(Un)Occupy Albuquerque gets “limited” permit from UNM

By Matthew Reichbach

(Un)Occupy Albuquerque will be allowed to continue demonstrating at Yale Park for the next week — on a limited basis. The University of New Mexico granted a “limited” permit that gives protesters fewer hours of access to the park than before they were evicted from the park last Tuesday.

UNM announced that the (Un)Occupy Albuquerque protesters will be able to stay at Yale Park from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. from Tuesday, Nov. 1 to Friday, Nov. 4 and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday Nov. 5 and Sunday Nov. 6.

The permit does not allow food, electricity or amplified sound at the rallies.

The (Un)Occupy Albuquerque protesters have been at odds with the University of New Mexico leadership over the use of University property as a place to protest nearly since its inception.

The group, then called Occupy Albuquerque, initially chose the southwest corner of campus, on the corner of Central and University, as the location to camp out. After concerns from the university about the health of the trees in that area, the Occupy protesters moved to Yale Park, a historic home of protests going back decades. The protesters then faced trouble over staying overnight at Yale Park.

Eventually, things came to a head when protesters were told they could not stay past 10:00 PM on October 25. Three dozen protesters were arrested when they refused to leave while police, including some in riot gear, cleared the park.

Now, protesters will be allowed to be at the park, but in limited hours. And the permit only runs for a week, perhaps setting up another showdown with police if the University does not agree to another permit when time runs out — or if protesters believe the restricted hours aren’t good enough and decide to test the university’s resolve once again.

Santa Fe Occupies the Railyard

By Matthew Reichbach

The Occupy Santa Fe members are settled in at the Railyard Park near Cerrillos Road and next to the train tracks that carry riders from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. Nearly two dozen tents dot the Railyard Park around a circular grass field. No tents, the rules at the north end of the encampment say, can be erected on the grass.

On the grass, a family plays soccer while others gather in groups. Some gather near a fire pit that puts off more smoke than heat as the wood burns down, discussing what role the banks had in the economic downturn that still envelops the country. A young man walks around, offering the last piece of pizza (green chile pizza) to anyone before he can dispose of the box in the “cardboard” recycle bin located near the kitchen tent.

Some of the tents are big enough to house a family, others barely big enough for a man to sleep in. All signal that some protesters are willing to stay as long as they believe necessary to get the word out.

There is a sense of permanence and rhythm to the camp that comes from the protesters camping together.

The group is organized; Judy Welte sends out emails to a list with some articles to read that would be relevant to the movement (which includes at least one Clearly New Mexico piece).

The difference between Occupy Santa Fe and (Un)Occupy Albuquerque is immediately evident. While the Albuquerque part of the worldwide Occupy movement has spent nearly a week fighting for its right to demonstrate at the University of New Meixco, the Santa Fe branch of the movement secured a permanent home at Railyard Park.

The Albuquerque protesters were told that they can use city parks, but only during regular park hours.

Other efforts at outreach

One similarity between the Tea Party movement that has had a massive effect on politics, especially within the Republican Party, and the Occupy movement is a distrust of the traditional and mainstream media. With the rise of the internet, however, the movements can bypass the traditional media gatekeepers and get the news out on their own.

One example is what Welte is doing with her regular emails pointing out news that may be relevant to the cause. The Occupy Santa Fe movement also posts all of their meetings’ minutes on its website, OccupySantaFeNM.org. A Twitter account, @OccupySantaFe, and Occupy Santa Fe Facebook page are also set up to get the word out.

Welte told Clearly New Mexico that before getting involved in the movement, she had never used Facebook. Now the Occupy Santa Fe Facebook page has nearly 3,000 “likes” — a little more than their counterparts in Albuquerque.

Brad Laughlin is doing his own thing to get the word out. As the executive director of Corelight, a “spiritually-based non-profit” based in Santa Fe, he is providing a camera and microphone to let the protesters tell their own stories to the world.

“We want to just hear from people, hear why they’re here, learn from people, what they’re thinking and feeling and why they came,” Laughlin told Clearly New Mexico. Laughlin says that they will be putting the videos up on YouTube.

“We’re really just trying to document people’s authentic experiences and what’s happened to them,” Laughlin said.

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7th Grader from Tohajiilee heading to Washington D.C. to Present on Youth Leadership

By Anthony Fleg

Tohajiilee, NM – When you hear Waverly Yazzie speak about her dream of having empowered youth in her community leading efforts to improve Tohajiilee, you would probably guess that she is far older than twelve. Indeed, Waverly is a 7th grader from the Tohajiilee community of the Navajo Nation who is spearheading efforts to create the Tohajiilee Youth Council.

Members of the Tohajiilee Youth Council take a break from a planning session. Waverly is the 3rd from the right.

And this week, Waverly, her mother Dee Apache, and other members of the Native Health Initiative will head to Washington D.C. for the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA) to hear Waverly speak about the importance of youth leadership in health efforts. Waverly’s presentation, “Youth Leading the Way to Healthier Communities” will allow her, at twelve years of age, to present to public health leaders from across the country.

