5/15/2011:  This page relates to us because many of our alumnae attended the U. of New Mexico and/or resided in Albuquerque after Artesia.
 
3/31/09:  See Phil's recollections of the initial "flash point" that set off the fire bombing riots; Mark Bralley's first person account as a photographer sent to the scene and snippets from a New York Times article published on 6/20/1971.

INTRODUCTION 7/6/2006:  Before each revisit to Albuquerque, I review the following book:
"Albuquerque -- 100 Years in Pictures 1875-1975"
by George Fitzpatrick and Harvey Caplin
Calvin Horn Publisher, Inc. (Modern Press Albuquerque)
ISBN 910750-36-X
Library of Congress Card No. 75-8354

The pictures and narrative in the book help to retrieve my memories of Albuquerque.  On pages 184 ~ 188 of the book, there are pictures and some narrative regarding the riots that happened in Albuquerque beginning late Sunday afternoon, June 13th, 1971.  I was there at the time and knew something about those riots, but not as much as I discovered 35 years later.  (My personal First Edition copy of the book is signed by the publisher and former SE Heights neighbor Calvin Horn.  One of his daughters lived in an apartment above mine just after my separation and before my divorce in 1977; another daughter is a fellow College of Artesia alumnus.)

During our 2006 CoA reunion, while visiting Zoo-Tingley-Aquarium complex on Saturday, I met Eddie Gallegos on the visitor train.  He was in the same mid-1970s UNM Law School class with Ann Steinmetz, Ted Baca, Tim Padilla, Woody Smith and Tom Foy (now deceased) - the latter lived directly across the street from the law school and threw the best parties back in the early to mid-1970s.  Eddie was at Roosevelt Park when the group of youth and line of riot-geared police marched into each other to start the sequence of events that led to the Sunday riot up Central Avenue.  During our brief conversation, he confirmed some of my owb reflections and added many more of his own.  An updated narrative of the riot, including many comments that aren't in the book are now memorialized on this page.

BACKGROUND:  From September 1970 until March 1971, I lived in a small upper efficiency unit set back from Coal Avenue at Spruce directly across the street from the northwest corner of   (My landlord, Rex Hopson, worked at UNM's Zimmerman Library.)  Although most of my undergraduate time was spent on studies, I did get over to the park a few times while living across the street from it.

After a brief hiatus from March through May 1971 renting (I lived in a home a couple miles NE of campus, but that's a whole 'nother story) a basement room of a house just south of the Lobo Pharmacy at Yale & Central, I found summer accomodations in a small two bedroom house at 318 Harvard SE - sharing it with Larry Weiss while his regular housemate, Aaron Howard, spent that summer in Israel.

    That was my final semester at UNM before graduating with a Bachelor of University Studies (BUS) degree.  The newly created BUS degree allowed me to take whichever courses I wanted, after taking prerequisite courses, of course, to create the combined psychology/business program I wanted.  Since almost everyone informed me that business and psychology had nothing to do with each other - a mindset that helps explain why we go through periodic Great Depressions - is what allowed me to take all the business and psychology courses I wanted or needed in sufficient numbers to graduate in 19 months - a 19 month period I'd already planned out before leaving Milwaukee to begin college and which everyone told me "couldn't be done".

In any event, the 1971 Albuquerque riots happened just before the Summer semester began and within my first two weeks living at this new residence.
 

Sunday: June 13th was a warm, sunny day with not much happening.  I'd bicycled up to Roosevelt Park to see how a planned 'illegal' concert in the park crowd was gathering.  Nothing was happening there at the time but several hundred kids from the city and university were gathering -- the park was large enough to accomodate a couple thousand without crowding.  Not into watching crowds gather (or paint dry), I returned to 318 Harvard[ Eddie Gallegos refreshed my memory regarding the permitless (or permit issued then withdrawn by a timid city leadership) gathering - it was a time when adults and children were in confrontation rather than meeting of the minds mode - thanks to the free sex and drug ridden late 1960s and the protest filling early 1970s - the Kent State National Guard shootings of unarmed students had already occurred in Ohio on May 4th of the prior year (5/4/1970). ]

Larry and I were sitting in the kitchen chatting about "what a boring 'nuthin happenin' day" this was when the radio news indicated that trouble was rising out of the crowd at Roosevelt Park - this just after I'd left it for being too boring, also.

