorted off.”
Neither Perea nor the board members sought criminal charges.
Perea, Ortega and other South Valley residents say they oppose the foundation’s plans to use the church for nonreligious purposes, such as community events.
San Jose is among the oldest churches in the region and should be used exclusively as a church, said Jerome Padilla, president of the board of directors of the town of Atrisco grant, a political jurisdiction composed of Atrisco heirs.
“We want to protect the traditional practices on that land,” he said.
Perea called the church a “cultural sanctuary” that for decades served both the Penitente brothers and the larger community.
Generations of Penitente brothers are buried there, both on the grounds of the church and under the church’s floor boards, Perea said during a recent visit to the church. Many of the graves are unmarked, he said.
“Every inch that you dig under this, there are bones of our ancestors,” he said.
Gary Chappel is bundled up tight against the cold. Despite the hooded parka, the skin surrounding his bearded face is pink and his nose is red.
It is 6 a.m. this weekday morning at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, south of Socorro, and the 60-year-old physician from Winter Haven, Fla., is patiently waiting for sunrise. His gloved hands hold a rather large camera, while another with an enormous lens is mounted on a tripod.
Just after 6:30 a.m., the horizon to the east begins to illuminate. The soft but constant chatter from ducks, snow geese and sandhill cranes gets progressively louder as the sky turns shades of amber, red and purple.
With a sudden thunderous flapping of wings, tens of thousands of birds become airborne in the first wave of a morning flyout.
Chappel presses the shutters on his cameras, capturing moments in time that will never be repeated in exactly the same way.
He is not alone. To his left and his right, lined up along a dirt road that runs adjacent to a large wetland area, are other people outfitted with camera gear. They, too, awoke early in the morning darkness and cold to see, hear and photograph the wintering water fowl in their stunning natural habitat.
As things settle down, Chappel reviews some of his shots on the preview screens of his cameras. He stops at a photo of birds, frozen in various poses of flight, juxtaposed against a fiery sunrise.
The 27th annual Festival of the Cranes will be held Tuesday through next Sunday at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge south of Socorro.
Among the 142 events scheduled are tours, lectures and workshops on identifying birds, bird behaviors, and photographing and videotaping of birds.
Some of the events are free, though many require a fee and have limited space.
For a description of events and details, go to festivalofthecranes.com.
Today in Albuquerque, the Return of the Sandhill Crane Celebration takes place with free events scheduled from 9 a.m. through 3 p.m. at the Open Space Visitor Center, 6500 Coors NW.
Events include walking tours, bird displays, lectures and live music.
Call 897-8831 for more information or visit cabq.gov/openspace/visitorcenter.html.
“Wow! This is why I do this,” he says, exhaling cloudy wisps of moisture into the cold morning air. “Photography is really an excuse to come here. How else would I ever get to see something like this? There’s nothing like this in Florida. I’m a radiologist, so I look at pictures of people all day. This is much prettier and less depressing.”
Established in 1939, the Bosque del Apache is located along the Rio Grande Corridor, “a main migratory flyway in North America,” says Sean Brophy, the assistant refuge manager. “We get a tremendous abundance and variety of birds, some using the refuge as a stopover during their annual migration, but also many thousands of others that stay here through the winter.”
The refuge is 57,331 acres, of which 10,000 are managed as wetlands, Brophy says. In all, more than 530 species of birds can be seen throughout the year in addition to more common four-legged critters, including mule deer, coyotes, javelina, raccoon, beavers, bobcats and the occasional mountain lion and black bear.
Photography hobbyist Raybel Robles, 28, a resident of Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean, was in the right place at the right time when he unexpectedly photographed a coyote stalking and setting its jaws into a snow goose.
An accountant assistant, Robles said he and his girlfriend, also a hobby photographer, planned their visit around a trip to the Bosque del Apache.
“I heard about it in an online forum for people who photograph birds, which is my main subject,” he says. “Finding different birds to photograph is very challenging but also very rewarding when you get a great shot. If it was easy, you’d get bored quickly.”
Robles, who was in his third day visiting the refuge, says his most lasting impressions are “images of the birds with the mountains in the background, and the beautiful light.”
Larry Kimball and his wife, Barbara Magnuson, both professional photographers from Cotopaxi, Colo., have visited the Bosque del Apache about a half-dozen times in the last decade.
“It’s spectacular. It’s not like anything you can see anyplace else – the sheer number of birds, the colors, the killer sunrises,” says Kimball, 67.