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(Un)Occupy Burque protesters driven from Yale Park again

By Matthew Reichbach

For the second straight day, (Un)Occupy Albuquerque protesters were driven from Yale Park, the home of the movement for weeks. And for the second straight day, police made arrests of those who refused to leave.

Police told the protesters that they could not stay on the property because their permit expired.

Two more people were arrested for failing to leave the park, bringing the number of arrests in the past two days to nearly 40. Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, police made 37 arrests.

Some of those who were arrested on Tuesday evening for refusing to leave the park were back to the protest on Wednesday evening. Six of those involved in the protest, however, remained in jail, waiting to make bond.

One of those arrested on Tuesday evening, Brittany Arneson, spoke to Clearly New Mexico about her experience. Unfortunately, the audio for the interview was lost.

She said she had been part of the (Un)Occupy Albuquerque movement since the first day and had been following the original Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City since the beginning.

She said that she witnessed police brutality on another protester who was arrested Tuesday night.

The protester “went limp” and forced police to carry him to the police car. Arneson told Clearly New Mexico that she saw police lift him up and drop him, as well as force his face into door of a police car.

When Arneson told the rest of the (Un)Occupy Albuquerque protesters that she saw the police actions, the crowd chanted, “Shame! Shame!”

Legal options move forward

The police failed to answer questions about whether or not other groups, such as study groups, would be allowed to gather in the park without a permit, but protesters were told that any gathering of (Un)Occupy Albuquerque protesters anywhere on campus would be arrested.

The officers said that all of questions would have to go to University of New Mexico President David Schmidly. Schmidly met with two of the protesters yesterday but denied their request to extend the permit.

An attorney with the National Lawyer’s Guild, Larry Kronen, told the (Un)Occupy Albuquerque protesters at the daily General Assembly meeting that the American Civil Liberties Union filed for an injunction against the University of New Mexico for denying the group a permit to continue protesting.

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(UPDATED) Police make arrests as (Un)Occupy Burque forced to leave Camp Coyote

By Matthew Reichbach


Photos by Shanna Schultz. For more see the Flickr set.

Camp Coyote, the home of the (Un)Occupy Albuquerque movement in Yale Park for the past few weeks, is no more. The University of New Mexico refused to extend the permit for the protest citing public safety concerns and warned protesters that if they did not vacate the park by 10:00, they would be arrested.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in the park and lined the streets protesting the move.

The protesters at the park are part of the Occupy Wall Street movement which calls for higher taxes on the rich. One of the main concerns voiced at (Un)Occupy Albuquerque is the influence of corporations on the political process.

As the clock ticked down to the 10:00 deadline, hundreds of protesters gathered, including a group of 20 who planned to risk arrest rather than leave the park. The large crowd chanted slogans and sang songs while waiting for the police to arrive. The police finally began moving in to evict the protesters from the park at nearly 11:30. The crowd continued to chant slogans, including, “Cops are the 99 percent!” while moving back to the sidewalk.

The 20 “arrestibles,” as they were called by the protesters, were prepared to be arrested rather than leave the park. They had the numbers of personal contacts and a lawyer written on their arm, while more organizers had each arrestible’s contact information.

Protesters lined both sides of the street, the median, and even poured into the closed-off street near Yale Park. Police stopped traffic in both directions for a block from Yale Blvd. to Harvard Drive.

The exact number of those arrested is unclear. Organizers initially estimated between 30 and 40 protesters were arrested according to KOB’s Gadi Schwartz. Later reports put the number at 17.


The Santa Fe Reporter reports 37 arrests. Of these, 35 were by UNM police and 2 were by the Albuquerque Police Department.

One of the more dramatic moments of the night came well after the park was clear of protesters and occupied with police officers. According to eyewitnesses, a man sat in the road and was chased by police officers. He evaded the police officers, but they spotted him again and chased him across Central where the police tackled him and arrested him. As the crowd ran to see what was happening, a police officer warned the crowd to step back and shot mace into the crowd.

Riot Police

The protest was covered by a number of media outlets. All three TV stations in the city were on hand, as were newspapers and the Associated Press. Reporters stayed until well after 1:00 am reporting on the protests.

One protester, who did not give his name to Clearly New Mexico, said, “The media has been smearing us.”

He said that reports of violence at the campsite, which was one reason that UNM gave for not extending the permit to continue the protest, were exaggerations.

Miguel Aguirre, a drunk homeless man with no apparent connection to the protest, was arrested for threatening protesters with a knife over the weekend. According to the (Un)Occupy protester, the situation had been defused before the police showed up.


Odds and Ends

  • News of police shooting tear gas at Occupy Oakland crowds spread through Camp Coyote before the police cleared Yale Park of protesters. Other Occupy protests around the country were also broken up by police.
  • One way protesters use to communicate is through the ingenious the human microphone.
  • The protesters were a mix of ages — from college aged kids who had never protested before to some who had protested decades earlier in the same park.
  • The protesters changed the name from Occupy Albuquerque to (Un)occupy Albuquerque after concerns about the negative connotations the word occupy has for many Native Americans.

(Un)Occupy Burque, UNM set to face off

By Matthew Reichbach

Protesters are not backing down after the University of New Mexico announced Monday they will not renew the permit for (Un)Occupy Albuquerque to protest at Yale Park on the UNM campus.

