On March 24, over 5,000 people of all ages gathered in Old Town Plaza in Albuquerque to stand up against gun violence and voice outrage against the
racist National Rifle Association, weapons manufacturers and gun profiteers.
As the crowd marched out of the plaza and toward its final destination at Tiguex Park, it chanted: “Want to know what all the fuss is? / We are standing up for justice!” and “Hey, hey, N-R-A / How many kids have you killed today?!” The crowd of mostly students, parents and teachers enthusiastically shouted in support of education, against the prison system, mass incarceration and the ultimate form of gun violence: U.S. militarism and imperialist warfare.
The timing of the student-led March for Our Lives had a local symbolism. Eight days prior, community activists commemorated the fourth anniversary of the police murder of James Boyd in 2014, a homeless camper gunned down by the Albuquerque Police Department in the Sandia foothills, a grizzly event
that sparked a mass movement, brought the “gun violence” of APD to worldwide attention and forced the department into a federal court-monitored “reform” process.
APD, like racist police forces everywhere, are one of the largest perpetrators of gun violence. Nationally, over 1,000 people per year are routinely killed by police with guns.
In the aftermath of Albuquerque’s 2014 anti-police brutality uprising, APD, establishment media and careerist politicians responded by mounting a public relations campaign claiming that increased scrutiny of police actions made officers afraid to “do their job” allegedly leading to a wave of retirements and inability to recruit new cops, thereby driving up crime. Following the police murder of Michael Brown and the uprising in Ferguson, similar claims by police departments across the country were dubbed—in racist cop-speak—the “Ferguson effect.”
When Democratic Party politicians like newly elected Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, darling of “anti-establishment” liberal circles, addressed the March for Our Lives rally in Tiguex Park, they essentially embraced the notion that Albuquerque was experiencing a Ferguson-effect scenario of contracting law enforcement resources leading to rising crime. The Democrats then presented the expansion of Albuquerque’s militarized and deadly police force as the solution to gun violence instead of what it actually is, an engine of gun violence, brutality and mass incarceration.
The Democrats, in a bid to wrestle the “tough on crime” mantle away from the Republicans, opportunistically used the March for Our Lives to make a case for putting 400 more cops with guns out on the streets and onto the rolls of a racist department that is considered even by the mass-incarcerating Department of Justice to be a major and serial violator of civil rights.
The Party for Socialism and Liberation, on the other hand, held hundreds of conversations that day with receptive protesters calling for the de-militarization of the police and the state.
It was at this point, after an entire day of Democratic party officials, politicians and wannabe staffers calling for more cops with guns from the stage, and PSL activists calling for fewer cops with guns from the crowd, that a small group of “official” event organizers informed the PSL that we were not allowed to hold our placards, pass out literature or even have a table. They claimed that the activity was “non-partisan” and the presence of the PSL as a political party was therefore forbidden. Our table was then surrounded by event private security to prevent us from continuing to do outreach.
Claims of non-partisanship were obviously phony given the non-stop parade of Democratic party politicians grandstanding from the stage for more cops and votes come November.
The real issue was that the PSL was energetically organizing people away from the Democratic party at an event that was intended by the Democratic Party to help build a so-called “blue wave” at the 2018 ballot box.
The PSL will continue it’s important work in Albuquerque, standing with students concerned with violence and exposing the opportunism of the Democratic Party.