“I love coming down here, particularly at this time of the year with the autumn colors,” says Magnuson, 62. “It’s different each time we come, and we don’t know what to expect. Last year, we saw coyotes lying in the grass waiting for some snow geese. The birds, the wildlife, scenery, colors – there are just so many options and potential subjects.”
Mike Cohen, 64, a retired attorney from Lighthouse Point, Fla., has been visiting the Bosque del Apache every day for nearly two weeks. He parks his camper van at a nearby RV park.
Although mainly interested in the sandhill cranes, the numbers of other bird species make the entire spectacle “kind of overwhelming and magnificent.”
Cohen was waiting along a field where a couple of thousand snow geese were feeding in the grass.
“It’s exciting when in a sudden burst they all take off at once,” he said. “I’ve got one camera set up with a fast shutter speed to capture action all in focus, and one camera with a slow shutter speed and a neutral density filter to purposely blur the shot, making it more artistic.”
For Phoenix resident Gerry Vandaele, 73, photographing the birds and wildlife at the refuge is his way of sending the message that nature is important and to see it now, while it’s still here.
“I worry that the wildlife will disappear and we won’t be able to see it anymore,” said the retired phone systems engineer. “I’m trying to capture the moment because, you never know, it may not come again. Different species are becoming extinct all over the world. I worry about that for my grandchildren.”
BAYARD – The southern New Mexico mining town of Santa Rita no longer exists, even as a ghost town, except in the memories of Terry Humble and others who lived there.
The ground beneath Santa Rita has been blasted, shoveled and trucked away over the last century to feed the world’s demand for copper, leaving a hole a mile-and-a-half wide and 1,500 feet deep.
In September, another vestige of Santa Rita disappeared when workers at the Chino Mine voted 236-83 to decertify a 72-year-old union celebrated for its heroic struggle to improve the lives of Hispanic miners and immortalized by the 1954 movie “Salt of the Earth.”
The Chino Mine, located about 12 miles east of Silver City, is among the world’s largest open-pit mines and still growing. Endless lines of huge Caterpillar trucks, each hauling 300 tons of copper ore and waste rock, grind slowly up steep inclines day and night. Some 960 workers continue to expand the massive hole.
All around are mountains of waste piles that dwarf many of the taller peaks in this rugged area.
When Humble, 73, returned to Santa Rita in 1963 after a hitch in the Navy, he realized that he needed to begin collecting photos and other evidence of his hometown before the growing pit swallowed it completely.
“That’s when I realized that Santa Rita was disappearing,” he said. “Better get what I could.”
Today, Humble and others are mourning the end of the labor union he joined in 1967 when he began work as a mechanic at the Chino Mine.
The Sept. 18 union election ended one of the nation’s most storied unions, the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Local 890, commonly called Mine Mill Local 890.
The National Labor Relations Board certified the election results Sept. 30.
The union’s supporters say the move reflects a generational change by young miners who didn’t live through the struggles faced by their predecessors.
Improved mine safety and better wages played a role in declining union membership, said Humble, who co-authored a book, “Santa Rita del Cobre,” about the town and the mine.
In 1970, wages at Chino ranged from $24 a day for laborers to $32 a day for machinists, he said.
Hourly wages today at the Chino Mine range from $12.35 an hour for laborers to $23.20 an hour for a top mechanic, according to a three-year United Steelworkers contract negotiated in 2011. Wages are raised $1.50 an hour if copper prices exceed $2.75 a pound.
Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., which owns the Chino Mine, issued this statement: “We believe that safe and productive mining operations can continue to be achieved in the workplace without a union at Chino, where employees are compensated fairly, treated with dignity and respect, and work as a team in a positive work environment.”
“If you’ve got a safe environment and a good wage, you don’t need a union,” Humble said. “Let’s hope it lasts.”
A 1916 photo of the Grant County mining town of Santa Rita, east of Silver City. By 1970, the town had vanished to make way for the expanding open-pit Chino Mine.
‘Can’t believe it’s over’
The Chino Mine, the town of Santa Rita and the union all are tightly braided in Humble’s memories.
“I can’t believe it’s over,” he said recently, sitting on a folding chair in the 1940s-era union hall in Bayard, where Local 890 members held often-raucous meetings for seven decades.
“I had a feeling the union would be decertified sooner or later. But I did not think it would be this soon and not by such a large margin. I was very, very disappointed.”
