A man was shot while protesters in Albuquerque tried to tear down the statue of a Spanish conquistador.
What We Know:
- Armed men confronted protesters outside the Albuquerque Museum. Protesters tried to topple the statue of Juan de Oñate, wrapping a chain around it while chanting “tear it down”. The group heard gunshots down the street and started yelling for help. Witnesses say police took half an hour to respond.
- The Albuquerque police say vigilante groups may be responsible for the shooting. Witnesses of the event say the civilian militia New Mexico Civil Guard is responsible. Police chief Gilbert Gallegos said police used flashbangs and tear gas while detaining those involved. The police also said the FBI will be involved in the investigation and a federal hate crime will be looked into.
- Mayor Tim Keller expressed his sympathies to the victim’s family and condemned the incident as a “tragic, outrageous and unacceptable act of violence”. Keller added that the statue is now a matter of public safety and the city will remove it.
- Senator Martin Heinrch and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham also responded to the attack, with Heinrch calling the vigilantes “extremists” and Grisham saying that there is “no space in New Mexico for any violent would-be ‘militia’ seeking to terrorize New Mexicans”.
- This incident happened hours after the removal of another statue of Juan de Oñate in northern New Mexico. Rio Arriba County officials removed it from the Alcalde cultural center to avoid unrest before a scheduled protest.
- Oñate statues have drawn criticism for decades. He arrived in 1598 and some people celebrate him as a culture bearer in communities along the Upper Rio Grande. However, many see him for his atrocities toward indigenous people.
The public discourse surrounding controversial statues has become a greater topic in the last few weeks. Some people try to protect these statues for their historical value, with some instances even turning violent. Others are protesting these statues for their cultural insensitivity, calling for their removal, or even tearing them down themselves.