Advocates to protest start of Albuquerque police shooting contest amid pending reforms


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ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — More than a dozen demonstrators stood outside a shooting range Saturday morning where Albuquerque is hosting a national police shooting contest.

The group Albuquerque Justice held a rally for more than two hours in a parking lot across the street from the range after city officials declined to cancel the National Police Shooting Championships.

The city and its police department are hosting the National Rifle Association competition from Saturday to Wednesday for law enforcement members who can "select to fire in just one match or fire in all of the championship match events."

In recent months, the city has been rocked by angry protests and a U.S. Justice Department investigation over more than 40 police shootings since 2010.

Ilse (IL'-zah) Biel, a rally organizer, said there were about 16 protesters holding banners and signs and makeshift coffins with shooting victims' names. Biel said they were kept from interacting with competition participants.

"Our objective today was to have a message for the participants," Biel said. "We were there so we could say to the people 'Remember all the people who have been killed.'"

A message from The Associated Press seeking comment from Albuquerque police was not immediately returned Saturday afternoon.

Lt. Steve Altman told the Albuquerque Journal that the department confined the protest to the lot to ensure demonstrators' safety around a shooting range.

"We wanted to respect the protesters," Altman said. "But there are also safety issues."

The NRA also did not immediately respond to an AP message asking for comment.

Another protest is slated for Sunday where advocates say they will use water guns at a park.

Activists had called for the contest to be canceled in the wake of the Albuquerque police department being investigated over excessive force allegations and a recent series of fatal shootings.

The NRA event typically attracts 500 officers from across the U.S. and some international competitors, officials said.

Biel said she and other protesters are "aghast" that the annual competition proceeded.

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