Things That Matter

A Man Was Shot During A New Mexico Protest Against A Statue Honoring A Spanish Conquistador

As the world comes to an inflection point on race and history, several communities are working to tear down long-standing memorials to racism, enslavement and other human rights abuses.

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.

In a video of the rally, shots could be heard as protesters tried to remove a statue of conquistador Juan de Oñate.

As protests take place across the country demanding statutes honoring blatant racists be taken down, the calls have been met with controversy for many. It’s no different in New Mexico, where protesters had gathered to remove a statue honoring a brutal Spanish conquistador. The protesters were met by a group of armed counter-protesters who were there to “protect” the statue.

Video taken at the scene shows protesters attempting to topple a statue of Juan de Oñate using a rope tied around the statue’s neck before four gunshots are heard. Additional footage shows a physical altercation between protesters and a man in a blue shirt before gunshots.

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.

In the end, one protester is in the hospital with critical injuries but is expected to make a full recovery.

Several videos of the shooting have popped up on social media – but it’s unclear who is guilty of firing the shot.

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.

However, a militia group known as the New Mexico Civil Guard had reportedly arrived at the scene to protect the statue from protesters – and they were heavily armed. The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) has not confirmed whether the shooter was a member of the militia.

“We are receiving reports about vigilante groups possibly instigating this violence,” said APD Chief Michael Geier in a public statement. “If this is true will [we] be holding them accountable to the fullest extent of the law, including federal hate group designation and prosecution.”

But who was Juan de Oñate?

Credit: Susan Montoya Bryan / Getty Images

Juan de Oñate was born in Mexico (then part of New Spain) and set out to govern the New Mexico region for Spain in 1598, crossing north into the Rio Grande Valley through what is now El Paso, Texas with several hundred settlers.

To Native Americans, Oñate is known for having the right feet cut off of tribal members. After Oñate tried to force the Acoma to pay taxes, the tribe fought back, but were beat by Oñate’s men and enslaved for the following twenty years. Oñate was later charged with war crimes in Mexico City and banished from New Mexico

The protest in New Mexico is the latest in growing calls for racial justice.

Credit: @theconversation / Twitter

The protest against the Oñate statue is just one of dozens taking place throughout the country as thousands call for racial justice after the police officer-involved killing of George Floyd on May 25. Statues symbolizing the Confederacy have been either removed by public officials or toppled or disfigured by protesters calling for their removal. Additionally, protesters have toppled statues of Christopher Columbus, and officials in Dallas have removed a statue of a Texas Ranger with a well-documented racist history.

Several politicians have already come out in support of removing the controversial statue.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller announced late Monday after the shooting that the Oñate statue will be removed. “The shooting tonight was a tragic, outrageous and unacceptable act of violence and it has no place in our city. Our diverse community will not be deterred by acts meant to divide or silence us,” Keller said on Twitter. “Our hearts go out the victim, his family and witnesses whose lives were needlessly threatened tonight. This sculpture has now become an urgent matter of public safety.”

Other New Mexico officials have also spoken out since Monday night. “Historical trauma can carry weight for centuries. Juan de Oñate’s violent colonization and brutal enslavement of Pueblo people was not heroic,” wrote New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich on Twitter. “Removing a statue glorifying this man is only one important step in coming to terms with our state’s fraught history and building a stronger sense of reconciliation and understanding between all New Mexicans today.” Heinrich also called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the shooting, noting that armed civilian militias have appeared at other New Mexico protests in recent weeks.

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Protesters In Mexico Take To Streets To Demand Justice For Dog Brutally Killed By Man With An Axe

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Protesters In Mexico Take To Streets To Demand Justice For Dog Brutally Killed By Man With An Axe

Ivan Alvarez / Getty Images

Residents of one Mexican city have taken to the streets to demand justice for a local stray dog who was brutally killed in an axe attack last month. Video of the incident was uploaded to social media and quickly went viral, leading to large protests in the Sinaloan city of Los Mochis.

