News

A Right-Wing Militia Showed Up at a Statue Protest and a Protester Got Shot

Protesters in Albuquerque were demanding the removal of a statue of a conquistador and war criminal. The armed militia was there to defend it.
June 16, 2020, 4:07pm
Adolphe Pierre-Louis/The Albuquerque Journal via AP
Adolphe Pierre-Louis/The Albuquerque Journal via AP

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A protest over a statue in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Monday turned violent after a protester was shot during a scuffle with a counterprotester, sending the protester to the hospital.

A video of the shooting, obtained by local TV station KOB4, shows a scuffle breaking out between protesters and a man in a blue shirt, who’s then chased and tackled by protesters. As he gets up, he appears to pull out a gun and fire it four times, sending a crowd of protesters running.

Following the shooting, the man was surrounded for protection by armed members of a right-wing militia calling itself the New Mexico Civil Guard, which has been active against Black Lives Matter protests in the state. Eventually, the man in the blue shirt and “five or six men dressed in military fatigues” were taken into custody by police, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Albuquerque police have not yet identified the alleged shooter or the victim, though a police spokesperson said the latter was in “critical but stable condition,” according to the Albuquerque Journal. Multiple videos taken at the scene show the man shoving and throwing protesters to the ground.

The statue, called La Jornada, memorializes Juan de Oñate, a 16th-century Spanish conquistador who served as the first colonial governor of New Mexico. Oñate was responsible for the massacre of hundreds of Acoma men, women, and children in 1599, and afterwards ordered survivors sold into slavery as had the right foot cut off every surviving man. Oñate eventually faced trial for his crimes of “excessive force” against the Acoma people and was banished from New Mexico for the rest of his life.

In a series of tweets following the shooting, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, a Democrat, said the statue had become an “urgent matter of public safety” and would be temporarily removed “until the appropriate civic institutions can determine next steps.”

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, also a Democrat, called on the Department of Justice to investigate the shooting, saying of the militia: “These extremists cannot be allowed to silence peaceful protests or inflict violence.”

Earlier on Monday, officials in Rio Arriba County in New Mexico took down a separate statue of Oñate in the town of Alcade, about an hour and a half north of Albuquerque. It’s unclear whether it’ll be put back up.

“Rio Arriba County residents need to understand that a final policy decision has not been made about the Oñate statue other than its removal today to protect it from damage or destruction,” the county commission said in a statement. “The County Commission welcomes a respectful and civil discussion from its residents about the future of the Oñate statue."

Cover: Demonstrators climb the statue of Don Juan de Onate in Old Town in Albuquerque, N.M., while an armed member of the New Mexico Civil Guard stands by during a protest calling for the removal of the likeness of the controversial New Mexico explorer Monday, June 15, 2020. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

This article originally appeared on VICE US.