Albuquerque Journal from Albuquerque, New Mexico on July 18, 1971 · Page 45
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Albuquerque Journal from Albuquerque, New Mexico · Page 45

Albuquerque, New Mexico
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 18, 1971
Page 45
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ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL Sunday, July 18, 1971 E- Violence in June: The Analysis of a Riot By FRANKIE McCARTY Tourists visiting Albuquerque now will scarely notice the scars of June 13-14 a broken window here and there, a borded-up University Drug, a curiously vacant American Furniture Co. store downtown. But the real scars of the city's June riots go deeper than the broken windows, the $3 million in damage, the more than 300 arrests, or the countless injuries. They are reflected in mushrooming sales of guns and ammunition; in threatening postcards from Trutn or Consequences (signed "Minuteraen";) in questions put by members of a civic club to a police official "Why didn't you kill til the bastards?"; in the courts, when an investigation is ordered to determine whether it's the pobce officer or the deputy sherilf who is perjuring himself. The scars are covering deep wounds. Witnesses say the riot started with an object maybe a Frisbee or maybe a beer can hitting an officer's car, but many who participated in the events of June 13-14 contend it began long before that. Tired of Being Hassled "It's been coming all summer," said 16-year-old Bill Sirco, a junior at Highland High School. "Everybody was just sick of being hassled." Sirco wasn't among the June 13th crowd spending a Sunday . afternoon at Roosevelt Park when the disturbance broke out, but like many others he managed to get there as soon as lie hpard radio reports of a riot. He remained with the crowd much of Sunday night, and he participated in Monday's march down East Central. "I think it began when the narc shot himself in Yale Park. Then the block party on Columbia Street was busted up, and then the arrests (for throwing rocks) in Yale Park. People finally just blew up." In his opinion, "The people are oppressed, hassled all the time. Some laws are stupid and they know it, like the marijuana law. But the government doesn't listen. Eventually people have to rise up and make them listen." There were disparate groups at Roosevelt Park that Sunday after noon Chicano youths, mostly "the regulars;" Ang!o youths, some of the variety the Chicanes term "freaks," and families, many of whom live in the area, picknicking. It was like most Sundays, the regulars say. While there may have been more people there than usual because of an announcements two nights before at Civic Auditorium thai a rock concert would be held, many of those who regularly spend Sundays at Roosevelt hadn't heard that announcement. Nowhere Else to Go "We always come here," said one Chicano youth. "There Isn't anywhere else to go. There aren't any parks in our wighlwrhood, no places to dance, we can't go to bars. And it's a nice park. We come and turn on music, and look for the chicks and talk to our friends, and some guys play Frisbee. It's what everybody does." And that's what many of them were doing that ho? Sunday afternoon when Officers Ivan Smith, Hector Lucero and Richard Seidel dressed in casual wear as plainclothes members of the "park patrol"- ere sauntering around the park. And then of course, others were doing other things such as drinking beer, and according to some reports, a few were smoking pot. i In the only official report of incidents available to the press. Officer Seidel reported that he and the other "undercover" officers noticed "eight subjects sitting in the northeast corner of the park drinking Sehlitz beer in 8 oz. cans." This must have been a mistake since Sehlitz is not available in 8-oz. cans, a distributing company said.) It was about 5:30 p.m., shortly after the temperature hit its peak for the day, 89 degrees. At this time, according to Seidel's report, the officers "re-quested two marked patrol units to come to the park to place the subjects under arrest. The two units arrived, and as they were placing the subjects under arrest, approximately 30 other people began to interfere with the officers. See supplemental reports." Not Received at Headquarters Smith's original call for uniformed officers to make the arrests wasn't received at headquarters, but it was relayed by Officer Wayne Conwell, who heard it on his radio. Conwell, who had been to the Yale pump stations to have his patrol car filled, was on his way back downtown and went to the park. He pulled his car into the deadend street parking area which ends Sycamore, and got out. Behind him came Officer Gregory Avila in another car, which he parked beside Conwell's. Following was Officer Maurice Moya on a motorcycle. They'd also heard Smith's tall. Conwell told the Journal he got out of his car and stood waiting about 75 feet from the