UPDATE: Reuters reports that the alleged shooter is a former Albuquerque City Council candidate:
Albuquerque police have arrested a former city council candidate and charged him on Tuesday with shooting and critically injuring a protester in a group that was calling for the removal of a statue of a Spanish conquistador, local press reported.
Stephen Ray Baca, 31, was booked into a city jail on a charge of aggravated battery in the shooting, which occurred on Monday, Albuquerque Police Department spokesman Gilbert Gallegos told the Albuquerque Journal.
Here’s more information about the shooter we’re working to confirm:
I know it's hard to get through the din of social media and the neverending flood of breaking news.
An armed Right Wing militia shot a protester last night in New Mexico.
The shooter was a former GOP candidate and the Party retracted a critique after discovering it
— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) June 16, 2020
The Albuquerque Journal reports on a shooting yesterday apparently perpetrated by a member of a local right-wing militia group during a protest confrontation in that city over the removal of a statue of Juan de Onate, known as the conquistador of New Mexico:
One man was shot in Old Town as a protest over the “La Jornada” sculpture in front of the Albuquerque Museum erupted into violence Monday evening.
The shooting occurred during a clash following a peaceful protest to remove the controversial sculpture, a monument that features conquistador Juan de Oñate. The FBI is assisting in the investigation, according to an APD spokesman. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, meanwhile, called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the shooting…
“Although we are still learning more about the situation, I am horrified and disgusted beyond words by the reports of violence at a protest Monday night in Albuquerque,” Lujan Grisham said late Monday in a 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.” [Pols emphasis]
For those unfamiliar with the Spanish colonial history of New Mexico, a brief primer on the brutal conquistador Juan de Onate:
Oñate, who arrived in present-day New Mexico in 1598, is celebrated as a cultural father figure in communities along the Upper Rio Grande that trace their ancestry to Spanish settlers. But he’s also reviled for his brutality.
To Native Americans, Oñate is known for having ordered the right feet cut off of 24 captive tribal warriors that was precipitated by the killing of Oñate’s nephew. In 1998, someone sawed the right foot off the statue – an incident that weighed in the decision to stash away the statue.
In short, Native Americans in New Mexico have a similar revulsion to the legacy of Juan de Onate as African Americans have for statues of Confederate leaders in the South. The long struggle in our neighboring state to the south to come to terms with its own brutal colonial history under Spanish rule is in every way a common cause with the Black Lives Matter movement.
To the armed militia groups showing up with disturbing regularity at protest actions around the country now, from “Reopen America” rallies to the George Floyd protests, it’s the same fight too. The “weapons effect” principle that the simple existence of weapons in any setting makes their use more likely was just waiting to be validated–and Albuquerque happened to be the place it happened first. In Colorado, local armed militia types have been deterred by the ban on open carrying weapons in the city of Denver, but the arrest of one with pipe bombs and another whose trunkload of assault weapons was seized by Denver police make it clear how perilous the situation has become.
Following this long-dreaded but predictable act of violence, things can go one of two ways: toward escalation, or de-escalation. We can only hope the fearful ramifications of this incident result in the latter.