On Monday, June 2nd, thirty-two concerned citizens went to the office of Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, who was scheduled to have a budget meeting that afternoon, in order to seek an audience with the Mayor or to submit their statements in writing. An hour later thirteen were arrested – one charged with felony battery on a police officer.
They were met almost immediately with force aimed at preventing them from even entering the office at the direction of Chief Administrative Officer Robert Perry. The result was that the citizens, being threatened with arrest for merely entering the office, conducted an impromptu “sit-in” in the office stating, when told that the Mayor was out of town, that they would wait for him.
Nearly a half hour later thirteen of those who initially entered the office, who remained behind when the majority of the group went outside to the City’s Civic Plaza to participate in a press conference, were forceably detained within the office when police “locked-down” the Albuquerque/Bernanillo County Municipal Building.
Six women and six men were arrested and taken to jail for three misdemeanor offenses: Criminal Trespass, Interference with a Public Facility, and Unlawful Assembly together with Intent.
While a thirteenth member, of what has become known as the Burqué 13, was arrested and charged with a felony – battery on a police officer. The sworn arrest complaint, sworn to as true under oath by Officer A. Jaramillo, who did not arrive until long after the factual allegations made actually occured, states that University of New Mexico Professor David Correia intentionally pushed through the crowd, forced open a “security door” to allow the group to enter a “secured area,” and then with his arms raised bumped his chest into plain clothes Albuquerque Police Officer, stated to be a member of the Mayor’s “security” deployment, C. Romero. Romero, it is claimed, was knocked off balance by Correia’s blow before he could attempt to “restrain” Correia while informing the citizens that they were welcome in the lobby but not within the office.
The problem with the official story is that video evidence taken by citizen journalists and cell-phone video of one of those who sought to deliver a message to the Mayor completely conflict with the sworn arrest complaint filed against Correia.
In fact what several videos show is that long before Officer Romero engaged with the citizens they had already entered the office via the main entrance – a glass door embossed with the seal of the City and stating “Office of the Mayor Robert Berry.” Benjamin George arrived first, opened the unlocked door, and “smiled at the members of staff, who smiled back” as he and others entered. But that’s when the trouble began.
Without stating, as is sworn as true, that he was an APD officer and that the people were allowed only in the lobby – Romero is captured on cell-phone video only now released that shows that he, in fact, was the one who physically engaged Correia.
Correia initially faced the group of citizens who were being trapped in the narrow hallway beyond the door leading to a public waiting room, adorned with columns and cases full of public art, which had doors around its perimeter to the offices of the Mayor, his Deputy and Chief of Staff Gilbert Montano, and Chief Administrative Officer Richard Berry.
Correia is clearly audible on the video stating that the citizens were attempting to have a “public meeting” with the Mayor and would not be forcibly barred from attempting to meet with or present their written concerns to the Mayor.
At that point Officer Romero is visible approaching Correia from behind, without identifying himself, and physically grabbing him. Correia immediately raises his arms in a gesture to indicate that he was not attempting to resist or forcefully confront Romero.
Contrary to the sworn complaint that Romero sought to prohibit Correia and the others from entering – not only were they already within the door and in the office but Romero is shown aggressively dragging Correia, arms still raised, back down into the back of the office where he detained Correia for about three minutes threatening to arrest him.
At one point this encounter with Correia and Romero are joined by the Mayor’s Deputy and Chief of Staff, Gilbert Montano, which takes place while the others in the group begin chanting in the background as they gather in the waiting area. One woman, 67 year-old Nora Anaya, whose nephew was brutally shot by APD nearly 25 years ago while driving his girlfriend, who had been shot at a party, to the Emergency Room (both died as a result), chained herself to one of the art supporting columns in the waiting area.
Montaño is clearly overheard stating to both that he was attempting not to make arrests but to “de-escalate” the rapidly growing tensions. Romero objects but moments later Montaño allows Correia to rejoin the citizens, now engaged in a sit-in where they read aloud complaints and selections from the recent scathing investigative findings of the Department of Justice, which concluded that the APD engages in a systematic abuse of deadly as well as non-deadly force and has been responsible for unnecessary citizen deaths in nearly half of the 25 fatal shootings between 2010 and March of 2014 – when another fatal shooting, this time of a homeless man, James Boyd, for unlawful camping in the Sandia foothills on the Eastern boundary of sprawling Albuquerque, occurred and set off a wave of protests that brought the chronic problems of the APD to the nation’s attention.
