The Albuquerque chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) will be holding a “brake-light clinic” to replace brake lights and repaint license plates for Albuquerque drivers, free of charge. This event aims to help local residents avoid unnecessary stops by police, which often lead to expensive tickets and fines, court appearances, or dangerous interactions. This free clinic will be held on Sunday, March 31st from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM, in the International District at 8016 Zuni Road SE. No appointment is needed.
Tickets for broken brake-lights are a clear example of how New Mexico’s criminal justice system, like the rest of the nation’s, unfairly prosecute the marginalized. For working class and impoverished people, a ticket from the police can be economically devastating, forcing an untenable choice between rent and food or compliance with the law. Many cannot leave their workplace for a courthouse visit, which can lead to a vicious cycle of escalating fines or warrants. And of course, a police stop can be extremely dangerous for anyone – especially people of color and those who are undocumented. In 2016, police pulled Philando Castile over due to a nonfunctional brake light. He was shot and killed almost immediately, without provocation, in front of his partner and his four-year-old daughter. No traffic violation warrants an execution. The most dangerous thing about a broken brake light is not the hazard to other drivers, but the threat of violence by the state.
DSA chapters across the United States have held brake-light clinics over several years, based on a program piloted by the New Orleans DSA. Albuquerque DSA has replaced dozens of brake lights for local residents so far. This upcoming clinic will be the third organized by the Albuquerque chapter, with more expected on a quarterly basis. No appointment is required for drivers to attend the upcoming clinic.