Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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May 8, 2014

Albuquerque protesters exercise civil disobedience after police shootings

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — As the threat of another tense standoff at an Albuquerque City Council meeting brews Thursday, protesters angry over a series of police shootings are harkening back to the city's long history of civil disturbance and modeling their demonstrations after those including a notorious 1960s citizen raid of a northern New Mexico courthouse.

In 1967, protesters contending the U.S. government stole millions of acres of land from Mexican-American residents stormed a courthouse to attempt a citizen's arrest of the district attorney. During the raid, the group shot and wounded a state police officer and jailer, beat a deputy and took the sheriff and a reporter hostage.

Now, a leader of this week's protests cited that episode as the motivation for the City Council demonstration in which protesters attempted a citizen's arrest of the police chief.

"That's where we got the idea for the citizen's arrest," said David Correia, a protest organizer and University of New Mexico American studies professor. He wasn't advocating violence, but a focus on civil disobedience, saying participants were willing to be arrested.

It's an interesting turn of events in Albuquerque, where distrust of the Police Department is at an all-time high after an officer shot and killed an armed man following a weekend SWAT standoff. Police in the city of 550,000 people have been involved in 39 shootings since 2010 and are under tough scrutiny following a harsh report from the U.S. Justice Department over use of force.

On Monday, activists stormed the City Council chambers and forced city leaders to abruptly end the meeting, and they planned more unrest at Thursday's meeting.

The rowdy disruption of the City Council meeting, protesters say, also follows the tactics of another 1960s Mexican-American group — the Black Berets. Similar to the Black Panther Party, the Berets mounted community patrols, opened free clinics and protested police brutality in Albuquerque. To draw attention to their causes, they often attended meetings and events unannounced to force authorities to hear them out.

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