group he'd heard described while Avila's car pulled up. "I went down and made the arrest," he said, "and was taking them up to the ear when the 10 or 15 people at the top of the hill turned into about 30. They started gathering about the cars saying, 'Don't arrest them,' or 'What are you arresting them for?' " Conwell said he arrested the six for drinking although after the arrest, one of the suspects asked him for his pipe, which - i". V' ' i J f v J V In ' , . ay ( m. ' m,Hm, ;&&iiJa&&k-, 9 "' ' ' - i v . I Audio-Visual Center Engulfed by Flames Early June 14 was lying on the ground. "I hadn't even seen it," Conway said. "We were starting to go and he asked me to bring along his pipe and his sandals. I picked it up, and sniffed both ends. It was a marijuana pipe and there was marijuana burning in it." He said he handed it to Ivan Smith, one of the plainctothesmen, who was standing nearby. Saw Officer Sniff Pipe Joe Webb, sitting across the street selling tapes in a vacant lot, saw Conwell sniff the pipe. "It didn't look like water pipe (for marijuana) to me. It was tubular, long, shaped like it was made of wood. I figured it must have been a hash pipe. "I heard them say something like 'Haven't you got any place else to go? Somebody commented but the reply was muffled and I didn't hear it," Webb said. "Then I heard someone mentioning constitutional rights and the cap said 'I'll give you your constitutional rights, come on." " Conwell said there was no discussion of rights. "I wanted to arrest them and get out of the area as fast as possible. They told me they weren't drinking, that's all. But there was beer there." He said the suspects were handcuffed that's standard operating procedure "but we didn't have to use any physical force at all." Conwell said, "The heckling started when I picked up that pipe." Officer Moya was helping Conwell walk the six subjects back to the car, when the action started. A youth standing about 20 feet from the arrested group gave this version: "All the people were gathered around watching what was going on. Then someone threw a Frisbee and hit the cop's car. So he jumped up and turned around and walked up to where the crowd was standing. The cop grabbed this guy that was standing by a car and started taking him to his patrol car." He continued: "The guy was trying to talk to the cop and tel' him that he didn't do anything. But the cop wouldn't liiten . . . and the crowd started yelling. Then somebody threw a beer can. (Another report, which identified the missile as a root beer can, said it struck an officer in the back of the neck.) "Then the cops went into the crowd and pulled out some other guy and started taking him. The guy's friends were try ing to talk to the cops that were taking him away, but they wouldn't listen, so one guy grabbed the cop by the arm to try to stop him to talk to him. Pulled Out Their Clubs "The cop turned around and pushed him back. The other cops started pushing everyone that was standing close around. They pulled out their clubs and tear gas (MACE?) and started spraying. By then, people were really angry and throwing bottles and rocks at the cops and the cars. Joe Webb, across the street, had turned around to talk to some customers as the officers started back up toward the cars, and heard breaking glass. He didn't know anything about a Frisbee being thrown: "Man, the stuff I saw would hurt." He said he felt the police showed considerable restraint at first, "considering what they were getting," but subsequent "head bashing" in making arrests "turned the spectators into participants." Conwell said the officers started to put all the prisoners in his car, then wound up putting four in the back seat of his car and two in the front seat of Avila's. "As we were putting them In, Anthony threw a beer bottle and broke the window of Avila's car. It wasn't a Frisbee. . .it didn't look the least like a Frisliee. It looked very much like a Sehlitz beer bottle," Conwell said. Self Preservation Primary Convicted on Charges "Anthony" is 18-year-old Anthony Garcia, subsequently convicted on several charges growing out of the incident, lie has appealed to District Court, contending that the officers are lying, and that he threw neither Frisbee nor beer bottle. He said his arrest "when the crowd know I hadn't done it-is what triggered the riot." "I went to see those guys that were busted.and when I found out I didn't know them, I turned away," Garcia said. "People told me later a cop said, 'Get the one with the long hair,' and then one of them grabbed me." At any rate, after considerable effort numerous objects were flying by then the two youths in Avila's car were put in Conwell's car, along with Garcia. While an attempt w as being made to put the prisoners in the cars, Conwell said, "It became obvious we didn't have enough help. Smith radioed for help once, that was before the bottle was thrown and later I yelled for help over Moya's motorcycle radio." In