While the students were gathering for the concert, the city police were gathering to keep the concert from happening - it was the recipe for a predetermined confrontation.  Eventually both the crowd of 'children', 'armed police' and undercover narcotics agents got large enough to boil over into a direct face-off.  

3/31/09:  Phil's recollections (regarding events away from the UNM campus - he couldn't get out of the park and never witnessed that part of the riot):

Ok, here is what happened.  I was in the park playing Frisbee with some friends.  There was an older guy in the park with a cooler playing with his granddaughter.  He was very friendly and was drinking a beer.  He asked us if we wanted a cerveza.  We declined.  Three "narks" dressed in plain clothes (old army uniforms etc) walked up to him.  He asked them if they wanted one.

We were paying attention because we knew who they were.  So he opens the cooler, pulls out a couple and they immediately jump him.  They cuff him and start dragging him away.  Now, at the same time there was a gathering across the street (I think it was a wedding party but I'm not sure) where the said mans relatives were in the front yard.  They saw their relative being beaten and dragged away by "hippies".  They got pissed and started yelling and chasing the men.  The part of the park where the cops parked (haven't been there for years) was below the main part of the park (last time I looked it is blocked off now).  That part of the park was higher in elevation than the rest.  They were driving a brown sedan with a spotlight on it.  So undercover cops are in the low ground and people are on the high ground.

So, now you have the people at the house calling everyone they know to "come help".  This might be the crowd you refer to.  So the undercover narks call on their radio with "officer needs assistance".  Quickly about four or five police cars are on scene.  People had been throwing rocks at the undercover car and they continued when the cruisers showed up.  The police decided that the best thing to do was to fire tear gas UP into the crowd without donning gas masks.  The people on the top threw the canisters back down at the police.  The police react by fleeing the scene.  Police cars are then turned over and burned.  So now you have the whole park circled by police cars.

So now I'm stuck in the park.  The police drew back about a block.  One of the houses was designated a first aid station and I volunteered because I had first aid training.  I wore a t-shirt for the rest of the time with a big red cross on it.  In the second day I witnessed the following.  A guy was throwing rocks at a police car well out of range.  The cop casually got his shotgun out and shot the guy throwing the rocks.  As I ran toward him to give first aid the cop shot at me.  Some other officers showed up and angrily removed that officer.  I applied compresses and the guy was eventually taken away by ambulance.

So by the third day they told us that everyone could leave and that no action would be taken against us.  The National Guard came in wearing backpacks with gas in them and hosed down the park.  As I was leaving a cop (and I know his name but would rather not identify him all these years later) riding in a National Guard jeep stopped me with the comment "He's one of the ringleaders!".  I was forced into the jeep and we started downtown.  The cop had a shotgun and was saying crap like "He's a ringleader, let's take him into the mesa and shoot him!".  The National Guard guys were like "settle down back there".  [ There were never uniformed officers patrolling the park after what I described happened.  They had drawn back never to enter the park again.  The only ones that came in after the initial confrontation were National Guardsmen. ]

So we get downtown and we are passing the Job Corp building and this woman yells out of an upper story window "PIGS!".  The cop levels his shotgun and blows out a window.  The Guardsman stop the jeep, point their weapons at the cop and tell him to drop his weapon.  They disarm him and take his shotgun away.  Meanwhile my hands are purple from the tie he had put around my wrists.

So we get to the police station and there are so many people they decide to bus us to Montessa Park.  [ Montessa Park was the federal holding facility outside of town.  It was a jail.  Funny, don't see much reference to it on the net, but it was (or is) a big jail with a center office and "spokes" that were like a wheel where they kept us all. ]  We filed past a Judge (robbins?) who told us that we were all arrested illegally and to say "not guilty".  So we did and we were all packed into Montessa Park federal holding facility.  I was there for three days.  The first two I had no blankets never mind a mattress.  They turned the a/c up as high as they could and laughed at us.  They never searched anyone so there were people smoking dope in the cells.  It was wild.

I guess there were so many of us in there they decided to just let it run it's course.  I remember one guy in our cell (there was a LOT of people in each one) was the guy that had his face on the front page of the Albuquerque Journal throwing a firebomb at police.  Well, they finally let us all go and that's the end of the story.

I did a search for "underground papers" during that time and I came up with the below link.  There was apparently two papers at that time and it had to be one of them.  I looked at the below site and apparently it's not digitized but possibly exists on microfilm.  It's either one of these:

As we know this was almost 40 years ago.  I'm remembering as best as I can and I'm probably leaving some things out (like watching the liquor store catch on fire) so if you have any questions I'll answer them as best as I can.
 

