From the AP:
A man was shot Monday night as protesters in New Mexico’s largest city tried to tear down a bronze statue of a Spanish conquistador outside the Albuquerque Museum.
The man was taken to a hospital but his condition was not immediately known, Albuquerque police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said. [ED: police later said he’s in critical, but stable condition.]
The city announced the statue will be removed until officials determine the next steps.
A confrontation broke out between demonstrators and a group of armed men who were trying to protect the statue of Juan de Oñate before protesters wrapped a chain around the statue and began tugging on it while chanting, “Tear it down.” One protester repeatedly swung a pickax at the base of the statue.
Moments later a few gunshots could be heard down the street and people started yelling that someone had been shot.
Gallegos said officers used tear gas and flash bangs to protect officers and detain those involved in the shooting. He said they were disarmed and taken into custody for questioning as police worked to secure the scene. Gallegos said detectives will be investigating but he did not immediately release any other information.
“The shooting tonight was a tragic, outrageous and unacceptable act of violence and it has no place in our city,” Mayor Tim Keller said in a statement. “Our diverse community will not be deterred by acts meant to divide or silence us. Our hearts go out to the victim, his family and witnesses whose lives were needlessly threatened tonight. This sculpture has now become an urgent matter of public safety.”
The violence came just hours after activists in northern New Mexico celebrated the removal of another likeness of Oñate that was on public display at a cultural center in the community of Alcalde. Rio Arriba County officials removed it to safeguard it from possible damage and to avoid civil unrest ahead of a scheduled protest.
[ED: As background, here is the Guardian’s description of who Juan de Oñate was and why his statue is considered problematic.]
The Oñate statues have been criticised for decades.
Oñate, who arrived in 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 is also reviled for his brutality.
To Native Americans, Oñate is known for having ordered the right feet cut off of 24 captive tribal warriors after the killing of Oñate’s nephew. In 1998, someone sawed the right foot off the statue.
Luis Peña of Espanola, an artist and computer network engineer, started a public petition last week to remove the statue in Alcalde. He said he was heartened to see it taken off display.
Removal of the statue was followed by a few heated roadside discussions about local colonial history, under the gaze of a half-dozen sheriff’s deputies.
Tony Valerio, 65, rushed to the site after a neighbour alerted him that the statue was being taken down.
“He’s my hero. He brought a lot of good things to New Mexico,” Valerio said of Oñate. “What’s next? The Statue of Liberty?”
The Albuquerque Journal quotes New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s reaction to 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.”
Juan de Oñate statue to be removed following shooting during protest.
“At least one person was shot after anti-racist protesters clashed with a heavily armed White right-wing militia in Albuquerque, New Mexico, according to local media and others at the scene.” pic.twitter.com/hSAISu3QWI
— Ryan Guillory Sr. 🇺🇸 (@Mr_RyanGuillory) June 16, 2020