the meantime, Seidel was back in the crowd, along with Lucero, the other plainclothes park patrolman. "Somebody grubbed Hector Seidel said and we tried to pull htm out and we did. It seemed like fights were breaking out all over the place." Seven Prisoners in Car By the time Conwell took off with his seven prisoners "It was so crowded I could hardly drive "he admitted that "so many people were in and out of the cars so often that I'm not sure I ended up with all the ones I began with." Ju8n Garcia, a community field worker for Model Cities, was with his wife in the park crowd when the hassle began. He remembers seeing the uniformed officer and the "guy in the green shirt," standing there at the time of the arrests, joined shortly by the other officers. "He was putting handcuffs on those guys and the crowd reacted ... I'd say overreacted. There were calls of 'Leave him along, pig.' Then there was a call for help, and in minutes the police came running up with their clubs drawn like there was a riot already going on. There was overreaction on both sides. They came ready to swing, and people didn't like what they were doing," Garcia said. "I saw the Frisbee hit the police car, but I don't think it was done deliberately. The other things were." When Motorcycle Officer Mel Otero drove up to the end of the deadend street, he parked his motor in front of the patrol cars. Otero said "The officers were on top of the hill, trying to protect themselves and each other until other officers could come." He said the officers had the nightsticks out, but he doesn't believe MACE was used. "The crowd was backing away from us, but I think that's because of all the rocks being thrown." He recalls no arrests being attempted at this time, with the primary interest being "self preservation." Seidel remembers hearing sirens and then seeing "a whole bunch" of officers running up the hill. When the other officers arrived, they began clearing out the parking area. The free-for-all was continuing between police and friends of the arrested . . . with spectators becoming increasingly involved. The youth who said he was standing about 20 feet away from the original arrests said that after the police cars were stoned "the cops pulled out their guns and started chasing people around the park. They started grabbing guys and girls and pushing them around. One guy I saw, two cops had him by a car, the cop was holding him by the arm and the other enp grabbed him by the hair and slammed his face down on the hood of the car and hit him over the head with his club. That really got me angry. I don't see why they had to do that." He continued: "Another guy they arrested, they were taking him to a car and they hit him on the back of the neck with a club. The people were getting angry sfter seeing that. So more people starting throwing bottles and rocks." Rocks, Bottles Everywhere Journal Police Reporter Tomas Martinez arrived at the srene about the same time the additional officers did. He saw rocks and bottles flying everywhere. "I asked th police what happened and they wouldn't say anything, so I went into the park and the kids said 'the pics came and arrested some guys and beat them up,' Then I went back and asked the police what happened, and they said they were 'jumped." Film shown by the three Albuquerque television stations during newscasts of the riot verify that officers were using considerable force perhaps justified, perhaps not in making arrests and subduing suspects. KOB-TV film shows at least one incident of an officer hitting a youth with a nightstick as he shoves him into the police vehicle. Another scene shows several officers clubbing a downed suspect, one w ith a casl on his leg. KOB's Bill Norlander said he was headed back to his studios shortly before 6 p.m. when he heard a police call for help through the monitors in his newscar. When he arrived at the park, he saw an estimated 200 people on the east side of the park, with a number of officers in the area. Persons Lying on Ground Norlander said, "Several officers were bringing people out of the park handcuffed. Officer Ivan Smith of the park patrol was standing over three or four persons lying on the ground, just east of the deadend road (Sycamore). They (the persons on the ground) were handcuffed and face down. Another officer in uniform was bringing out another prisoner for Smith to watch." He said the crowd was throwing objects at the officers, and the officers were chasing the persons they though were doing the throwing. In several cases, he said, the officers caught up with the person and subdued him with nightsticks and blackjacks ... in full view of the spectators. Members of the crowd were cursing the officers, and some Continued on E-2 Park Terrorism Complaint Was Made 6 Years Ago Six years ago, Dr. Patrick Lynch, a professor at the University of New Mexico, appeared before the City Commission citing "general terrorism" at right in Roosevelt Park. Dr. Lunch, who