After thousands of peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters dispersed on Sunday night, some people remained downtown in Albuquerque, driving their cars, playing music on their systems and displaying anti-police violence signs. Later, after they were gone too, 100 or 200 people remained, most not in vehicles, breaking windows and looting. Riot police showed up, and the Albuquerque Police Department says someone fired on them in front of the KiMo Theatre. No injuries have been reported.
At first, it was spiderwebbed windows on storefronts and graffiti, but around 12:30 in the morning at Third Street and Central, people smashed through some of those windows and started pulling things out of the businesses. Motorcycles and cars revved their engines. And businesses’ security alarms sounded. Looters pulled furniture from inside a club, sprayed fire extinguishers at the sky, lobbed glassware high into the air, and started a small fire in the street. Police helicopters circled.
Riot police started forming, coming up Central, starting around 5th St. NW, telling everyone to leave. A helicopter above repeated the message through a loudspeaker. People threw things at police, and lit some dumpsters on fire, rolling them toward the line of riot officers, though none reached them. Another line of officers waited on 2nd St. NW.
Police fired flash-bangs and rubber bullets, and launched tear gas, announcing they were going to take anyone who didn’t leave into custody. By 5 a.m., helicopters were still circling, and tear gas wafted out of downtown.
At 6:45 a.m. Monday, KUNM's Marisa Demarco gave a live update from downtown Albuquerque, speaking with KUNM Morning Edition host, Nash Jones. Listen or read the transcript below.
NASH JONES: I'm wondering what you're seeing. You're still downtown from last night's Black Lives Matter protest and a riot that occurred late into the night and potentially still happening now. What are you seeing?
MARISA DEMARCO: Yeah, so right now, I mean, police have most of downtown completely blocked off. You can't really see most of the main part of the area where a lot of the violence and damage took place, which is on Central, so I'm standing on Copper now. I just kind of walked all the way around and police have blocked it off entirely. I did a little walking up Central until they told me to turn back, and you can still hear some of the alarms from the businesses going off. I'm seeing a lot of garbage trucks too, so I assume that they have the city's solid waste department out here cleaning things up.
JONES: And how many people are you seeing besides the officers?
DEMARCO: Besides officers? Oh, it's kind of hard to tell. There's some cars, there are some sparse cars. I think most of them are City of Albuquerque vehicles. So seems like maybe a lot of people are here pitching in on the cleanup.
JONES: You've been out there most of the evening. Can you tell us a little bit about what you experienced last night?
DEMARCO: Yeah, so I joined the Black Lives Matter protest and marched behind the protesters to film and to document and they got downtown and had speeches. And at that point, I would pretty much called that protest over. After that protest was done, people dispersed and went back to their cars. And then there were a lot of cars kind of driving around with signs hanging out their windows, but it still seemed somewhat peaceful, like there was like kids in the cars and stuff.
And it wasn't until about one in the morning, maybe 12 or one, when people started breaking into businesses, pulling things out. They lit a small fire. The riot police approached from two sides, fired what I assume were less than lethal rounds and flashbangs I hear that in front of the KiMo [Theatre] someone fired shots on police; I think I was standing right there when it happened, and I don't really know if it if it was live ammo or something else, I have no idea. But things got really rowdy and smoky and aggressive and violent. People were throwing things. People were rolling fiery dumpsters at police like it was, it was rowdy.
JONES: And you're saying that this was a separate thing, or it felt like a separate thing, from the protests that had happened earlier on in the evening?
DEMARCO: Yeah, so I'm seeing a lot of headlines this morning that say like ‘Black Lives Matter protest erupts into violence.’ And that's really not the way that I was perceiving it last night. It felt like it was a long ways after the Black Lives Matter protest had concluded, and that now we were looking at something different. Which is, you know, maybe some people are holdovers, maybe some new people came downtown, you know, it's hard to say.
CORRECTION 6/1: The Q&A transcript as originally posted had an error which has now been corrected to "police have blocked it off entirely."