July 25, 2020

Albuquerque wants guidelines on scope of federal agents’ role in city

The City of Albuquerque sent a letter to U.S. Attorney John Anderson asking to know the scope of actions by federal law enforcement that President Donald Trump announced will be in Albuquerque as part of Operation Legend.

The letter from Deputy City Attorney Samantha M. Hults said that the city welcomes aid from federal agencies in fighting violent crime and gun crime, but expressed concern over statements by Trump and actions by federal agents in Portland and asks for a written commitment that any federal law enforcement agents “conspicuously identify themselves as such, carry and display identifications, and wear uniforms that conspicuously identify the agency for which they work.”

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller echoed the concern in a statement on Friday afternoon.

“We always welcome partnerships in constitutional crime fighting that are in step with our community, but we won’t sell out our city for a bait and switch excuse to send federal agents to attack protesters or round up immigrants,” Keller said. “Unfortunately, look at the President’s own words: he’s ready to incite violence in Democratic cities as a re-election strategy, so Albuquerque must be vigilant to ensure that Operation Legend is actually helpful crime fighting; and not just politics standing in the way of police work that makes us less safe.”

Trump has said that he hopes to target New Mexico in his reelection campaign this year.

Hults’ letter said that the city would not welcome arrests or the use of force or arrests on “individuals engaged in First Amendment assemblies;” federal agents not wearing identification or identifying their agency; or the use of unmarked vehicles “to detain and remove individuals exercising their First Amendment rights.”

Federal law enforcement has faced criticism from their handling of protests in Portland, including for the actions described by the city.

The letter also asks that federal agents “not be used to police First Amendment assemblies, nor target people or communities of colors or immigrant families” and instead allow Albuquerque Police Officers officers to do so.

APD officers recently cited three individuals at an anti-mask protest and counterprotest last weekend at Civic Plaza for carrying weapons.

Officers have also used tear gas or pepper spray at other protests, including when a protester attempted to take down a statue of Juan de Oñate, part of the La Jornada monument, in Albuquerque. A counterprotester threw down two protesters, used pepper spray then shot one protester who pursued him. The counterprotester now faces shooting and assault charges. 

Afterwards, police used tear gas to push back protesters.

City officials later removed the statue.