lived in the 500 block of Sycamore, presented a petition to the City Commission with 65 signatures from residents urging a curfew for parks and lighting in the area. "Residents are afraid to go into the park at night," he said. "I feel safer on any street in Juarez than there." THE FOLLOWING week Parks and Recreation Director Robert Bjrgan recommended the eity consider both the curfew and the lighting. "It doesn't do any good to have a curfew on the books unless it can be enforced," he said "The commission opted for the lighting route, so it would be easier to patrol the parks." Roosevelt, along with Robinson, Rio Grande, Coronado, and ottiers where incidents and disturbances were of high incidence received lighting first. "It took about year, bocaase Public Service had to design the standards and provide them. Has the lighting helped the situation? "Well, yes and no," Burgan said, "Now they're vandalizing the lights." Vandalism in city parks cost the city $5200 last year, and this year's cost will probably exceed that, Burgan said. Incidents in Roosevelt Park have been growing in intensity and frecnicncy over the past several years. Friday night's stabbing was the second murder in the park in recent years. In June, 19, a teenager was shot to death in an apparent gang warfare. Stabbings, beatings, drug overdoses and strong arm robberies have become almost commonplace. Mrs. A. C. Carver, who lives across the street, said this is the third summer the family has lived there "and it seems to be the worst." The incidence of violence has reached such proportions that Mrs. Carver and her 12-year old daughter took first aid training so that when "people come to the door bleeding we can do something besides wring our hands while waiting for help." ANOTHER. RESIDENT said he noticed a change in the character of the park three years ago, from what had been primarily a family gathering place. "First it became a hippie congregating area. Last year, it was mostly Negroes, but they didn't bother anybody. This year it seems to be Chkanos bent on distruc-tion. There have been rash of incidents there . . . muggings, knifings, overdoses. The police have never bothered them. They were openly drinking there that Sunday. "Every morning the park is littered with trash . . . beer, wine and soft drink bottles. Parks and Recreation must have quite a bill."' He said residents have sought a curfew on the park to no avail. This then is the background for the "park patrol." . Cnpt. Robert Bales said the park patrol-was established two or three years ago "because of the various problems in the parks." He feels it has been effective in reducing crimes in park areas. It has been increased this year, to three three-man teams. While all the parks have problems vandalism for example has frequently been as high or higher in heights parks than in valley parks the teams con centrate on "parks that give us the greatest problem." While, incidence of narcotics usage is growing in parks all over the city the emphasis has been on the core area parks and Yale Park. ROBINSON PARK downtown, for example, has also developed a reputation as being a hangout for tough homosexuals. It was there John Dare picked up a 15-ycar-old youth, whom he later killed in an argument over money, and was convicted and sent to prison. Principal duty of the park patrols is to look for muggings, stabbing?, narcotics, drinking. Until Sunday, June 13, police reportedly paid little attention to beer drinking, according to some regulars. "I've seen them turn over people s beer bottles if they saw them around, and they'd get a dirty look, but I never saw them take anybody in," a Roosevelt Park regular said. Drinking beer on a Sunday doesn't seem to be much of an offense," said CapL Bales. "But you've also got to consider what it can lead to." A criticism of the park patrol has been that they hsve not been trained in un dercover work, but are patrolmen simply wearing new "uniforms. It is true the men are patrolmen who .'olunteercd, Capt. Bales said, though many of them had experience in some other undercover work. Reasoa for the undercovermen in the parks? "If they walked in there in uniform, you know they won't be able to find the violations. If someone is smoking marijuana, he's going to swallow it or something the moment he sees that uniform." The park patrol's career has been peppered with incidents. The patrol had been operative only a few weeks this spring when Officer Ivan Srnilh and another patrolman were accosted by youths with a knife and beer bottles in Robinson Park. A juvenile was arrested by the patrol and several other youths by other officers called to the scene. The Alianza Federal later filed a complaint alleging that the juvenile was beaten on his way to city jail by Smith. On June 10 three days before the Roosevelt Park riot 17 youths were arrested after they threw stones at an unmarked park patrol car.

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