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Armed vigilantes under scrutiny after statue protester shot in New Mexico

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https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/17/armed-vigilantes-under-scrutiny-after-statue-protester-shot-new-mexico

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Armed vigilantes under scrutiny after statue protester shot in New Mexico

Armed militia members were out in force at demonstration when a protester was shot as he tried to bring down conquistador statue

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Samuel Gilbert

Wed 17 Jun 2020 18.25 BSTLast modified on Wed 17 Jun 2020 19.14 BST

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Steven Baca, center, taken into custody after he shot and wounded a man as the crowd tried to take down statue in Albuquerque, on 15 June.  Steven Baca, center, taken into custody after he shot and wounded a man as the crowd tried to take down statue in Albuquerque, on 15 June. Photograph: Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal/ZUMA/REX/Shutterstock

Officials are scrutinizing armed vigilante groups in New Mexico following the shooting of a protester calling for the removal of a controversial colonial statue.

Police are examining whether the shooter belonged to New Mexico Civil Guard, whose members were out in force at the Monday demonstration in Albuquerque. The group has become a familiar and controversial presence at protests over racial injustice across the state. Protesters have accused it , and other militias, of intimidating and profiling people of color.

“I am horrified and disgusted beyond words by the reports of violence and the protest,” the New Mexico governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, tweeted in response to the Monday shooting, adding that the “heavily armed individuals” were there for one reason: “To menace protesters and to present an unsanctioned show of unregulated force.”

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“The ranks of these militias are populated with ex-cops and military,” said David Correia, a University of New Mexico police violence researcher. “They understand themselves as police, and police understand them as police.”

Officials say that Steven Ray Baca, 31, shot a protester as he and others attempted to bring down a statue of the Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate, for many a symbol of racism and oppression. Baca is the son of the former sheriff of Bernalillo county.

The shooting occurred during a clash between demonstrators and the NM Civil Guard, who were seen creating a protective circle around the gunmen following the shooting. Thirteen guns and 34 magazines of ammunition were recovered at the scene. The group has denied any role in the shooting or connection to Baca.

“They [NM Civil Guard] were absolutely instigating violence,” said John Acosta, a photojournalist and film-maker who was present to document the protest. “Their presence is very intimating, and tensions build off of that,” he said.

The victim is in critical but stable condition.

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 Gunshots heard after demonstrators try to topple conquistador statue in New Mexico – video

Oñate has been a long controversial symbol in New Mexico, particularly the northern part of the state, where the celebration of Spanish conquest persists. He is known for the massacre of 800 Acoma Indians and a subsequent trial where he ordered the amputation of the right feet of 24 captive Acoma warriors.

The removal of Oñate has gained increased momentum as statues of conquistadors, Confederate soldiers and other historical figures of oppression are being toppled throughout the country amid the ongoing protests against racial violence.

In New Mexico, militias give such protests a particular edge. NM Civil Guard claim to be protecting private property from looters and often come dressed in fatigues, wearing bulletproof vests, and equipped with high-powered rifles.

Although the group did not respond to an interview request from the Guardian, it has claimed to be a community organization that is apolitical and non-racist. Yet its Facebook page, which was taken down sometime on Tuesday, featured a “white lives matter” video, NRA slogans and other rightwing material.

Another New Mexico group, the United Constitutional Patriots, made national news in 2019 after heavily armed members detained hundreds of undocumented asylum seekers crossing into the US.

On 5 June, meanwhile, armed members of the True Patriot Foundation were seen patrolling businesses in Gallup, New Mexico, an indigenous border town with a long history of white vigilante violence, during a Black Lives Matter protest. James Eby, the founder of the True Patriot Foundation, told the Navajo Times that the group was prepared to fire at protesters if “absolutely necessary” and “in the instance of protecting life”.

Questions have been raised in the state over the perceived coziness between local police departments and armed groups. The Albuquerque police department referred to one militia group at another protest as “heavily armed friendlies” at another protest, according to KUNM radio station.

Robert Whitman, a member of the militia group American Patriots of New Mexico, said his group had coordinated with Albuquerque police to patrol protests for many years. And on Tuesday a member of the NM Civil Guard told the local news station KOB4 that some Albuquerque police officers thanked them for being part of the protest.

The criminal complaint filed by the state on Tuesday has prompted an outcry from protesters because it suggests Baca was a victim acting in self-defense. According to the complaint, a “male subject wearing a blue-colored shirt” was present at the protest “in what appears to be a manner in which to protect the statue from the protestors”.

“The group appeared to maliciously pursue Steven, with several of the crowd’s individuals striking Steven on the foot while he backed away from them.”

In interviews with the Guardian, protesters said Baca was the instigator. According to Acosta, the incident began when Baca tried to push his way through the protesters to get to the statue. “This girl was blocking him,” said Acosta. Baca threw the woman to the ground and protesters pursued, he added. A cellphone video posted on Facebook shows this moment.

“That’s really what set it off. He is trying to claim self-defense, but the protesters were defending themselves from him,” said Acosta.

“On multiple occasions, he physically assaulted our protesters on video,” wrote protester Jonathan Juarez on his Facebook page. “The finals straw was when Steven threw a young woman into the ground (on video) for absolutely no reason.