Moments after that Montaño is again seen stating his objectives are to “de-escalate” rather than amplify the problem – one of the concerns addressed by the Department of Justice – to CAO Robert Perry. Perry is seen at the start of the videos directing the police to try and forceably remove the citizens from the office and states to them repeatedly that they are “done” and they “had their chance.” Perry almost leads an officer, seen charging towards another of the citizens arrested, to violently engage in an arrest. Perry confronted Joel Gallagos first with the demeaning reference as “son” – to which Gallagos states he “ain’t no son” but a grown man – then responds by employing a racial slur, very offensive in a state with a large Native American minority, of “chief.”Contrary to the sworn complaint against Correia the sit-in is allowed to continue for nearly an hour before military clad and armed S.W.A.T. forces were deployed and the arrests of the thirteen now locked inside were made.
The video evidence once again demonstrates the power and importance of citizens who video record official acts in being able to reconstruct the actual facts of an event and to contradict official statements used to portray them as “disruptive” and to justify arrests.
Following this story will be a detailed analysis and critique of the allegations against Correia and the other twelve using two of those videos. One, captured on the cell phone of Caden Rocker, who describes the effort as an attempt as a concerned citizen to deliver in person a letter he had written to the Mayor addressing concerns about the police brutality in Albuquerque.
Rocker’s video, newly released, shows – within the first thirty-three seconds, the entirety of the events of the claimed battery by Correia. When placed in conjunction with another video, made by citizen journalist Charles Arasim, working for photographyisnotacrime.com, which captures most of the confrontation between Romero and Correia in the back of the room and the de-escalation efforts attempted by Montaño – the veracity of the sworn complaint against Correia is undermined. This calls into question the legality of the actions of City officials and APD in making not only the felony arrest of Correia but also those of the others in the Burqué Thirteen that afternoon.
The City Council declared for the second time in a row that they were cancelling the City Council meeting, claiming concerns for the safety of the Councilors and the public, which would be rescheduled, without following the City’s Charter, Ordinances and Rules required to do so, but as a “special meeting” in which the citizen’s right to general public comment would again be prohibited. That meeting is scheduled for Monday June 9th and several of the citizens, who have been mischaracterized as being intentionally disruptive, have submitted a statement, modelled on the language and logic of America’s Declaration of Independence, saying that they would not do anything to address their concerns at the Council meeting but would rely on their presentation of the series of legal violations in the Council’s recent actions as submitted as evidence of a “long train of abuses and usurpations” submitted to a “candid world” to view the facts for themselves and see what the citizens believe is the justness in their cause and the misrepresentation of their efforts. The citizens claim, supported now by documented evidence, this is one reason why in addition to the Department of Justice’s condemnation of the behavior of the APD, that they both fear the police and distrust the City’s Mayor and Council.
Considering thirteen people were unnecessarily arrested with one charged with a felony, there now appears ample evidence to support these concerns, given that they did not invade the Mayor’s office as falsely alleged, they merely stayed in an office they had the lawful right to enter.
ANALYSIS OF VIDEOS PROVING INNOCENCE OF THOSE ARRESTED ON FALSE ALLEGATIONS
COALITION STATEMENT TO THE MEDIA
* We are non-violent.
*We as a community want to feel safe with APD, not terrified.
* There is no police accountability in Albuquerque.
* The DA has not prosecuted one killer cop.
* Mayor Berry has not implemented any substantial changes.
* The DOJ reports that the APD top brass sides with officers even when evidence proves otherwise.
* APD hardly ever releases lapel-cam footage, and when they do, it is damning.
* In 200 cases randomly investigated by the DOJ, only one percent of non-lethal incidents were justified.
* Non-violent protesting is disruptive? What about the $30 million lost in lawsuits that could have gone towards improving our community?
* We demand better training for police officers.
* We demand indictments for all police officers guilty of murder
* We demand a complete overhaul of APD.
* We demand an INDEPENDENT oversight commission with the ability to investigate, discipline, and fire officers.
* We want to live in a community not a militarized state.
The Burqué 13