 
Former Albuquerque Journal Photographer Mark G. Bralley (click his name to go to the site) and his brother were also at the park:

"....  Eric McCrossen was an Albuquerque Journal Editorial writer and was always friendly.  [ That last sentence of the prior paragraph is included only because this webmaster worked with Eric's brother, Preston, at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in 1976 - it's a small world. ]

My older brother, Guy, was a college student at the University of New Mexico.  He worked on weekends as a photoengraver at the Albuquerque Journal.  On occasion, when some breaking story would be detected over a police scanner or was called in by some citizen and no staff photographer was in the office or darkroom, he would be sent out to get some pictures.  Such an occurrence happened on Sunday afternoon of June 13, 1971, when a riot broke out in Roosevelt Park.

I arrived late at the riot, unaware that the rioters had run police officers out of the park.  I failed to accurately assess the situation and ran into the park where two police cars had been overturned and rioters were trying to burn them.  I photographed one rioter, ... as he stuffed newspapers into a police car and yelled for some one to give him some matches.  When he saw me taking his picture he told me to stop, but I took a portrait of his hate and anger with a telephoto lens.  He abandoned his arson and began chasing me into the park.  Between 50 and 100 people joined him in pursuing me.  My path was cut off and I had to stand my ground.  I swung my camera bag and the first pursuer went down, but I was blind sided by the next person.  That person knocked me down but disappeared because, as I later found out, Guy had tried to come to my rescue and had pulled this man off of me.  In the instant pause I was able to get the straps of my three cameras off of my neck before they were pulled away from me.  Both Guy and I took severe beatings and were kicked by the crowd.

I did not get any pictures that day and was attacked a second time losing a fourth camera.  Guy had several photographs in the June 14, 1971, Monday, Albuquerque Journal, illustrating the front page article, by Gary Stone, headlined "Newsmen Pinned Down in Fighting at Park" continued onto page A-5, headlined "Roosevelt Park Rioting Newsmen Pinned Down."


 

 
The New York Times published an article on June 20, 1971 entitled, Albuquerque Divided Over Cause of First Major Riot By Martin Waldron.  Some relevant snippets from it are:
  • ...
  • ... hundreds of almost naked hippies and hundreds of teen-agers from Albuquerque's Mexican-American barrios had gathered to listen to a rock concert that never took place.
     
        The city police, making a routine round-up of youths smoking marijuana and drinking beer, were suddenly set upon by parts of the crowd.  Before calm was restored on Tuesday morning, 41 persons had been injured, 15 or so of them by gunfire; arsonists armed with fire-bombs had destroyed ... broken glass from store-fronts had littered five miles of Highway 66 (Route 66), which runs through the heart of the city.
  • ...
  •     After the first wave of this week's riot had subsided on Monday morning, ...
  •     City officials denied that there had been police brutality ...
  •     The city gave permission for another rally in Roosevelt Park for Monday afternoon.  Sunday's riot had started in the park.
  • ...
  •     the crowd of teen-agers was not cooled down.  Several hundred of them left the park and went on a fire-bombing rampage that was ended four hours later by the city and state police and the National Guard, who made almost 300 arrests after tear-gassing a large section of town.
  • ...

 

At the start of the confrontation on Sunday, the Albuquerque Police, using standard policing tactics practiced to this day, marched into the youth and herded them together instead of dispersing them in every direction.  [ Those tactics were probably developed over centuries when the capturing or killing of an enemy was facilitated by massing them together into a condensed group.  In this modern age when mass killing and capturing is no longer condoned much, it is better to disperse crowds in every direction so they're less likely to develop into a mob that can't subsequently be controlled. ]

The crowd of youth, herded together into a large group, then left Roosevelt Park at the dog-leg where the park meets Maple & Hazeldine and marched north toward Central Avenue 5 blocks away,  [ Central & Maple is 10 to 12 blocks from the middle of the UNM Campus at Central & Yale.  Central & Yale is a couple blocks east of Central & Cornell where the famous and popular (from inception late in 1971) Frontier Restaurant is located.  Harvard is between Cornell & Yale - 318 Harvard, where I was living at the time, is near end of the 3rd block south of Central just before Coal Avenue.  Coal is a one way street going east that is joined with another one way going west named Lead.  They combine to shuttle downtown traffic very efficiently through the southeast sector of Albuquerque - we remembering which direction each goes by the saying,