In this hall in 1950, Local 890 members voted to strike for better pay and working conditions at an underground mine north of Bayard owned by the Empire Zinc Co.
When a court injunction barred miners from manning the picket line, union members voted to allow women to continue the strike, over the strenuous objections of some miners.
The 15-month action in 1950-52, called the Salt of the Earth strike, forced Empire Zinc to grant better pay and working conditions for the mine’s Hispanic workers.
The strike was dramatized in the 1954 film “Salt of the Earth,” which was made by blacklisted filmmakers and cast with men and women who participated in the strike. The movie starred Juan Chacón, who served several terms as president of Local 890 from 1953-74.
“That really was our civil rights movement, both for Hispanic women and men,” said Frances Gonzales, 49, whose father participated in the strike.
Gonzales said she grew up around the union hall, where she attended meetings at her father’s side. Murals memorializing the Salt of the Earth strike line the hall inside and out.
Salt of the Earth, both the strike and the movie, called attention to the dangerous and discriminatory conditions faced by Hispanic miners, both at the Chino Mine and the many underground mines that dotted the area.
“It helped us to cross that barrier, to be accepted by the Anglo people who lived here,” she said. “They started to realize that we were treated very badly and very differently. That’s when a lot of barriers, little by little, started going down.”
Local 890 led periodic strikes at the Chino Mine to put pressure on company leaders during contract talks, including a nine-month strike in 1967-68. Chacón often spoke for the union in news stories about the strikes.
Mine Mill Local 890 was largely a Hispanic union, said Humble, who was among a handful of Anglo members. For many years, Hispanics were barred from the mine’s craft unions and the more-desirable jobs they represented.
“There was a strong incentive for Hispanics to join Mine Mill,” he said. “It was a chance for them to have some solidarity and a voice.”
On the eve of the Sept. 18 union election, union leaders felt confident that they could fend off decertification, as they had in five previous elections from 1993 to 2004.
In most cases, union members had voted nearly 2-to-1 to remain unionized. In 1998, for example, members voted 333-172 to reject decertification.
Union leaders went door-to-door, handing out fliers and reminding members of the union’s heroic past.
“We had done a lot of house visiting,” said Ray Teran, a 40-year employee of the Chino Mine and chairman of United Steelworkers Local 9424-3, the successor to Mine Mill Local 890.
“We had a lot of people from out of state to help with organizing and helping people understand the difference between union and non-union.”
The results of the election, and the nearly 3-to-1 rejection of the union, stunned supporters.
“It’s just kind of hard to stomach,” Teran, 61, said in an interview at the union hall, located about three miles west of the Chino Mine.
Generational changes in attitudes toward unions help explain the results, he said. Most voting members were in their 20s and 30s, he said. Teran was one of only a half-dozen members who had worked at the mine 30 years or more.
“It’s the generation,” he said. “They have no sense for unionization. They weren’t around for the struggles that their grandparents and parents went through. They don’t realize the sacrifices that took place to get to where we are.”
Dwindling membership over the years took a toll on the union, Humble said.
At least 10 unions flourished at Grant County’s two copper mines in 1967 when Humble started work as a mechanic at the Chino Mine.
One after another since 1991, members voted to decertify unions for machinists, carpenters, boilermakers and other trade groups, he said.
At the Tyrone Mine, a second Grant County copper mine owned by Freeport-McMoRan southwest of Silver City, all three unions were decertified in 1994.
Local 890 had a membership of 560 in 1996. Its successor union had a membership of 343 last month when it was decertified.
Grant County’s mining workforce and union membership have fluctuated with the ups and downs in copper prices.
The Chino Mine’s closure in 2008-09 may have delivered the fatal blow to the union, Humble said.
In 2008, operations at Chino were curtailed and hundreds of miners laid off after copper prices dipped under $2 a pound. Union membership dwindled to just a couple of dozen while the mine was closed in 2008-09, he said.
Copper prices have since rebounded to just over $3 a pound. In October 2010, Freeport-McMoRan announced it was restarting mining operations in Grant County. Today, 960 work at Chino and 620 at Tyrone, the company said.
“Everybody that has been hired lately, in the last several years, are new hires – a lot of younger people who have no idea of the advantages or disadvantages of a union,” Humble said.
Many say money also played a role in the union’s defeat.
Teran and others contend that Freeport-McMoRan paid annual bonuses to workers at the non-union Tyrone Mine but not to Chino employees. Some miners believe they will get bonuses, and possibly pay raises, now that Chino is non-union, he said.
