ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A day after hundreds of people clashed with Albuquerque riot officers over police shootings, Gov. Susana Martinez said Monday that she understands the public’s frustration but called on protesters to remain calm while federal officials investigate.
Mayor Richard Berry said Monday that one officer twisted his knee but no protesters were hurt during the 12-hour demonstration on Sunday, despite the use of tear gas on the crowd. Four people were arrested in the melee, Police Chief Gorden Eden said Monday.
Berry said officials monitoring events from an emergency operations center decided to use the gas after some people walked onto Interstate 25, endangering themselves. Eden says people laid down on the highway.
On Sunday, protesters marching back and forth between downtown and the University of New Mexico blocked traffic, tried to topple street signs and called for the police chief and other city officials to resign, authorities said.
Martinez watched the protests on television.
“Albuquerque is going through a tough time, and they’ll figure it out through the investigation,” the governor said. “We want that to be thorough. We want confidence in the investigation, but I just don’t want to see anyone harmed.”
This protest and another last week were in response to the 37 shootings Albuquerque police have been involved in since 2010, 23 of them fatal. The outrage bubbled over recently with the release of a video showing officers fatally shooting 38-year-old James Boyd, a homeless camper, as he appeared to be preparing to surrender on March 16. Ten days later, officers killed another man after they say he shot at them.
On Friday, the FBI confirmed it had opened a criminal investigation into the Boyd shooting. And the U.S. Justice Department has been investigating the Police Department for more than a year, looking into complaints of civil rights violations and allegations of excessive use of force.
Protesters took to the streets in the early afternoon and stayed out late Sunday after authorities declared an unlawful assembly.
Justin Elder, 24, followed the protest as a passenger in a car and held a sign that read, “APD: Dressed To Kill.”
“That’s what this police force is about,” Elder said.
Albuquerque police in riot gear and New Mexico State Police followed the marchers, and protesters shouted epithets at officers. At one point, a protester climbed a tall street sign on the city’s historic Route 66 and unsuccessfully tried to bring it down. Others tried to get on Interstate 25.
Another protester, Alexander Siderits, 23, said he was participating because he was “fed up” with how police treat citizens. “It has reached a boiling point,” he said, “and people just can’t take it anymore.”
Berry, the mayor, says his office has been inundated with calls from outraged residents, and the city website was hit with a “robust” cyberattack.
A YouTube video emerged last week threatening retaliation for the shooting of Boyd in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains. The video, which bore the logo of the computer hacking collective Anonymous, warned of a cyberattack on city websites and called for the protest. Albuquerque police said their site had been breached early Sunday afternoon, but it was back online by that evening.
Police spokesman Simon Drobik said Sunday that investigators had not uncovered the source of the hack.
Associated Press writer Russell Contreras contributed to this report.