Jim Scarantino writes a moving account of his personal experience with the heavy-handed, repressive assault of APD on free-speaking citizens opposed to a senseless, unnecessary war. A war which at least a few of those same cops must agree now was a mistake. The spirit of the nation — thirsty for blood and brooking no dissent — was alive and on horseback just a few weeks ago. If we’re fighting ourselves on the streets of America, what exactly did fighting “them over there” accomplish? mjh
Note: Photos are from 2003 issues of the Alibi.
The Real Side: Déjà Vu Not All Over Again City Hall tackles police misconduct against peace protesters By Jim Scarantino
I’d come from work, still dressed in a business suit. I didn’t know then that undercover police officers had slipped in among us. But I did sense trouble coming when suddenly the cars disappeared. To prevent motorists from reading our signs, police blocked traffic on Central. Down the street I saw troops of police assembling and what looked like a SWAT van. I decided it was time to go. I headed for my car with sign in hand.
I didn’t get very far before a young police officer stepped across my path and pointed a shotgun in my face. He was terrified and shaking. I’ve always wondered what had been planted in his brain to make him view a man in a suit displaying a plea for peace sign as a threat justifying leveling his gun at my head.
After what seemed a very long time, the officer let me go. When I got home, television news was showing children inside the Frontier washing tear gas from their eyes. Out in the street police in riot gear waded into the group of people who didn’t want Americans dying in Iraq. It didn’t look like my Albuquerque. It didn’t look like America out there on Central that night.
When I learned how this month Albuquerque police harassed and intimidated peace protestors outside Kirtland Air Force Base, I thought, “Here we go again.” Mounted officers in battle gear forced their way through fragile women leaning on walkers, mothers with strollers, even people in wheelchairs. An officer ticketed only cars with pro-peace bumper stickers. Another officer drove down Gibson shouting over his speaker “Go Bush!” Police hurled insults at the group. A protester was handcuffed and locked in a patrol car, windows closed, in full sun, for more than an hour. His offense, committed only after he had been seized, seems to be kicking out a window so he could breathe.
Jeanne Pahls of Stop the War Machine, a sponsor of the event, says the organization has conducted more than 30 other protests since 2002 without a single act of violence or criminal conduct by protesters. So why the show of force by APD against grandmothers, children and the disabled?
Once again, it didn’t look like America on the streets of Albuquerque.
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mjh’s Weblog Entry – 03/25/2003: “Operation Slackened-jaw”
Regarding the encounter between police and demonstrators that turned violent on Thursday, 3/20/03, city councilor Sally Mayer said, “I think we need to thank the police for behaving as well as they did.”
See also mjh’s Weblog Entry – 03/29/2003: “alibi on APD” for more links on this topic.