Man shot in protest over statue of Spanish conquistador in Albuquerque

A man was shot Monday night as protesters and armed individuals in Albuquerque, N.M., clashed over a bronze statue of a Spanish conquistador.

A group of protesters in New Mexico’s largest city tried to tear down the statue of Juan de Oñate, The Associated Press reported. They were confronted by a group of armed men who gathered in an effort to protect it. 

Protesters wrapped a chain around the statute and chanted “tear it down,” the AP noted, adding that one protester swung a pickax at the base of the statue. 

The demonstrators reportedly faced members of an armed militia that calls itself the New Mexico Civil Guard. The group carried semi-automatic rifles, The Washington Post reported.

Gunshots were fired, and one of the protesters calling for the statue’s removal was shot, according to area outlet KOB4. He was listed in critical but stable condition late Monday. 

The Albuquerque Police Department said in a Monday statement that officers “used chemical irritants and flash bangs to protect officers and detain individuals involved in the shooting.” The “individuals were disarmed and taken into custody,” the department added.

Local authorities later confirmed that the FBI is assisting investigators “as they interview people who were involved in the shooting.”

“We are receiving reports about vigilante groups possibly instigating this violence. If this is true will be holding them accountable to the fullest extent of the law, including federal hate group designation and prosecution,” Albuquerque Police Department Chief Michael Geier said in a Tuesday statement on Twitter.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller (D) confirmed in a late-night tweet that the city will remove the statue of Oñate “in order to contain the public safety risk.” 

“The shooting tonight was a tragic, outrageous and unacceptable act of violence and it has no place in our city,” he said. “Our diverse community will not be deterred by acts meant to divide or silence us.”

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), meanwhile, said in a statement she was “horrified and disgusted beyond words by the reports of violence at a protest Monday night in Albuquerque.”

“The heavily armed individuals who flaunted themselves at the protests, calling themselves a ‘civil guard,’ were there for one reason: To menace protesters, to present an unsanctioned show of unregulated force.”

The protests come amid nationwide demonstrations over the death of George Floyd, who died last month after a former Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes during an arrest. Protests have broken out across the country calling for widespread police reforms and the removal of monuments to Confederate leaders, explorer Christopher Columbus and others.

Tags Albuquerque Conquistador statue George Floyd Juan de Oñate Michelle Lujan Grisham Protests
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