Freeport-McMoRan said in a written statement that the company does not publicly discuss employee compensation. The Journal left repeated telephone messages with Irving Shane Shores, who organized the petition that led to the decertification vote, but they were not returned.
Many area residents say they are relieved the mines have reopened, even if they may regret the death of the county’s last miners’ union.
“This area is lucky to have (the mines), otherwise there wouldn’t be an economy in this area,” said Esther Gil, a councilwoman in Hurley, where Chino copper was smelted until 2007.
Her husband belonged to a Chino Mine union until his retirement a decade ago.
“Younger people don’t feel the attachment to the unions or understand that unions served an important purpose in improving people’s lives,” she said.
Police said three Albuquerque teenagers took turns smashing cinder blocks on the heads of two sleeping homeless men, killing both in an attack so brutal that police haven’t been able to identify the victims.
And one of the teenagers told APD police the three friends have attacked dozens of homeless people at random throughout the city in the last year.
Alex Rios, 18, Nathaniel Carrillo, 16, and Gilbert Tafoya, 15, were all arrested late Saturday on two open counts of murder and other charges, according to jail records.
Tafoya told police they have attacked as many as 50 homeless people in recent months, according to the criminal complaint, and police are asking possible victims to come forward.
The men’s bodies were found by a passerby at 8 a.m. Saturday in a field near 60th and Central.
“They are unrecognizable,” Simon Drobik, an Albuquerque Police Department spokesman, said of the victims. “My question is: Who failed these kids? How did it get to this point? It was so violent. I was sick to my stomach. Homicide (detectives) had a hard time dealing with it.”
Carrillo and Tafoya lived with their father at a home just north of the empty lot where the bodies were found, according to the complaint.
Police said the two men were asleep when the attack started. The teens also attacked a third man in the field, Jerome Eskeets, who had also been asleep but escaped and helped police identify the attackers, according to the complaint. He told police they wore black T-shirts over their faces as masks. As he ran, one of the teens yelled at him, Eskeets said, and that helped him recognize the youth as a nearby resident.
He also told police the teenagers had attacked several homeless people in the area in recent months.
Police found blood on Tafoya’s clothes and more blood on clothes found inside the home. Police also recovered a debit card and what may be the driver’s license of one of the deceased, according to the criminal complaint.
The three teens told police Tafoya and his girlfriend broke up and he was upset, so they went out late Friday night looking for people to beat up, according to the complaint.
In addition to the cinder blocks, the three young men also kicked and punched the two men and beat them with a metal pole and sticks, according to the complaint.
“They went over there with the intent to hurt the individuals in this lot,” Drobik said at a news conference Sunday.
Drobik said all three teens are facing the same charges. Rios is being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center and Carrillo and Tafoya are at a juvenile detention center. Drobik said all three will likely be tried in adult court.
Richard Peralta, who lives east of where the beating happened, said several homeless people stay in the area and usually sleep and hang out in the field.
“The homeless people never bother us,” he said. “They are people and deserve the same respect as you, me or whoever.”
A man at Carrillo’s and Tafoya’s home on Sunday afternoon declined to comment.
Because Tafoya had boasted of attacking more than 50 homeless people, Drobik said police are asking any other possible victims to come forward.
“We’re are asking anybody in the social system who knows someone that expressed they have been attacked, that they reach out to those people to have them come to us and let us know what happened to them,” Drobik said. “We want justice for everyone.”
People with information can contact police at 242-COPS or call Crime Stoppers.
Drobik said police want to interview any homeless people attacked by the suspects so they can determine if Rios, Carrillo or Tafoya had any connection to a homeless woman who police said was intentionally run over with a truck near Second Street and Iron on June 9.
“A small clue, maybe a description of a truck, could tie everything up,” Drobik said.
One woman chained herself to an art case.
Others strung up crime-scene tape and shouted that the police chief should be fired.
It all happened inside the mayor’s suite on the top floor of City Hall on Monday, triggering the cancellation of the City Council meeting scheduled to start two hours later, which was to include discussion on a variety of bills centered on the Albuquerque Police Department.
Mayor Richard Berry was out of town, but his top administrator, Rob Perry, watched and later confronted protesters as they continued their sit-in.
The demonstration ended with the arrests of 13 people charged with criminal trespassing, unlawful assembly and interfering with a public official or staff. One person, University of New Mexico assistant professor David Correia, was charged with a felony for allegedly pushing a member of the mayor’s security detail.
