3 years later, local police and activists reflect on BLM protests, unlikely friendships
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Hundreds of protestors walked the street, protesting police brutality after George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis. At the same time, a new virus was making its way across the globe.
“We had a stay-at-home order and in the midst of that came a racial reckoning where we could not look away. So those dual pandemics as a racial reckoning and COVID-19 combined sort of amplified something that had really been going on for more than 400 years,” said Cathryn McGill, founder and director of the Black Leadership Council.
But what, if anything, has changed? KOB 4 sat down with one of the main protest organizers who is working toward the same goal he was three years ago, but now in a very different role.
Three years ago, around 1,000 people marched down Central Avenue. Torrance Green was there, he says his experiences with Albuquerque police were rarely positive.
“I would get pulled over right down the street on Candelaria and 12th, daily. I lived in the neighborhood, the cops knew who I was, but they were just pulling me and my daughter over, you know, almost every day,” said Green.
He walked the streets in protest for months.
“I remember, it was chaotic at times,” said Green.
In the late summer months, APD Chief Harold Medina was made interim chief of APD. He says policing the protests was wearing them down.
“Oh, we were tired. I knew that they could potentially break us. Like, eventually, we would have to bring in outside entities. There was a strained relationship at the time with BCSO, we were just struggling to keep up on our own,” said Medina. “I knew something had to change. When I became chief, the first thing I did that morning was I asked that our intel find us a phone number for Te Barry.”
Te Barry and Torrance Green founded the Black New Mexico Movement.
“Me and Te were scrambling around like ‘Ah, this is a set-up. We finna go to jail, we did something.’ Trying to go through our text messages figuring out what’s going on here?” said Green.
They were set to meet at Laguna Burger on 12th St.
“Very skeptical. ‘Cause Trump had just sent out the FBI to Albuquerque and there was a whole bunch that was actually going – just the timing was crazy, we were doing protests, and he reached out, and we didn’t know, we took a chance,” Green said.
They weren’t the only ones worried.
“You know, you hear Torrance’s side about how they were all sitting in the car suspicious, something was going to happen. My staff was like ‘Chief you can’t go. We’ll have SWAT ready, we’ll have people on standby.’ I was like ‘No, I’m going to go,'” said Medina.
It started what Medina says is now a friendship.
“It’s us being able to overcome that fear that brought us to the point where we’re at today,” said Medina.
Green now has a job with APD as an intergovernmental liaison. He says his job is to help bridge the gaps between police and the community.
“The community needs to know that, the chief of police is hearing their voices, and he’s taking their advice when he can, and he’s explaining to them when he cannot,” said Medina.
“The growth that we’ve taken and some of the steps that we’ve done over the past couple years, just grow on that, and actually lend more of an ear to the actual community,” said Green.
Green says he still gets pulled over, but it happens less often now.
KOB 4 took the question of progress to McGill, she says progress is relative and may look like different to different people. However, she is hoping to see some quantifiable changes with policing in Albuquerque.
“What I hope is, that we see it in the data. In terms of, you know, decreasing numbers of young people who are having access to the system and that we have less gun violence, and we figure out ways to talk to the communities that we are charged with serving to find out what the people want, and that we respond,” said McGill.
Everyone KOB 4 spoke with says there’s more work to be done. McGill says she doesn’t see a downside with more communication.