Inside and outside Donald Trump’s rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Tuesday night, the disorder was all too familiar.
Inside, protestors repeatedly interrupted the presumptive Republican nominee’s speech, holding up signs reading “Undocumented Unafraid” and “We’ve heard enough.” After refusing to leave, several were forcefully removed from the convention center and at least one was arrested, CNN reported.
Outside, the scene was more chaotic — reminiscent of violent protests at Trump’s Chicago rally in March, which prompted the candidate to cancel that event. According to the BBC, some of the more than 600 protesters “threw burning T-shirts and plastic bottles” at police, who responded by “firing pepper spray and smoke grenades at the crowd.” Some protestors then attempted to break through barriers the police had created to prevent them from storming the rally. A few were reportedly able to smash the glass on the arena’s front doors.
The Alburquerque Police Department described the event as a “riot,” and said several officers were being treated for injuries after being hit by rocks. At the same, video showed police officers pepper spraying protesters and hitting them with batons as they were walking away from the scene.
What the protestors may not have realized, however, is that they were clashing with one of the most notoriously violent police departments in the country. Indeed, if Trump protestors have a culture of violence, the Albuquerque Police Department has a culture of sheer brutality.
The Albuquerque Police Department has been the subject of intense scrutiny over the last two years due to what the U.S. Department of Justice deemed a “longstanding history of police brutality and unnecessary deadly force.” That assertion came in a 2014 report from the DOJ, which documented “serious systemic deficiencies in policy, training, supervision and accountability” at the department.
Since then, several reporters have dug into the Albuquerque Police Department and written scathing accounts of its conduct. In 2015, for example, Rolling Stone published a lengthy feature asserting the department had “gone wild.” This year, an Al Jazeera investigation found that the department was one of the most violent in country, with the “highest rate of fatal shootings by police in the United States, eight times that of the police in New York City and nearly double that of Chicago’s police department.”
All this may have fed into panic on Tuesday night when it was reported that shots were fired outside Trump’s rally. The report later proved to be false, but when America’s growing Trump-inspired culture of violence combines with a notoriously brutal police force, it’s hard to blame anyone for assuming the worst.