Instead, the protesters announced that they will move their protest from “Camp Coyote,” as it has become known, to UNM President David Schmidly’s office on the UNM campus.

The permit runs out tonight at 10:00. The permit had allowed protesters to stay on campus from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm. Some protesters moved to the sidewalk after 10:00 to watch over belongings left at Camp Coyote.

UNM cited incidents of drunkenness and an increase in transients at Yale Park as one reason to deny the protesters a permit. Specifically, the release cited Miguel Aguirre, a drunk homeless man with no apparent connection to the Occupy protest, who was arrested for threatening protesters with a knife.

“The nature of the (Un)occupy Albu­querque protest is that it attracts many dif­fer­ent types of indi­vid­u­als, and there is no way to assess whether people are or are not part of the (Un)occupy protest, so as a result the university has chosen not to approve a permit extension,” the UNM statement read. “Since the uni­ver­sity has a growing concern about the safety and wel­fare of our students and the uni­ver­sity com­mu­nity in gen­eral, admin­is­tra­tors are request­ing sug­ges­tions from the City of Albu­querque to help address the issues with the tran­sients who have been attracted to the protest.”

KRQE reported that Aguirre “claimed he has a personal connection to the university and was just trying to protect it from the protesters camping out there.” He also admitted to be on a drinking binge.

The (Un)occupy protesters say that transients have gathered in Yale Park before and will gather after the protests are over.

UNM also cited a death in the area, though the Associated Press reported it as “a separate, unrelated incident.”

The Daily Lobo, the independent student newspaper at the university, reported that some protesters are willing to be arrested.

Protester Anthony Bono said some are prepared to face arrest tomorrow evening.

“Some people are willing to get arrested, but we haven’t yet found a consensus, so we are still working on it,” he said.

The protest site had already been moved once, from the southwest corner of campus to Yale Park. Clearly New Mexico contributor Anthony Fleg said once the university expressed concern for the fragile trees on the southwest corner, the protesters agreed to move to Yale Park.

“Elder members of the gathering reminded the group that Yale Park, sitting next to UNM’s bookstore, has long been the site of protests,” Fleg wrote.

The protesters changed the name from Occupy Albuquerque to (Un)occupy Albuquerque after concerns about the negative connotations the word occupy has for many Native Americans.

Sarah Kennedy asks the question: If a corporation is really person… (VIDEO)

Sarah Kennedy is thinking again. And the subject that’s got her brain cells all agitated was the recent news of the lawsuit filed by James Bopp Jr. of Citizens United fame that seeks to eliminate New Mexico’s campaign donation caps.

To refresh your memory, Citizens United v. FEC is the controversial 5 to 4 Supreme Court decision that overturned over 100 years of federal law and legal precedent in sweeping away political campaign spending restrictions on corporations. The basis of the decision rested on a head-spinning expansion of the legal doctrine of “corporate personhood.”

So, following this logic, Sarah asks the question: If a corporation is really a person, can it go on a date?

This video shows what happened when she tried to find out.



Credit unions reap reward of backlash against big banks

by Matthew Reichbach

Bank Transfer Day - Nov. 5

With media attention focused on the Occupy Movement and banks instituting new fees for using debit cards, consumer frustration is moving some to change from national banking institutions to local options.

The New Mexico Independent says that one option is credit unions.

In reality it’s a phenomenon that’s already in motion. Many credit unions around the country have seen an uptick in the opening of accounts. Laura Cowan, a spokesperson with the New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union, whose membership already stands at 150,000, said that in recent weeks, “We have definitely seen a rise in the number of accounts being opened.”

The Bay Citizen noted a similar change in the San Francisco area.

The Credit Union Times wrote that, “Credit unions in Ohio, South Carolina and Pennsylvania also have said they’re working to take advantage of the new wave of anti-bank sentiment.”

In 2010, State Rep. Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) introduced a bill that would give local banks and credit unions preference over national banks. The bill cleared the state House on a unanimous vote but did not make it to the Senate floor for a vote before the session ended. The bill received national attention at the time.

It isn’t just the Occupy Movement that is driving consumers to take their money out of the country’s largest banks. Bank of America has announced a $5 fee per month for the use of debit cards while Wells Fargo is testing a $3 monthly fee in five states, including New Mexico.

It was these fees that prompted L.A. gallery owner Kristen Christian to propose “Bank Transfer Day.”

A Bank Transfer Day Facebook group urges the “99%” to remove their money “from major banking institutions” and put their money in “non-profit credit unions” on November 5.

Credit unions, unlike banking institutions, are non-profit. According to the Credit Union Association of New Mexico, a trade association for credit unions in the state, “Unlike most other financial institutions, credit unions do not issue stock or pay dividends to outside stockholders. Instead, earnings are returned to our members in the form of lower loan rates, higher interest on deposits, and lower fees.”

A Gallup poll conducted from October 15-16 found that “the current level of public support for Occupy Wall Street is similar to that for the Tea Party movement.” The poll notes that the Occupy Wall Street movement has been growing and has only been in existence for a month.