The mayor of Albuquerque has called for NM Civil Guard to be labeled a hate group. City police did not respond to questions from the Guardian about the protest.

 

 


L*t is a loser

 

My adapt a Bill is Brandon Beane.

 

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Police in Albuquerque, N.M., have arrested and charged a 31-year-old man in a shooting Monday during an attempt by protesters to topple a conquistador statue that also drew armed vigilantes to protect it. A protester was seriously wounded during the confrontation.

Albuquerque police arrested Steven Ray Baca and charged him with aggravated battery, as NPR member station KUNM reported.

Baca is a onetime candidate for Albuquerque City Council and son of a former sheriff.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said city officials on Tuesday ultimately removed the bronze statue depicting Juan de Oñate "until the appropriate civic institutions can determine [the] next steps."

Vigil turns into violent confrontation

The shooting occurred during a protest Monday calling for the statue's removal. Following a planned vigil, some people tried to pull it down, and at least one person swung at the statue's base with a pickax.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez referenced multiple videos circulating on social media that appear to show Baca allegedly assaulting several women during the protest before the shooting occurred, according to the Albuquerque Journal. Baca then allegedly pepper-sprayed people pursuing him, the Journal reported. At least one of them hit him with a longboard.

Baca then allegedly shot a gun multiple times.

Police said a man named Scott Williams was hit several times in the torso and hospitalized.

The Journal reported that Baca was seen speaking to members of the New Mexico Civil Guard, an armed militia group that came to protect the monument. The militia has denied is a member of the group.

Police were investigating any possible connections Baca may have to the group.

At least four members of the Civil Guard were taken into custody, along with Baca, according to KUNM.

Mayor calls for hate group designations

On Tuesday, Keller said that the city was working with federal authorities to push for armed right-wing organizations — such as the Civil Guard — to be designated as hate groups.

"Across the nation, we know that there have been outside groups interfering with peaceful protests, and sadly we are not exempt from this right here in Albuquerque," Keller said during an update on the shooting.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the armed group was there "to menace protesters, to present an unsanctioned show of unregulated force."

A man identified as belonging to the New Mexico Civil Guard told KOB4 that Baca was not part of the group. He said the militia protected Baca from protesters after the shooting.

Another statue of Oñate, who arrived in 1598 in what is now New Mexico, was taken down in Alcalde, north of Albuquerque, hours before Monday's shooting. Officials there removed the statue to avoid protesters removing it themselves, The Associated Press reported.

Oñate is revered among some residents who trace their ancestry to Spanish settlers but also detested for his vicious treatment of Native Americans.

Baca made an unsuccessful bid last year for the Albuquerque City Council, losing in a six-way race, according to Ballotpedia.

 

https://www.npr.org/sections/live-updates-protests-for-racial-justice/2020/06/17/879410425/man-charged-over-shooting-at-albuquerque-statue-protest


L*t is a loser

 

My adapt a Bill is Brandon Beane.

 

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Man shot as New Mexico protesters try to remove Spanish conquistador statue

 

Police in Albuquerque have named a member of a militia group who was arrested after a man was shot in the New Mexico city on Monday night, as protesters tried to tear down a bronze statue of a Spanish conquistador outside the city museum.

Authorities later announced that the statue would be removed until next steps could be determined.

The man who was shot was taken to a hospital and listed in critical but stable condition, an Albuquerque police spokesman, Gilbert Gallegos, said, adding that police used teargas and flash-bangs to protect officers who intervened.

A group of armed men had tried to protect the statue, a bronze of the Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate, as protesters wrapped a chain around it and began pulling, while chanting: “Tear it down.” One protester repeatedly swung a pickaxe at the base of the statue.

Moments later, gunshots were heard.

The scene turned into chaos as people ran for cover. Police in riot gear could be seen taking at least two people into custody as some protesters heckled the officers. It was more than two hours before the area was cleared.

Albuquerque police first said they received reports of vigilante groups instigating violence, though they were not certain who was responsible for the shooting. The FBI confirmed it was assisting local authorities.

On Tuesday a police statement said detectives arrested Stephen Ray Baca, 31, and that he was held on suspicion of aggravated battery. Authorities previously said several people were detained for questioning. Online court records did not list an attorney for Baca who could comment on his behalf.

 

“The shooting tonight was a tragic, outrageous and unacceptable act of violence and it has no place in our city,” Mayor Tim Keller said in a statement. “Our diverse community will not be deterred by acts meant to divide or silence us.

“Our hearts go out to the victim, his family and witnesses whose lives were needlessly threatened tonight. This sculpture has now become an urgent matter of public safety.”

The Democratic New Mexico governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, issued a statement in which she said the armed groups had been there to menace protesters. No matter who struck first, she said, there would be no room in New Mexico for any sort of escalation of what she called “reckless, violent rhetoric”.

 

The violence came just hours after activists in northern New Mexico celebrated the removal of another likeness of Oñate that was on public display at a cultural centre in the community of Alcalde.