Police quickly cut the chains that protester Nora Tachias Anaya had looped around a display case.
“All we asked is to talk to the mayor,” she said just before officers cuffed her with plastic ties.
The confrontation came four days after an autopsy report revealed police had shot a homeless man in the back in March. The shooting of James Boyd, who struggled with mental illness, triggered protests throughout the spring after police released video of officers firing at Boyd after he appeared to have agreed to surrender.
“We want answers,” Mary Jobe, whose fiance was also fatally shot by police, said in an interview. “We’re tired of the mayor hiding from us.”
The sit-in lasted about 90 minutes and triggered a lockdown of City Hall.
City Council President Ken Sanchez issued a statement saying the council meeting was canceled. He said that because City Hall had been locked down, holding a meeting would violate state rules that guarantee people can watch public meetings. He said he also had safety concerns.
Gilbert Montaño, the mayor’s chief of staff, said he expected councilors to meet later this week or next to take up Monday’s agenda, which included a tax increase for mental health and homeless services and legislation to overhaul civilian oversight of APD.
Members of the Coalition Against Police Brutality and the Answer Coalition, among other groups, who were gathered outside at the entrance to City Hall blasted the mayor for not meeting with them.
“We need answers and the police chief and the mayor does not give them to us – they hide, they hire people to do their talking for them. Where was the mayor for eight days after James Boyd was shot? He couldn’t face anybody because he’s a coward,” said Mike Gomez, father of Alan Gomez, who was fatally shot by police.
Police shot Boyd during a standoff in the Sandia foothills on March 16. Berry was out of town for a few days, and his first publicly reported statement on the incident was on March 24.
It was the third disruption at City Hall in a month. In early May, protesters tried to serve a “people’s arrest warrant” on Police Chief Gorden Eden during a City Council meeting, and they took over the council chambers to hold their own meeting as the chief and city councilors left.
Protesters later held a silent demonstration during a council meeting. Several signed up to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting, then stood quietly when it was their turn to address the council. Security escorted them out.
Protesters and the mayoral administration offered different explanations for how Monday’s protest started.
Montaño said Correia pushed his way through the interior door as other people were going in. Correia “rammed through the door and pushed one of our officers,” Montaño said.
The mayor’s suite, on the 11th floor, features a public lobby, with two aides behind a counter to greet visitors. A glass door prevents people from entering the mayor’s suite of offices without permission. Usually, the aides will press a button to unlock the door when people arrive.
Inside the mayor’s suite is a complex of individual offices and conference rooms. The protesters held their sit-in amid a reception area just outside the mayor’s individual office, where he has his own desk and conference table.
Barbara Grothus, one of the people arrested, said protesters didn’t have to force their way into the mayor’s suite. “There was no lock,” she said. “We just opened the door and walked in.”
Montaño said Correia was charged with battery on a police officer. Correia has led other demonstrations at City Hall over the past month. He said some of the tactics are modeled on historic demonstrations by land-grant and Chicano activists. The university has issued statements saying Correia does not represent UNM.
Monday’s sit-in led to an odd scene. Perry, the mayor’s chief administrative officer; Montaño; and a few police officers watched as protesters read from letters they’d intended to deliver in person to Berry. At one point, protesters sat quietly on the floor and read from a U.S. Department of Justice report that found APD had a pattern or practice of violating people’s civil rights.
The door to Berry’s individual office was closed, and a security guard stood watch.
Perry engaged protesters and appeared to use his cellphone to film them. “Did you force your way through that door?” he asked at one point.
Later, he urged them to leave peacefully. “You’ve made your point,” he said. “Why don’t you take off?”
Protesters responded that they weren’t leaving until the mayor came out to talk to them.
Montaño, at one point, said Berry wasn’t present, though he didn’t mention that the mayor was out of town. It wasn’t clear whether the protesters heard Montaño or simply didn’t trust him. Several kept asking if the mayor was shut in his office or if he’d escaped out a back door.
A police van that took arrested protesters from City Hall to the Public Safety building was met with a small crowd shouting messages such as “no justice, no peace” and “killer cops.” A cordon of police made a barrier between them and the van as the arrestees were led in.
Afterward, Montaño said the mayor welcomed civil, productive comment from the community. Berry was in New York on Monday for a conference, he said. Montaño said the arrests came only after protesters made it clear they weren’t leaving unless forced.