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article image(Un)Occupy Albuquerque Holds Funeral Procession for 1st Amendment Special

By Anthony M. Martinez     Oct 30, 2011 in Politics
The Albuquerque, N.M., version of the Occupy Wall Street protests, known as (Un)Occupy Albuquerque, held a "funeral procession" today for the First Amendement, as they marched peacefully from the University of New Mexico to downtown Albuquerque.
About 250 people took part in today's (Un)Occupy Albuquerque protest, which was referred to as a funeral for the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The funeral procession idea came about after University of New Mexico Pres. David Schmidly denied the local movement a permit extension on Tuesday and ordered them off of UNM property, where the local Occupy Wall Street movement had set up and occupied a camp at Yale Park, a small, grassy area on the edge of the sprawling UNM campus, just one mile west of downtown.
A protestor with a sign that reads  Arab Spring  Wall Street Fall  at today s funeral procession for...
A protestor with a sign that reads "Arab Spring, Wall Street Fall" at today's funeral procession for the First Amendment in Albuquerque, N.M.
Schmidly, who has not returned repeated telephone calls from journalists since Tuesday's decision, also ordered UNM police to arrest anyone associated with the local OWS movement who tries to retake the park, which local organizers had called "Camp Coyote" and which they had occupied since the first week of October.
Schmidly had granted the (Un)Occupy Albuquerque group at least two ten-day permits before denying them an extension Tuesday, setting off a tense late night face-off Tuesday between some 500 protestors and dozens of police from UNM, the city of Albuquerque and New Mexico State Police. That face-off, which lasted from 10 p.m.--the deadline Schmidly set for the protestors--until 2 a.m., was mostly peaceful, but more than two dozen protestors were arrested, including many UNM students.
Schmidly's decision to evict the OWS protestors from the campus of New Mexico's largest public university angered many Albuquerque citizens and many (Un)Occupy Albuquerque participants, who accused Schmidly of violating the First Amendment rights of citizens of their freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of protest, among many other violations of the United States Constitution.
Today's march, which began at 11 a.m. across the street from Yale Park on Central Ave., included many protestors dressed in black and in Halloweeen costumes, as marchers carried a large, black makeshift casket bearing the words "First Amendment: Rest In Peace". Others carried signs with messages such as one that read "First Amendment, 1776-2011," which was in the shape of a headstone and another that read "The First Amendment Is Our Permit."
Protestors with (Un)Occupy Albuquerque carry a makeshift coffin through downtown Albuquerque Saturda...
Protestors with (Un)Occupy Albuquerque carry a makeshift coffin through downtown Albuquerque Saturday. The words on the coffin say "RIP First Amendment" a reference to UNM Pres. David Schmidly denying the movement a permit and ordering university police to evict and arrest protestors earlier in the week at the state-owned school.
Indeed, today's march had the mood of a somber yet determined group of Americans, who were sending a message to UNM and its president, David Schmidly, that they were not going to allow Schmidly to violate their Constitutional rights. The (Un)Occupy Albuquerque group marched on the sidewalk in a long and colorful procession from UNM to downtown, chanting "Free Speech", "We Are the 99%" and "Banks Got Bailed Out."
Many cars passing by on Central Ave. honked in support and upon reaching downtown, the group marched through the busy commercial and financial district, where citizens having lunch in cafes, bars and coffee shops waved their support, along with many shopkeepers who came out to watch. The group eventually ended up in Civic Plaza, in front of Albuquerque's City Hall, where those who were arrested Tuesday night were brought on stage and recognized, to the applause of the gathered crowd. A local band then performed live music, including one song called "Silver Bullet" which they dedicated to Wall Street.
Among those participating in today's march was out-of-work history teacher James Bolton, 30, of Albuquerque, who said he came to show his support and because he was outraged by the police brutality in Oakland, CA., which resulted in the arrests and injuries of hundreds of protestors, including Iraq War veteran Scott Olson, who was critically injured after being hit in the head by a projectile fired by Oakland police on the protestors.
"The brutality in Oakland was disgusting. It made me want to stand up and do something about it." He also said he wanted to "exercise my First Amendment rights" in light of UNM Pres. Schmidly's eviction of the local movement from UNM's publicly-owned property. Bolton said he graduated from UNM in May and cannot find a job as a history teacher.
Members of (Un)Occupy Albuquerque make their way through downtown  many in Halloween costumes; the t...
Members of (Un)Occupy Albuquerque make their way through downtown, many in Halloween costumes; the theme of the march Saturday (Oct. 29) was a "funeral procession" for the First Amendment after UNM Pres. David Schmidly kicked them off university property earlier in the week and ordered dozens arrested. There were no arrests at today's peaceful protest march.
Another marcher today was Sebastian Pais, 28, who graduated from UNM in 2009 and who is now on the fourth day of a hunger strike to support the Occupy movement and to protest Schmidly's decision to evict the movement from UNM. Pais, who has been involved with (Un)Occupy Albuquerque since it began Oct. 1, said he and other protestors felt "betrayed" by Schmidly's eviction and said he doesn't think the 1% wants students and others at a university or anywhere in America, for that matter, to be talking about politics in public the way the OWS movement has done. Pais also said he plans to conitinue on his hunger strike until Schmidly agrees to a face-to-face meeting with the local movement. A second man is also on a hunger strike separately from Pais, according to organizers.
Meanwhile, in other related (Un)Occupy Albuquerque news, several UNM professors showed their solidarity with protestors yesterday, when they held a news conference at Yale Park, during which they chastised UNM administrators, including Pres. David Schmidly, for violating the Constitutional Rights of the protestors. The professors' group also said UNM, as a public university, should be a place where free speech and freedom to assemble are respected and fostered, not attacked and discouraged.
And finally, the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union announced Thursday they are considering a request from (Un)Occupy Albuquerque members to file an injunction in either state or federal court in Albuquerque to force UNM to allow protestors back on university property. Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry has also said he might consider allowing protestors to use a city park, which the city says are open to the public and do not have rules against such protests. The local OWS movement changed its name to (Un)Occupy Albuquerque because of cultural sensitivities voiced by Native Americans in the Albuquerque area. Organizers say the local movement will go on, although a decision has not been reached as to where to set up camp and other details, pending further actions of the General Assembly and by attorneys working on their behalf. Today's march was peaceful and there were no arrests and only a handful of Albuquerque Police were amongst the crowd, providing for traffic safety.
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