Business owners: Peaceful protesters were not property destroyers

Crime

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Violent protests have stretched across the United States, over the death of George Floyd. It’s been relatively quiet in Albuquerque, until Sunday night. What started out as a peaceful protest, with thousands of people marching along Central, turned into riots later in Sunday night.

Monday morning, business owners in downtown were left to clean up the mess left behind. They say the people who destroyed their properties, were not the same individuals who were marching along Central earlier in the evening.

“The people I saw were kids, spray painting, busting stuff out, there’s no relation between them and the protestors,” said Rich Baca, the co-owner Bourbon and Boots. “I think they’re just punk kids down here trying to cause problems for everybody,” said Baca.

Baca says he rode his bike to his bar Sunday night when he learned what was going on. He believes the people behind the vandalism were just taking advantage of an opportunity to trash the city.

The organizer of the early protest says they discouraged the violent behavior and those starting fires, breaking windows and shooting their guns were part of a different group who showed up later.

Monday morning Mayor Tim Keller described the riots as scary and dangerous. Keller says the riots are a distraction from the message people are trying to convey. “We’re seeing a powerful moment of change, being contradicted by violence,” said Keller.

Senator Jacob Candelaria is now offering free legal representation to anyone who has been arrested while protesting. He says he was at the peaceful protest Sunday night, but he was leaving as the riots were beginning to break out. He says he doesn’t condone the looting or vandalism.

“What I would encourage folks to realize is that broken windows can be repaired, graffiti can be cleaned, streets can be swept. The loss of life and the injuries to persons is irrevokable and irreplaceable,” said Candelaria.

Different groups are organizing more protests for Monday night. APD is preparing its force to respond if necessary.

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