POLITICS

Albuquerque anti-Trump protesters say police are conducting 'witch hunt'

FILE - In this May 24, 2016, file photo, riot police block off the Albuquerque Convention Center to anti-Trump protests following a rally and speech by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the convention center where the event was held, in Albuquerque, N.M. Activists say peaceful protesters have been unfairly targeted by Albuquerque police who announced they were searching for suspects connected to the demonstration that turned violent. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

FILE - In this May 24, 2016, file photo, riot police block off the Albuquerque Convention Center to anti-Trump protests following a rally and speech by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the convention center where the event was held, in Albuquerque, N.M. Activists say peaceful protesters have been unfairly targeted by Albuquerque police who announced they were searching for suspects connected to the demonstration that turned violent. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

Albuquerque police are continuing to search for suspects linked to a violent anti-Donald Trump protest while advocates say the effort to arrest more youth is part of a "well-financed witch hunt."

Authorities are continuing to comb through police lapel video and take anonymous tips a week after police arrested three people. Albuquerque businesses also have donated $12,000 in reward money to help police find others involved in a riot that caused thousands of dollars in damage to the city.

But Javier Benavidez, executive director of the advocacy group Southwest Organizing Project, said Albuquerque police also were to blame for the violence and questioned the use of resources to go after young protesters.

"We have to do our part to stop the high-financed witch hunt," Benavidez said. "It's part of an endless pattern of turning young New Mexicans into thugs."

He and other advocates said police escalated tensions by using officers mounted horses outside an Albuquerque rally for the presumptive GOP presidential nominee — a move police say was necessary to prevent protesters from storming the convention center.

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Advocates said the horses trampled on protesters, who then threw rocks at police.

A spokeswoman for Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry did not immediately return an email asking for comment.

The Albuquerque Police Officers Association said in a labor complaint released Monday that officers weren't properly protected and didn't have the needed equipment against protesters.

Still, Benavidez said organizers were proud of how demonstrators showed up to "confront hate."

Samia Assed, a member of the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice, blasted the media on Monday for focusing on the violence and ignoring the earlier peaceful protest. Activists said they planned on releasing video footage that showed a more peaceful gathering and showed how police escalated tensions.

Authorities have said about 30 people out of roughly 1,000 protesters were responsible for the violence outside the May 24 rally for the GOP presidential hopeful.

Protesters had organized peaceful demonstrations to call attention to previous remarks Trump made about immigrants and women. But in the evening, protesters were seen burning stolen Trump T-shirts and throwing rocks and burning material at officers.

Pro-Trump supporters and anti-Trump protesters exchanged a number of epithets at each other.

Organizers attempted to separate protesters from police and pro-Trump supporters by forming human chains. But police said some demonstrator went around organizers and moved police barricades.

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