Violence broke out Monday in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when a confrontation between protesters attempting to destroy a statue of a Spanish conquistador, who had committed atrocities against Native Americans, and a right-wing militia group ended with a protester being shot and critically injured.
In a Fox News report on the shooting, a reporter described the protesters as “the mob” and failed to mention that the group fighting them consisted of heavily armed militia members.
The event occurred as part of the ongoing wave of protests against racism and police brutality, spurred by the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
The Albuquerque Journal reports that “tensions began to escalate when protesters took a pickaxe to the statue and members of the heavily armed New Mexico Civil Guard, a civilian group, tried to protect the monument.”
The shooting occurred during a fight between a man in a blue shirt and people trying to pull down the statue. The man was pushed onto the street, and then protesters started advancing toward him, some threatening him. The man in the blue shirt pulled a can of pepper spray from his pocket and sprayed it.
At that point, the man in the blue shirt appeared to have pulled a gun and fired about five shots, wounding one person. The man who was shot appeared to have been one of the individuals advancing on the man in the blue shirt.
People ran for cover screaming.
“Somebody got shot,” several people yelled.
A suspect has been arrested on a charge of aggravated battery in connection with the shooting of a protester. KUNM, a New Mexico public radio station, also identified the suspect, Steven Ray Baca, as a former candidate for the Albuquerque City Council and son of a former Bernalillo County sheriff. “In 2014, he started a Facebook page called ‘Citizens Who Stand With APD’ after protests erupted around the city when video surfaced of police killing James Boyd.” The report also notes that after Baca fired shots, “several militiamen then formed a ring around Baca with their backs to him as he sat on the ground using his phone.”
During his 2019 campaign for the city council, Baca had said that the community was becoming a “third world country,” and that local officials were “complete wimps when it comes to fighting crime.”
On the June 16 edition of America’s Newsroom, Fox News correspondent William La Jeunesse characterized the protesters as “the mob,” and he did not point out that the smaller Civil Guard militia group was heavily armed and wearing military fatigues, as the Albuquerque Journal had reported. In addition, he said the alleged perpetrator “retaliated” against a woman who blocked his way up to the statue by pushing her to the ground.
La Jeunesse also said that New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, “a Democrat and possible VP pick, sided with the protesters.”
The governor released a statement Monday, saying in part:
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.
I am monitoring the situation; my administration is in touch with local officials; the individual who was injured is in my prayers, and I am thinking of their family and friends.
By an eerie coincidence, this event occurred on the same day as talk radio host Rush Limbaugh asked about the ongoing wave of national protests: “Well, where are all the people with guns? I know they’ve got them. … They’re not pushing back.”
Limbaugh offered a clarification later in his program, insisting he was not advocating for armed violence, but it did not seem to clear up very much.
“Where are these braggarts who said they had the ability to stop this stuff? They’re not showing up,” he said. “It’s not an advocacy for an armed anything. I’m just pointing out, you wonder why you feel abandoned? I’m trying to explain it to you.”