Hundreds marched in Los Mochis to seek justice for a dog killed by man with an axe.

Hundreds took to the streets in Los Mochis, Sinaloa to demand justice for Rodolfo, a mixed breed dog killed with an axe on March 21. They showed banners that read “Justice for Rodolfo & for all who have no voice,” “We won’t stop until we have justice,” and “Justice for Rodolfo,” among others.

Despite the COVID-19 regulations, the participants in this new march, children, women and men, calmly marched through the center of the city of Los Mochis to make it clear that they are against animal cruelty and demanded justice for Rodolfo, who was a local stray dog. The demonstration gained traction after a video of the attack on Rodolfo, also known by Heart, Pirate and Shorty, was uploaded onto social media.

The predominantly young crowd marched to the state prosecutor’s office where environmental activist Arturo Islas Allende delivered a criminal complaint. Many brought their pets to the march and carried placards demanding the killer be sentenced to prison. One placard read: “Justice for Rodolfo and for all those that don’t have a voice.”

The suspected attacker, José “M,” a student at a Sinaloa university, has already delivered a preparatory statement to officials. Islas Allende questioned the morality of the killer. “We don’t want a psychopath like him as our neighbor,” he said.

The suspect’s girlfriend claimed that he killed the dog to protect her.

The girlfriend of the alleged attacker took to social media in his defense, saying the dog had attacked her days earlier and injured her face and hands.

On her Facebook account she claimed that medical treatments for her injuries had cost 8,000 pesos (US $400) and uploaded photographs of the injuries caused by the dog’s bites.

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Black Lives Matter Protests Are Working As Murders By Police Drop In Cities Across The Country

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Black Lives Matter Protests Are Working As Murders By Police Drop In Cities Across The Country

Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Black Lives Matter movement is not new. Black Americans have been fighting for their lives for generations. But since the high-profile murders of unarmed Black men at the hands of America’s police officers, the country has been coming to terms with its racist identity. 

Over the summer, despite a deadly pandemic, millions of Americans poured into the streets in cities across the country to demand justice and shout to the world that Black Lives Matter! These protests grew into an international movement that is helping to hold police officers accountable for their actions and it seems to be working. 

Police killings have dropped in cities that held BLM protests.

Since the Black Lives Matter movement grew to national prominence in 2014, protests have spread to cities around the U.S. A new study shows that police homicides have significantly decreased in most cities where such protests occurred. 

“Black Lives Matter represents a trend that goes beyond the decentralization that existed within the Civil Rights Movement,” says Aldon Morris, a sociologist at Northwestern University, who was not involved in the new study. “The question becomes, ‘Are Black Lives Matter protests having any real effect in terms of generating change?’ The data show very clearly that where you had Black Lives Matter protests, killing of people by the police decreased. It’s inescapable from this study that protest matters—that it can generate change.”

According to the study, posted by the Social Science Research Network, municipalities where BLM protests have been held experienced as much as a 20 percent decrease in killings by police, resulting in an estimated 300 fewer deaths nationwide in 2014–2019. The occurrence of local protests increased the likelihood of police departments adopting body-worn cameras and community-policing initiatives, the study also found. Many cities with larger and more frequent BLM protests experienced greater declines in police homicides.

The study shows just how important the Black Lives Matter movement is at saving lives.

The difference was significant in this study: it found police killings fell by 16.8 percent on average in municipalities that had BLM protests, compared with those that did not. When Campbell compared municipalities that already had similar trends in police homicides before BLM began, the estimate rose to 21.1 percent. 

BLM protests may have this effect because they push police departments to adopt reforms such as body cams or community policing, as the study found. Another reason may be that the protests affect police morale, causing officers to adopt a less aggressive patrolling posture that reduces police-civilian interactions in general. And not all cities experienced declines amid the protests. 
But not all cities witnessed the same declines. Police homicides increased in Minneapolis, Portland, San Francisco and St. Louis during the five-year period.

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