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Members of public ejected from Albuquerque council meeting for using silence as protest

Protesters cited for trespassing when they refuse to speak at Albuquerque city council meeting.
By Frances Burns   |   May 9, 2014 at 11:45 AM   |   Comments

ALBUQUERQUE, May 9 (UPI) -- Security was tight at the first Albuquerque council meeting held since protesters attempted to arrest the mayor and police chief.

Several people were escorted out of the council chamber Thursday night when they refused to speak, instead standing silently at the lectern provided for the public and using the overhead projector to send messages. They were ticketed for criminal trespass and barred from attending council meetings for three months.

The council considered changing the method of approving the police chief, with alternatives including requiring council approval for the mayor's choice and making the office elective. No decision was made.

The U.S. Justice Department issued a report in April on a string of police-involved shootings that have claimed 25 lives since 2010. Federal investigators found that police were too quick to use deadly force and non-lethal stun guns, and often acted in ways that increased risk to the public, especially when dealing with the mentally ill.

In March, a homeless man camping on the outskirts of the city and armed only with a small knife was shot and killed in a confrontation with police. Last Saturday, a U.S. Marine veteran became the second person killed by police since the Justice Department report after his wife called 911 to report her husband was threatening her and their child.

A council meeting Monday was abruptly halted after protesters effectively took over the chamber. On Thursday, Council President Ken Sanchez asked protesters to "be respectful," and later said that refusing to speak and standing at the lectern was a violation of the rules of decorum.

One of those escorted out was Mike Gomez, whose son, Alan, was killed by police in 2011. He used the projector to show a photograph of his son and said "I love you a lot" before turning his back on the officials and standing silently.

"You're not worth addressing," Gomez said when asked why he refused to speak. "Blood is on your hands."

Topics: U.S. Marine
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