In Albuquerque last night, a protester was shot and critically injured at a demonstration calling for the removal of a statue honoring a brutal Spanish conquistador. The shooter may or may not be connected with a militia group that had appointed itself to "defend" the statue of Juan de Oñate outside the Albuquerque Museum. Police took into custody several members of the heavily armed militia, which calls itself the "New Mexico Civil Guard," and announced this morning that one person, Stephen Ray Baca, had been arrested and charged with aggravated battery in the shooting. The victim, who hasn't been identified, is hospitalized in critical but stable condition.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) said in a statement Monday night that she was "horrified and disgusted beyond words" at the violence, and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said the statue has "become an urgent matter of public safety," so the city will remove it "until the appropriate civic institutions can determine next steps." The Albuquerque Journal reports the FBI is assisting in the investigation, and US Sen. Martin Heinrich (D) called for the US Justice Department to investigate as well.


Gov. Lujah Grisham condemned the self-appointed defenders of the statue, saying in her statement,

The heavily armed individuals who flaunted themselves at the protest, calling themselves a 'civil guard,' were there for one reason: To menace protesters, to present an unsanctioned show of unregulated force. To menace the people of New Mexico with weaponry — with an implicit threat of violence — is on its face unacceptable; that violence did indeed occur is unspeakable.

The statue, called "La Jornada" (the journey), depicts Oñate leading soldiers and settlers into New Mexico; indigenous groups have long objected to the glorification of Oñate, who was Spain's provincial governor of New Mexico in the late 16th century and a murderous despot, as the New York Times explains:

Scholars have documented how Oñate oversaw atrocities that included the killing of 800 people in Acoma Pueblo, an ancient adobe aerie atop a 357-foot-tall sandstone mesa where the Acoma people still live today. Dozens of Acoma girls were parceled out to convents in Mexico City, and adolescents were sentenced to decades of servitude. In a notorious act of cruelty, Oñate is said to have ordered his men to cut a foot off at least 24 male captives.

How bad was Oñate? Like another murderous despot, he was too barbaric even for the Spanish government that colonized the Americas: "Spanish authorities convicted him on charges of excessive violence and cruelty, permanently exiling him from New Mexico."

Earlier yesterday, another statue of Oñate in Alcalde, New Mexico, was removed by city officials. That statue was brilliantly vandalized in 1997, when its right foot was sawed off and stolen. And as the Times reports, the severed bronze foot from Alcalde showed up earlier in yesterday's protest in Albuquerque.

Three men wearing masks carried the bronze foot, taken all those years ago, to the entrance of Tiguex Park near the statue, and briefly held the foot aloft.

One of the men was Brian Hardgroove, a bass player for the hip-hop group Public Enemy. Mr. Hardgroove, who lives in New Mexico and has worked as an artist in residence at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, said he came to express support for solidarity between Native Americans and African-Americans.

No matter how long we read the Grey Lady, we will always be delighted by locutions like "Mr. Hardgroove." But do read the rest of the Times story, which thoughtfully examines tensions and alliances between New Mexico's Native American and Hispanic communities in how the colonial period is depicted and remembered.

The Albuquerque protest began peacefully, with prayers and chants and all in the museum parking lot, while the militia goons played soldier in front of the statue. Eventually, though, protesters with chains and a pickaxe started trying to tear down the Oñate figure, the militia dudes tried to stop them, and a fight broke out and things got ugly fast. We'll let the Washington Post handle the description:

[A] white man in a blue T-shirt appeared to rile the crowd, according to video obtained by KOB4. People erupted in shouts, and the man took a few steps back. A masked protester swung a skateboard and struck him in the shoulder. The man back-pedaled out of the crowd but continued to exchange shouts with protesters.

Someone in the video encouraged people to follow the man and get his license plate number. Several people followed him, and one tackled him to the ground. As he tried to stand back up and three people tried to hit him again, the man in blue pulled a gun and fired four shots, striking one man and scattering the crowd.

We'll let you decide for yourself whether you want to watch the video; we're no lawyer, but he's probably going to claim self-defense, because yeah, people were ganging up on him. Not that anybody should be shooting anybody.

Police showed up (where the hell were they to separate the protesters and the militia earlier?) and dispersed the crowd with tear gas and flash-bang grenades, and they eventually took several members of the militia into custody. The Post notes that police have not yet said whether Baca is connected to the armed military cosplayers. But gosh, they seem like the nicest people:

The right-wing group has repeatedly shown up at Black Lives Matter protests in recent weeks with guns and militarylike garb.

On Facebook, the group has shared materials encouraging people to arm themselves, promoted military training on infantry tactics and "ambushing," and shared multiple posts opposing the leveling of monuments to Confederate figures in the South and Oñate in New Mexico. Members of the group recently told the Eastern New Mexico News that their aim was to protect businesses from damage during protests. They said they had been in contact with police and were following guidance given to them by officials.

Former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro noticed just how nice and calm the cops were as they detained the armed men:

By contrast, we'd direct you to this story from The Root, which reports that, after two weeks, a Black pastor in Virginia, Leon McCray, has finally gotten an apology from the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office. On June 1, he told two men dumping an old refrigerator on his property to stop it, but instead, they went and got some friends, and then they all started threatening McCray, until he pulled a concealed firearm to get them to leave.

Sheriff's deputies who came to the scene then arrested McCray without even taking a statement from him, because Black Man With A Gun. McCray said in a sermon to his congregation that his white assailants waved at him as he was taken away in a squad car. The charges against McCray were eventually dropped, and the five white men have been charged in the incident. Sheriff Timothy Carter said in a statement, "As I told Mr. McCray, if I were faced with similar circumstances, I would have probably done the same thing."

In conclusion, America is a land of many contrasts, the end.

[Albuquerque Journal / NYT / WaPo / NYT / KOB-TV / The Root]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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