July 22, 2020

Elected officials criticize Trump administration move for more federal agents in ABQ

Albuquerque’s mayor along with the chief of police voiced opposition to a reported plan by the Trump administration to send additional federal law enforcement to Albuquerque and other cities across the nation.

CBS News first reported on the memo and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich said he was told by the U.S. Attorney for New Mexico that it would be expanded to Albuquerque.

Mayor Tim Keller said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon, “There’s no place for Trump’s secret police in our city.”

“If this was more than a stunt, these politicians would support constitutional crime fighting efforts that work for our community, not turning Albuquerque into a federal police state. We will not sell out our own community, or our own police department, for this obvious political agenda; as they try to incite violence by targeting our city and our residents,” Keller continued.

Albuquerque Police Department Chief Mike Geier similarly criticized the proposed use of federal agents.

“What is being described is not real crime fighting; it’s politics standing in the way of police work. Contrary to the claims of the politicians in Washington, D.C., we came into long-standing challenges with crime in Albuquerque and have worked closely with our community to make the city safer,” Geier said. “Homicides are down this year and protests have been mostly peaceful in Albuquerque and much less violent and destructive than other cities because of our focus on reform and community policing.”

At a protest against mask requirements and the state’s public health order, police detained three people for carrying firearms, including two counterprotesters who objected to the name “We Can’t Breathe” being used.

Police used pepper spray on the counterprotesters as well.

Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales III accepted an invitation to meet with Trump and U.S. Attorney General William Barr at the White House this week, which prompted condemnation from members of the state’s congressional delegation.

Heinrich said Gonzales should resign because of his support for President Donald Trump’s law enforcement efforts.

“Instead of collaborating with the Albuquerque Police Department, the Sheriff is inviting the President’s stormtroopers into Albuquerque,” Heinrich said in a statement. “If we can learn anything from Portland, it’s that we don’t need this kind of ‘help’ from the White House. The President is currently using federal law enforcement agents like a domestic paramilitary force. That’s precisely how fascism begins and none of us should ever encourage or accept it.”

U.S. Deb Haaland also criticized Gonzales.

“President Trump and AG Barr are trying to deploy federal law enforcement officers into Albuquerque to harass our communities [and] divide us,” Haaland wrote on Twitter. “Sheriff Manny Gonzales is their accomplice. We will stand united against this threat.”

Gonzales responded in his own statement.

“The citizens of Bernalillo County deserve to live in safety,” Gonzales said. “Many cities including Albuquerque continue to see levels of extraordinary violence. As the constitutionally elected sheriff, I seek to ensure that no citizen is excluded from the peace and security that should be enjoyed by all Americans.”

The Department of Homeland Security sent unmarked federal agents into Portland, Oregon this week over the objections of state and local elected leaders. 

Protesters in Portland have gathered daily for more than 50 days since George Floyd died at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. The officer has since been charged with second-degree murder.

The Black Lives Matter protests have continued in many cities, including Portland, for months. 

Videos of federal agents—without identifications for who they work for or who they are, spread on social media and TV—spraying protesters with pepper spray, shooting chemical gas and hitting protesters with batons prompted condemnation from many, including some in Congress.

Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf defended the use of federal agents and said they were there to protect against violent protesters. Protests continued to grow, including after video showed federal agents pepper spraying a Navy veteran before hitting him with a baton.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, introduced legislation earlier this week that would require federal law enforcement to display which agency they work for as well as their last name and identification number while on duty.

In June, Democrats in the House and Senate introduced similar legislation.

In Albuquerque, a number of protests have taken place, largely with no violence.

But when protesters in Albuquerque sought to tear down a statue of Juan de Oñate, a Spanish colonist who was banned from New Mexico for his brutal treatment of the Indigenous population, a counterprotester assaulted protesters. When confronted, he shot and injured a protester. The man, Steven Ray Baca, was charged with the shooting and assault earlier this month.

Other protests have included police using pepper spray or tear gas to disperse crowds, including when some were destroying property in downtown Albuquerque and police said they heard gunshots.