By: Concerned Burqueño
Donald Trump’s visit to Albuquerque on Tuesday drew a crowd of around 2,000 anti-Trump protesters. Marches and chants such as “Love trumps hate” and “Fuck Donald Trump” escalated to a spirited street demonstration the media referred to as “violent,” “disruptive” and a “near-riot.” While mainstream media focus on reports of protesters throwing rocks at APD horse units and riot police responding with smoke grenades and pepper spray, front-line accounts tell a story of resistance and solidarity the news barely glosses over.
From the front lines, here are five things you probably didn’t hear about Albuquerque’s anti-Trump protests.
1. The ‘riot’ started out as a street party
Around 4 p.m., crowds of anti-Trump protesters began gathering outside the convention center in downtown Albuquerque. The rally and march—which filled the streets throughout the downtown area—was fueled by anger at Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric, but the mood was one of solidarity and empowerment. Protesters took over downtown with signs, chants, music, and even a serenade from a trumpet player. Together, the crowd stood up to racist, fascist Trump supporters, chanting “walk of shame” to ticket holders as they made their way into the convention center.
Running off of this energy, a crowd of more than a hundred pushed through the police barricades at about 7 p.m., moving the demonstration to the doors of the convention center, where protesters banged on glass, rattled doorways and began lighting fire to Trump campaign merchandise. When a convention center window shattered, horse-mounted units pushed protesters away from the building. People resisted, pushing back against the barricades and throwing pebbles, water bottles and the occasional flaming T-shirt toward the police line. APD responded by deploying smoke, tear gas and pepper spray at the crowd, injuring several protesters who were quickly assisted by community street medics. As the police continued to push the protesters farther away from the Convention Center, the crowd outside began to dissipate—but this was far from the end of the night.
2. The city stood behind us
While media claim that violent protesters disrupted the city, out in the streets, a different story unfolded. After they left the Convention Center, demonstrators regrouped a few blocks away, and festivities erupted in the streets. What first seemed like smoke grenades turned out to be passing vehicles burning rubber, cheering on the protesters and waving Mexican flags out windows. The massive crowd took over a few blocks of Central Avenue in a spirit of continued celebration and resistance. Burqueños filled sidewalks, streets and intersections; people in bars yelled out slogans of support. More than anything else, this was a party. A party of strangers standing in solidarity with each other, celebrating the pride and power of immigrants, Natives and others targeted by the growing racism and white supremacism in this country, celebrating our unwillingness to buckle under Trump and his fascist supporters. The streets were ours.
In a city where most of the population are targets of Trump’s fascist rhetoric and politics, support reaches far beyond the demonstration. Although, as is anticipated, both Trump supporters and pacifists are critical of the “violent” nature of these protests, much of Albuquerque’s population is understanding—if not supportive—of the powerful riot.
3. The police stood behind Trump and his supporters
Albuquerque’s police force, known as one of the most violent and deadly in the U.S., stood against the protesters, supporting instead attendees of Trump’s rally. Lines of police in riot gear blocked the exits of the Convention Center so that Trump supporters exiting the building would not have to see the crowds opposing their fascist movement.
The celebration that ensued in the streets of the city was deemed unlawful and unacceptable to APD, who were determined to shut down the positive demonstration of resistance and liberation. Their attempts to dissipate the crowd were not out of concern for the attendees or passersby, who were overwhelmingly enjoying the festivities. Rather, they were determined to use violence to shut down the group solidarity and liberation that threatened their control of a city that has long ago lost its trust and respect for the police force.
When the police moved in on the crowd, the crowd pushed back. Video footage shows protesters running atop police cruisers, and windshields of several cop cars were reportedly broken. Despite being threatened by cops in riot gear and horse units, we kept the festivities going, moving the celebration around the streets of downtown, periodically facing off with the militarized police. During one of the skirmishes in the streets, the line of riot cops invited a biker gang of Trump supporters to stand before them. They wore matching biker jackets and were strapped with weapons as they faced off with the rioters and spouted threats in an attempt to instigate violence. APD stood behind the bikers, prepared to protect them with violence—and making their alliance with fascists clear.
4. The police were violent toward demonstrators
While many reports mention that some police officers were treated for minor injuries after the protests, most media underplays the violence the police exerted on the crowd. APD used its enormous horses—evidently, they ride Clydesdales, which are typically work horses and not made for riding—to push the crowd back without concern for human or horse safety. They used pepper spray liberally on anyone who stood before them. Although APD claims tear gas wasn’t deployed, some protesters dispute that. Smoke grenades were thrown into the crowd, a weapon that can cause serious injury if it hits someone. Some younger members of the crowd refused to let these weapons faze them, kicking and throwing them back toward the cops. By the time the crowd was on the move, the cops were standing in thick clouds of their own smoke.
Police statements and front-line accounts indicate that one arrest took place on the streets (at least one more took place inside the Convention Center during Trump’s speech). Media reports, however, do not discuss the violent nature of this arrest. The individual was violently tackled to the pavement by police, and was reportedly treated at a hospital before being discharged to the jail. Cops pushed back any potential witnesses, targeting pepper spray at anyone who attempted to watch or film the assault.
It was around this time that the rock-throwing really picked up. These tactics were portrayed as violent on the part of the protestors, but all tactics have a context. By that point, one person had been seriously beaten, people were running from smoke grenades with pepper spray in their eyes and many were starting to feel boxed in by the APD’s attempts to corral the protest. APD created a violent mood, and people reacted in kind. The perception that APD is unpredictable and a serious threat does not come out of thin air; police violence in Albuquerque goes far beyond the events of Tuesday night. Ever since the killing of James Boyd in March 2014 and the huge protests that followed the incident, Albuquerque has remained angry at its notoriously deadly police force. As violence and killings at the hands of APD continue, resistance continues to grow. To the people of Albuquerque, cops are nothing but a threat.
5. The crowd was outgunned, but not outnumbered—and unafraid
Burqueños said it en masse before, during and after the protest: Who does Donald Trump think he is, coming to Albuquerque? Nearly 50 percent of the city’s population is Hispanic or Latino. Another 5 percent is Native American—compared to 2 percent of the total U.S. population. New Mexico has continuously scored as one of the worst states in measures such as unemployment and poverty.
Burque’s people took to the streets to show the world that we will not be stopped by the growing fascist movement in the U.S. Signs and chants carried this message: “Undocumented and unafraid” or “I’m not afraid of you—you stand on Native land.” From the peaceful marches at the beginning to the more confrontational riots toward the end of the night, the huge crowd remained diverse in race, gender and age. Led by Latinos, Native Americans and radical activists, the crowd stood in solidarity and support to show Trump and his supporters that racism will not be tolerated and the groups that fascists target will not be put down. The crowd was not just made up of political activists; by the end of the night, they were the minority. It was a crowd of people angered by the threats and insults leveled against them. A crowd that didn’t necessarily stand with party lines, but that stood against the violence of the people in control.
A crowd that never failed to identify their enemies: Trump and his supporters, white supremacists, police and other fascists. A crowd that prevailed. A crowd that couldn’t be stopped in Albuquerque—and that will not be stopped if we continue to stand together. With love and solidarity.