Victor Villalpando was 16 years old when he was shot and killed by police officer Jeremy Apodaca in Española, New Mexico, on June 8th 2014. Four months later, I attended an ‘art intervention’ outside the District Court building in Santa Fe, held in conjunction with a National Day of Protest to “Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.”
The intervention was a direct response to a grand jury decision of “justifiable homicide” in favor of Officer Apodaca. Yet it was more than a protest. Artists of many different ages created expressions of grief, rage, fear, opposition and hope through theatre, dance, poetry, spoken word, art and puppetry.
Organized by an ad-hoc group called Concerned Citizens for Public Safety, the protest also named over a hundred other victims of lethal police violence under the age of 30. Those present were invited to write messages on the back of cardboard cut-out guns, with the idea that they would eventually be delivered to police officers in Española via the City Council.
A number of people who were involved in organizing and attending the event were students or teachers with the Peñasco Theatre Collective, which grew out of Wise Fool New Mexico (NM). Based in Santa Fe, Wise Fool NM aims “to ignite imagination, build community, and promote social justice through performances and hands-on experiences in the arts of circus, puppetry, and theatre.” The Collective is “a group of performers and visual artists that call Peñasco home and continue the tradition of utilizing the arts to bring people together in a mutually respectful, culturally diverse environment.”