A forklift pried the massive bronze statue of the conquistador on horseback from a concrete pedestal. Cheers erupted among bystanders who saw the memorial as an affront to indigenous people and an obstacle to greater racial harmony, though several people also arrived to defend the statue.

The county manager, Tomas Campos, said the statue was placed in storage for its own protection. He expected a three-member county commission to solicit public comment on what to do next with the public works project, which was commissioned by the state in the early 1990s.

“This is public property and I’m not going to allow it to be damaged,” he said. “Plus, I don’t feel like risking my sheriff’s deputies or state police to defend it.”

Oñate, who arrived in New Mexico in 1598, is celebrated as a cultural father figure in communities along the Upper Rio Grande who trace their ancestry to Spanish settlers. But he is also reviled for his brutality.

To Native Americans, Oñate is known for having ordered the right feet cut off of 24 captive tribal warriors after the killing of his nephew. In 1998, someone sawed the right foot off the Alcalde statue.

Luis Peña of Espanola, an artist and computer network engineer, started a public petition last week to remove the statue in Alcalde. He said he was heartened to see it taken off display.

 

Removal of the statue was followed by heated roadside discussions about local history, under the gaze of a half-dozen deputies. Tony Valerio, 65, rushed to the site after a neighbour alerted him that the statue was being taken down.

“He’s my hero. He brought a lot of good things to New Mexico,” Valerio said of Oñate. “What’s next? The Statue of Liberty?”

Lujan Grisham, who has campaigned on her heritage as a 12th-generation New Mexican, called the statue’s removal a “step in the right direction”.

By Monday evening, dozens had joined a celebratory gathering with Native American dancing and drumming outside the cultural centre where demonstrators left handprints in red paint on the empty pedestal.

Monuments to European conquerors and colonists around the world are being pulled down amid an intense re-examination of racial injustices in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police.

 

 

 

 


“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

 

Twitter: @HKTheResistance

 

HipKat, on *** other h***, is genuine, unapoli***tically nasty, and w**** his hea** on his ******. jc856

I’ll just forward them to Bridgett. comssvet11

Seek help. soflabillsfan

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Man Charged In Shooting At Albuquerque Statue Protest

 

Police in Albuquerque, N.M., have arrested and charged a 31-year-old man in a shooting Monday during an attempt by protesters to topple a conquistador statue that also drew armed vigilantes to protect it. A protester was seriously wounded during the confrontation.

Albuquerque police arrested Steven Ray Baca and charged him with aggravated battery, as NPR member station KUNM reported.

Baca is a onetime candidate for Albuquerque City Council and son of a former sheriff.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said city officials on Tuesday ultimately removed the bronze statue depicting Juan de Oñate "until the appropriate civic institutions can determine [the] next steps."

Vigil turns into violent confrontation

The shooting occurred during a protest Monday calling for the statue's removal. Following a planned vigil, some people tried to pull it down, and at least one person swung at the statue's base with a pickax.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez referenced multiple videos circulating on social media that appear to show Baca allegedly assaulting several women during the protest before the shooting occurred, according to the Albuquerque Journal. Baca then allegedly pepper-sprayed people pursuing him, the Journal reported. At least one of them hit him with a longboard.

Baca then allegedly shot a gun multiple times.

Police said a man named Scott Williams was hit several times in the torso and hospitalized.

The Journal reported that Baca was seen speaking to members of the New Mexico Civil Guard, an armed militia group that came to protect the monument. The militia has denied is a member of the group.

Police were investigating any possible connections Baca may have to the group.

At least four members of the Civil Guard were taken into custody, along with Baca, according to KUNM.

Mayor calls for hate group designations

On Tuesday, Keller said that the city was working with federal authorities to push for armed right-wing organizations — such as the Civil Guard — to be designated as hate groups.

"Across the nation, we know that there have been outside groups interfering with peaceful protests, and sadly we are not exempt from this right here in Albuquerque," Keller said during an update on the shooting.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the armed group was there "to menace protesters, to present an unsanctioned show of unregulated force."

A man identified as belonging to the New Mexico Civil Guard told KOB4 that Baca was not part of the group. He said the militia protected Baca from protesters after the shooting.

Another statue of Oñate, who arrived in 1598 in what is now New Mexico, was taken down in Alcalde, north of Albuquerque, hours before Monday's shooting. Officials there removed the statue to avoid protesters removing it themselves, The Associated Press reported.

Oñate is revered among some residents who trace their ancestry to Spanish settlers but also detested for his vicious treatment of Native Americans.

Baca made an unsuccessful bid last year for the Albuquerque City Council, losing in a six-way race, according to Ballotpedia.

 


“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

 

Twitter: @HKTheResistance

 

HipKat, on *** other h***, is genuine, unapoli***tically nasty, and w**** his hea** on his ******. jc856

I’ll just forward them to Bridgett. comssvet11

Seek help. soflabillsfan

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See how much nicer those are?? Easier to read?


“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

 

Twitter: @HKTheResistance

 

HipKat, on *** other h***, is genuine, unapoli***tically nasty, and w**** his hea** on his ******. jc856

I’ll just forward them to Bridgett. comssvet11

Seek help. soflabillsfan

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