    "New Mexico (mines and) sends the coal to the east and they send it back to us (west) in the form of lead pollution in the air we breathe." ]

The march proceeded one block north to Coal & Maple where a Circle K convenience store was situated.  At the same time and as detailed during subsequent court testimony, a car full of innocent bystanders stopped to get gas at the Circle-K convenience store located at the northwest corner of Coal Avenue and Maple Street.  The store owner/manager was becoming concerned about the crowd of youth and may have become more agitated by news reports heard on the radio at the time - he apparently not noticing the car or the occupants thereof.  The dire radio news reports ongoing at the same time may have motivated him to retrieve his shotgun while the car of innocent bystanders drove up.

As the loud and agitated crowd of youth marched toward the intersection, both the innocent customers and store manager became more worried.  The customers went into the store to seek shelter and safety but were mistaken to be marchers by the manager.  He accidently shot and killed one of them with the shotgun he'd already armed himself with.

The marching crowd came upon this happenstance and was converted into a really angry mob when the 'rumor' quickly spread that the convenience store owner had shot and killed one of 'them' - this leading them to retaliate and loot/trash/burn the store until there was nothing left -- the inability of the fire department to feel safe enough to attack the fire probably facilitated its complete destruction.  [ That became an empty lot for quite a while.  The high prices charged by these 'relatively new on the commercial scene' national convenience stores may have also motivated many of the relatively poor youth to more drastic action than they would have taken against a well known and friendly mom and pop type operation.  The NW corner of Coal & Maple is now a parking lot next to the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) substation at the next corner east on Ash St. ]

The increasingly angry mob proceeded north along Maple to Central Avenue and became part of a full fledged riot when stones were found - the stones then part of the landscaping along the Central Avenue boulevard adjacent to the University (aka Route 66) -- these handy, throwing sized stones presenting the opportunity to the rioters to express their rage against the windows of the other (presumably) 'greedy' businesses facing Central Avenue - the landscaping was of a natural desert style with cactus, sand and rocks in order to minimize the need for very expensive watering in a desert community -- needless to say, that type of landscaping was converted to one without 'handy throwing objects' immediately thereafter and remains so to this day.  (There are rocks in the landscaping near the airport but no windows within throwing distance.)

Neither Larry nor I felt brave enough to get close enough to any of the rioting activity to witness any of this - we discovering it from the media news reports and from people who had participated in the riot.

By the next day, the campus was patrolled by New Mexico National Guard troops with rifles.  Larry and I walked to his office on the campus - he being a graduate student with an office to work on his PhD dissertation -- we were more afraid of getting shot by the soldiers than attacked by newly appearing rioters, figuring the soldiers might think we were rioters rather than students --- Larry having long hair and maybe looking like a rioter to some nervous 'part time' soldier.  (I was beardless during the warmer months and looked pretty much like the straightest arrow ever matriculating UNM.) [ 4/1/09:  Webmaster comments - There may have been TWO RIOTS that happened that people are remembering.  The first began as a result of Riot Policing tactics implemented early Sunday afternoon that involved only the Circle-K and the march and rock throwing and window breaking up Central Avenue (Route 66) to Yale Park on the U. of New Mexico campus immediately adjacent to Central Avenue and across from the newly opened (or opening) Frontier Restaurant.

   The second and much more destructive riot may have begun later that same Sunday afternoon after the Riot Police were probably herding/chasing the first group of youth up Central - probably leaving another group in the park unattended.  The fire-bombing didn't begin, except for possibly the Circle-K at the beginning of the Sunday march, until the next day, Monday.  The fire-bombing didn't involve the UNM campus, which was patrolled with National Guardsmen by Monday, but happened downtown.  I didn't witness any of that or take the time to see its aftermath - time consuming studies and a very tight budget precluded the side trip to downtown Albuquerque to see fire damaged buildings. ]

 

default photo
Roosevelt Park:  Coal & Sycamore  •  Coal & Maple (to Hazeldine)

Coal & Maple - former Circle K location  •  Central Avenue landscaping

Spruce & Coal apartment building  •  318 Harvard  •  Oxford (west of Yale) house

LINKS:  March 20, 2003 antiwar rally and unwarranted police response at same Central Avenue locations

 

 

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Website link/location/URL: http://CoAlumni.Jamrent.org/riot1971.htm or http://www.Jamrent.com/coa/riot1971.htm