Stu­dent pro­tester sues po­lice

UNM se­nior claims he was struck by of­fi­cer dur­ing cam­pus rally

Albuquerque Journal - - METRO & NM - BY RICK NATHANSON JOUR­NAL STAFF WRITER

A Uni­ver­sity of New Mex­ico stu­dent who walked down a “skir­mish line” of po­lice of­fi­cers who were in riot gear dur­ing a protest, greet­ing each with an ex­tended mid­dle fin­ger while pro­vid­ing a ver­bal trans­la­tion, has filed a law­suit say­ing he was knocked down and in­jured by one of the of­fi­cers, and that his ges­ture and lan­guage were pro­tected speech.

Plain­tiff Tren­ton Ward, a se­nior at UNM ma­jor­ing in po­lit­i­cal sci­ence, filed the law­suit Wed­nes­day in state District Court in Santa Fe.

State Po­lice of­fi­cer Ale­jen­dro Romero, the of­fi­cer who al­leg-

edly knocked him down, is named as a de­fen­dant. Also named as de­fen­dants are State Po­lice Sgt. Joel Gon­za­lez and John Doe of­fi­cers 1 through 3, all of whom, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit, su­per­vised or trained Romero.

The law­suit stems from a Jan. 27, 2017, visit to the cam­pus by Milo Yian­naopou­los, dur­ing his self-de­scribed “Dan­ger­ous Fag­got Tour” of col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties. Yian­naopou­los is por­trayed in the law­suit as a “right-wing provo­ca­teur known for crit­i­ciz­ing fem­i­nism, so­cial jus­tice, po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.”

The visit, spon­sored by UNM Col­lege Repub­li­cans, drew up to 600 peo­ple in­side the Stu­dent Union Build­ing, while sev­eral hun­dred pro­test­ers gath­ered out­side, many chant­ing slo­gans and car­ry­ing signs.

A large mul­ti­a­gency law en­force­ment pres­ence mon­i­tored the sit­u­a­tion, in­clud­ing the line of State Po­lice of­fi­cers in full riot gear. Ward claims in the law­suit to have wit­nessed of­fi­cers use tear gas and push an el­derly man to the ground. That’s what mo­ti­vated Ward to walk the skir­mish line, “giving the fin­ger” to the of­fi­cers, along with the ver­bal curse.

Romero al­legedly stepped out­side the skir­mish line and struck Ward in the mid­dle of his back with a ba­ton. Romero and other of­fi­cers “struck him again, pushed him to the ground and ar­rested him,” the law­suit says.

Ward’s hands were zip-tied and he was placed in a pris­oner trans­port van for the next seven to eight hours be­fore be­ing booked into the Met­ro­pol­i­tan De­ten­tion Cen­ter and charged with as­sault upon a po­lice of­fi­cer. Ward was re­leased the next morn­ing.

He ap­peared on April 18 in Ber­nalillo County Met­ro­pol­i­tan Court, where Judge Vi­dalia Chavez dis­missed the charge “with prej­u­dice,” mean­ing it can­not be re­filed.

“Mr. Ward’s speech, al­though im­pu­dent, is nev­er­the­less pro­tected by Ar­ti­cle II, Sec­tion 17 of the New Mex­ico Con­sti­tu­tion,” ac­cord­ing to the law­suit filed by at­tor­neys David H. Urias and Jeremy D. Far­ris.

Fur­ther, Romero’s con­duct con­sti­tutes as­sault and bat­tery upon Ward; while Gon­za­les and John Doe of­fi­cers 1 through 3 failed to ad­e­quately train and su­per­vise Romero, it says.

The law­suit asks for un­spec­i­fied com­pen­satory dam­ages for “past and fu­ture pain, suf­fer­ing and men­tal an­guish,” and rea­son­able costs, at­tor­ney’s fees and other re­lief deemed proper by the court.

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