PROGRESS NOW NM News:LAS CRUCES — A coalition of Las Cruces organizations and individuals are asking the Las Cruces City Council and Mayor Miyagishima to prioritize taking immediate action to end police violence and defend Black Lives in the city of Las Cruces, in alignment with the work of Movement for Black Lives. La Semilla Food Center, Empowerment Congress of Doña Ana County, ACLU NM, Friends of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, Full Circle Health Center, Ngage NM, NM Comunidades en Acción y de Fé – CAFé, ProgressNow NM Education Fund, and 67 Las Cruces residents are answering the national call to end police violence and re-allocate city funds to life-affirming programs for communities who have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and police brutality. “Communities of color have been calling for the end of police violence for hundreds of years. It is well past time that we listen and answer those calls for reform. We ask the City of Las Cruces to implement the policy recommendations proposed by the Movement for Black Lives, knowing full well it will be a heavy lift. The right path is rarely the easy one and we implore the City to do the right thing and walk this path with BIPOC communities,” Alissa Barnes, ProgressNow New Mexico Education Fund.The letter calls for the implementation of policy recommendations from the Movement for Black Lives, based on the work of over 50 Black-led organizations from across the country. This includes:(1) Reallocation of city funds from policing and incarceration to long-term safety strategies such as education, local restorative justice services, and employment programs (2) No more increases to police budgets(3) Decreasing existing police spending and budgets(4) Increasing spending on healthcare, education, and community programs(5) Police-free schools, including an end to the use of police in public universities.The letter also outlines demands specific to Las Cruces. Namely, immediate justice for Antonio Valenzuela, killed by former Las Cruces police officer Christopher Smelser, and community oversight and involvement in the hiring process for a new chief of police. “Today we join with the Movement for Black Lives and cities across the country already actively engaged in defunding their police departments and investing in communities most impacted by the deadly threats of Covid-19, police brutality, and generations of institutional racism, extraction, and disinvestment. Food justice work is irrelevant without racial justice work, so even though changing a 400-year system is not expected to be easy, we are confident that Las Cruces is ready to rise to the challenge,” Krysten Aguilar, La Semilla Food Center.