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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A Native American Veteran Shared a Video of Himself Being Tased By a Park Ranger on Sacred Grounds in New Mexico

Things That Matter

A Native American Veteran Shared a Video of Himself Being Tased By a Park Ranger on Sacred Grounds in New Mexico

Screenshot via hou5edm/Instagram

Recently, a video went viral of a New Mexico park ranger tasing a Native American man that sparked a conversation about the right non-Indigenous government authorities have to exert over Indigenous Americans.

Last Sunday, a Native American man named Darrell House shared a video of himself screaming in agony and calling for help as a park ranger tased him.

In the four-minute long clip posted to Instagram, House screams for help and writhes in agony on the ground as the unnamed park ranger continuously uses his taser on him. The woman recording the altercation repeatedly yells “What are you doing?” at the ranger while the ranger continues to demand that House show him his ID.

House, who grew up on a reservation and is of Navajo and Oneida descent, wrote a lengthy caption describing in detail what had transpired.

House wrote: “Today 12/27/2020, I was tased for being off trail at the Petroglyphs. I come here to pray and speak to my Pueblo Ancestor relatives. Even though I’m Navajo and Oneida, I honor this land.”

“Here, you will see a white man abuse his power. Both men pulled tasers on me after the first 1 couldn’t keep me down. This could have been a civil interaction. The law doesn’t work for the Indigenous. The government doesn’t give a shit about us. This was uncalled for. You see I’m clearly on the trail. I explained my reason for being off trail (which I shouldn’t have to. If anyone has the right to be off trail and wander this land, it’s the NATIVE INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY!”

“I didn’t feel I needed to identify myself for doing absolutely nothing wrong.
I’m traumatized. My left leg is numb and still bleeding. [My dog] Geronimo is shaking and hasn’t stopped. I’m shaking.”

Darrell House, who is also a military veteran, added: “I’m good people, the Marines I served with would agree. The many people I’ve crossed paths with–you know me.”

In response to the public outcry, the National Park Service said they were “investigating” the incident.

The National Park Service says that House was cited for walking off-trail at Petroglyph National Monument. House does not deny the claim, but says that walking where he wants to on sacred indigenous grounds is an ancestral right.

“Nature is what we’ve been worshipping … and protecting it has always been our job,” he told NBC News. “I am Native, you know. I have rights to this land. I have rights off the trail.”

House also doesn’t deny refusing to identify himself to the park ranger. “I didn’t see a reason to give my identification,” he said. “I don’t need to tell people why I’m coming there to pray and give things in honor to the land. I don’t need permission or consent.”

The local Albuquerque government has since become involved, releasing a statement that said the incident had been “elevated to the Federal investigation level”.

City Councilor Cynthia Borrego wrote that the incident was “troubling” and “uncomfortable” to watch and that her officer “recognizes and supports the investigation into any indigenous rights that may have been violated as a result of the actions taken in this unfortunate incident.”

The statement concluded by reiterating that Native Americans have the right “to practice their cultural beliefs as protected by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

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Cuban Government Backtracks On Historic Deal With Protesters Just Days After Reaching An Agreement

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Cuban Government Backtracks On Historic Deal With Protesters Just Days After Reaching An Agreement

Alexandre Meneghini / Getty Images

It seemed that many Cuban’s hopes for greater freedom of expression – particularly in the art world – seems to have been dashed again. In less than 24 hours after apparently agreeing to meet several demands from dissident artists, the government broke at least three of the five agreements in had made.

Freedom of expression is a hot topic in Cuba, where the communist regime severely limits what artists can say and produce.

But even more rare: public protest. That’s what makes these recent marches in Havana so important, the island hasn’t seen anything like it in decades. And as almost on script, the Cuban government flipped on its public reaction to the growing movement, instead blaming it on “U.S. imperialism” and foreign intervention.

Cuban officials have completely condemned the protest movement in a full 180º change of attitude.

Over the weekend, Cuba saw unprecedented protests led by dissident artists and creatives – known as the San Isidro movement – seeking greater freedom of expression. And although it seemed early on that the group may have made progress (the government agreed to several concessions), those hopes went up in flames as the government launched an all-out rhetorical assault.

Shortly after the meeting between protesters and officials, the protest came to a peaceful end with leaders thinking they achieved what they had set out to do, and with a meeting to discuss the issues further.

But just hours later the government called in the top U.S. diplomat on the island, charge de affairs Timothy Zúñiga-Brown, for a scolding over “grave interference in Cuba’s internal affairs” as state television ran a 90-minute special attacking members of the protest group and broadcasting visuals of their interactions with U.S. diplomats and Miami exiles.

“Sovereign Cuba accepts no interference … The revolutionary ones will fight back,” President Miguel Diaz-Canel said in one of a series of Twitter posts accusing the San Isidro movement of being a “reality show” on social media created by “U.S. imperialists.”

What originally seemed like progress now seems like business as usual for the communist regime.

Credit: Yamil Lapage / AFP / Getty Images

It seemed, at least for a few short hours, that there was a real chance at bolstering artistic freedom in Cuba. The group of protesters, known as the San Isidro movement, gathered outside the culture ministry, leading Fernando Rojas, the deputy culture minister, to invite in a group of 30 of them. The meeting lasted for more than four hours, those present have said, and resulted in a promise of greater freedoms for artists.

Writer Katherine Bisquet told the press afterward that there had been a “truce for independent spaces” where activists could meet and talk, and that further discussions were promised.

“I cannot emphasize enough that this kind of public protest, with hundreds of people standing outside a ministry for 14 hours, is unprecedented,” Cuban-American artist Coco Fusco told Artnet News. “The fact that government officials conceded to a meeting is in itself a victory for the artists and a sign of weakness on the part of the government.”

The government had also agreed to urgently review the case of a detained member of the San Isidro crew and a rapper sentenced this month to eight months in jail on charges of contempt. It also agreed to ensure independent artists in the future were not harassed.

Cuban officials blamed the U.S. for stirring up dissent.

Shortly after the government launched a verbal assault on the group, it also accused the U.S. of helping them. Officials at the Foreign Ministry summoned the top U.S. diplomat in Cuba, Chargé d’Affaires Timothy Zuñiga-Brown, and complained about U.S. “intervention.”

At Sunday’s rally, Díaz Canel said that “Trumpistas” (referring to the Trump administration) and the “anti-Cuban mafia that are now ‘Trumpistas'” (referring to Cuban American Trump supporters in Miami) “had on their agenda that before the year ends, the revolutions of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela have to fall.”

Jake Sullivan, Joe Biden’s national security adviser, tweeted Sunday: “We support the Cuban people in their struggle for liberty and echo calls for the Cuban government to release peaceful protestors. The Cuban people must be allowed to exercise the universal right to freedom of expression.”

Thanks to an imploding economy in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, Cuba is experiencing an unprecedented crisis.

Credit: Sven Creutzmann/Mambo photo/Getty Images

Cuba is going through dire shortages in food and basic goods amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has practically halted tourism to the island, on top of the Trump administration’s harsh sanctions.

Against that backdrop, García said, “I think the government should think about these things and view dialogue as a valid option to avoid a major disaster.”

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