Albuquerque's memorial to civil right leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been defaced, disgraced and neglected by the city.
The memorial streetscape is in between the convention and transit centers, and even though it's in the heart of downtown just a couple of blocks from city hall, city crews didn't know how badly the memorial had been trashed until KRQE News 13 told them.
Residents say what should be a place for reflection honoring a man who changed the nation forever was more like a public dump site.
Dr. King is famous for the words "I have a dream," but his memorial in Albuquerque is more like a nightmare.
It's littered with trash, empty vodka, Jack Daniels and mouthwash bottles. There's also drug paraphernalia and hypodermic needles scattered throughout the site.
"It's unhealthy! It's distasteful all the way around," said city resident Carol Labryade. "It just does not represent who we really are in New Mexico."
Many say the worst part is the sight of the leader's image surrounded by graffiti. Someone outlined Dr. King's face exaggerating his ethnic features and even drew an anvil falling on his head.
"He did great things for everyone, not just black people, but the whole society in general so it's really sad that that happened to his memorial," said Marissa Hebert who was shocked to hear about the destruction.
News 13 learned of the garbage following the story of Marcelo Campos, 21, who's accused of throwing a syringe at an APD officer who offered him lunch Saturday at the memorial.
When News 13 informed the city about the problem, they immediately sent a crew out to clean up the mess. Because of the toxic trash and needles, crews had to be extra careful.
"The guys have to have gloves on," said Pete Saiz of the city's Parks and Recreation Department. "There's also a sharp box,or sharp metals container, that they have to put those into, and then once that gets full we turn it into Risk Management or the Albuquerque Fire Department."
The memorial was built by the city's Public Art Program in 1994 and cost $100,000, but lately it's become a popular hangout for transients.
City crews spent the day painting over the graffiti and cleaning up all the mess. They say they plan to monitor the area more closely from now on and do routine checks to pick up new trash.
Parks and Recreation crews also say they had to remove a few trees and drainage pipes near the memorial earlier in the month because transients were hiding out in the trees and keeping their clothes and drugs in the pipes.