Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry announced Monday that some Confederate imagery on Old Town Plaza, including a Confederate flag, would be removed. Berry announced his plans in a long Twitter post this afternoon. “Those who consider the flag and artifacts to be nothing more than markers of history, should consider those who are deeply offended by the Confederate flag flying in Old Town because they view it as a celebration of an ideology that did not recognize all men as equal and an affront to those who died to ensure freedom for all,” he wrote. Still, Elder Michael Jefferson, who organized a coalition of community leaders and lawmakers around the issue, called on Berry to remove all Confederate-related imagery in Old Town. “We commend the Mayor for removing the Confederate flag and some of the Confederate imagery in Old Town,” Jefferson wrote in a statement Monday evening.
In the early months of the Civil War, Confederates took armed control of New Mexico Territory for just six weeks. But a stroll through the heart of Albuquerque’s Old Town 150 years later suggests a more permanent stay for the Confederate States of America. Though Southern imagery here may seem subtle—no famed Confederate Battle Flag flies over Old Town plaza, for example—multiple monuments commemorating aspects of the Confederacy’s brief hold of Albuquerque are on public display. A “Stars and Bars” banner, the Confederacy’s first official flag, flies over the west side of the Plaza next to Spanish, Mexican, New Mexican and United States flags. Two plaques, one dedicated to the Skirmish of Albuquerque—when Confederate troops held off Union troops for a day and a half before fleeing themselves—and one dedicated to buried Confederate veterans, decorate the east side of Old Town’s Viejo Gazebo.
A group of self-described Confederate flag enthusiasts cruised through Carlsbad streets last Friday according to the Carlsbad Current-Argus. The enthusiasts say it wasn’t about hate, but rather about heritage. New Mexico was on the periphery of the Civil War and while the Confederate government claimed control of the southern part of the territory, including current day Carlsbad, that control was broken after the Battle of Glorieta Pass. The Confederacy fought to keep slavery intact during the Civil War and many view flying the flag as an offensive act. The NAACP chapter in New Mexico is urging calm and saying that the display of the Confederate flag could create conversation.
Rep. Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat from New Mexico’s Third Congressional District, slammed House Republicans over actions related to the Confederate flag. A vote on a spending bill was delayed over whether to stop flying the Confederate flag at National Parks. “It is shameful that on the very day South Carolina acted to take down the flag, House Republicans are standing up for the Confederate Battle Flag and the intolerance it represents,” Luján said on Thursday. Luján is also the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the top Democratic congressional entity for elections. Weeks after the a mass shooting at a black South Carolina church and hours after the South Carolina Legislature voted to take down the Confederate battle flag—more commonly cited as the Confederate flag—the House Republicans find themselves in the middle of a controversy over the flying of the flag.
Some New Mexico politicians have weighed in on the controversy over flying of the Confederate battle flag. The debate was reignited after the murder of nine black churchgoers in South Carolina. Dylann Roof, who has reportedly admitted to the killings, was pictured with the Confederate battle flag in his manifesto where he spoke of white supremacy. Just days after the shooting, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley said that she believed the Confederate battle flag should no longer fly in front of the State House building. Now, other states are considering actions related to the Confederate flag, including not allowing drivers licenses with the image.