2020 Top Stories #3: Black Lives Matter and social justice movements

See our entire countdown of 2020 top stories, to date, here. This year seemed to really pile on. Besides a contentious election and a worsening COVID-19 pandemic, New Mexicans saw numerous protests and pushes for social justice improvements. 

This summer, groups like Black Lives Matter increased their presence and the frequency of their marches. 

While the majority of the demonstrations ended peacefully, there were a handful of instances that turned violent. 

A lot of attention was spent trying to piece together what exactly happened at what started as a prayer session around a statue of the controversial conquistador Juan de Oñate in Albuquerque. While some were trying to tear the statue down, counter protesters tried to play interference. One of those counter protesters allegedly shot someone during a scuffle. 

In the aftermath of the shooting, there were still many questions about what role Albuquerque police were supposed to take as the incident escalated.

Details of APD’s plan for Oñate statue protest still fuzzy

It’s been nearly two months since Albuquerque police arrested Steven Baca and charged him with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon after a protest in Albuquerque. The protest began with a group of activists who called for the removal of a statue of 16th century conquistador Juan de Oñate, who is infamous for his brutal treatment of Indigenous people in what is now New Mexico. Baca, who was seemingly at the event as a counterprotestor, at one point got into a physical altercation with a number of protesters. Accounts of what happened on the evening of June 15 vary. Some videos shared on social media appear to show Baca grabbing and throwing protesters to the ground.

Students and their allies march in Albuquerque against gun violence in schools

A student-organized march and rally in Albuquerque attracted thousands of people to Old Town this morning as part of the national March for Our Lives which protested gun violence and school shootings. The march began at the Old Town Plaza and ended a few blocks away at Tiguex Park. Along the edges of the crowd at Tiguex Park, Democratic gubernatorial and congressional candidates shook hands and spoke with attendees. But most of the calls to action, poems and inspirational words came from middle school, high school and college students. Lillian Hunt, 17, and Emma Buck-Anderson, 19, who helped organize the rally, both said they just want adults to hear their concerns when it comes to issues like school safety.

Albuquerque protests Trump DACA decision

The Trump administration announced Tuesday the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Anticipating a repeal, walk-outs were scheduled and high schools and colleges around the state. Thousands of students walked out of classrooms, and in Albuquerque people of many ages showed up on Civic Plaza. At Highland High School in the southeast part of Albuquerque, about one hundred students left classes and walked to Central Avenue. Later in the day, several hundred people marched on Civic Plaza and watched indigenous dances and heard from people who would be directly affected by the DACA repeal.

Doña Ana County Republican Party chairman resigns after social media rant

After lashing out on Facebook at “leftists” for “getting exactly what they asked for” just a day after a rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia turned violent, Doña Ana County Republican Party chairman  Roman Jimenez has resigned. Jimenez  posted  his thoughts on the county party’s Facebook page. Almost immediately, people across the state called for Jimenez to resign or for the county party to remove him from his position. Criticism came from Democrats and Republicans alike,  including the state Republican Party chairman. On Tuesday afternoon, Victor Contreras announced he would take over the Doña Ana County chair position until the county central committee meets to find a permanent replacement.

Public lands supporters rally and march in Santa Fe

In Santa Fe yesterday, hundreds of people gathered at the Roundhouse to support protecting the state’s public lands. Public lands can refer to those administered by federal agencies such as the National Park Service, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, lands protected as state parks or areas overseen by the New Mexico State Land Office. The rally started at the capitol, and then protesters marched to the steps of the State Land Office, looped down Alameda and back to the rotunda. The crowd included a mix of people including sportsmen, students, retirees and conservationists from around New Mexico. It also featured dancing and drumming from students in the Pueblo Pathways Project at the Santa Fe Indian School.

Small protests greet Trump at ABQ rally

Protests outside the Donald Trump rally Sunday evening in Albuquerque were less chaotic than a previous rally with the Republican presidential nominee. There were about 50 protesters at the protest’s peak and no apparent property damage or arrests were made. Before the rally started, a handful of protesters gathered on a nearby corner holding signs that read “Trump Owns the FBI the system IS Rigged” and “Trump vs All of Us.”

The signs were positioned so Trump supporters could see them as they walked to the rally. One man stopped at the corner and rested against a nearby stop sign as a sign holder asked if he was alright. “I’m fine, but our country is going to shit,” the man replied.

Police arrest three for violence at Trump protest

Since announcing reward money for information last week, tips led police to arrest three people in connection with last week’s protests after the Donald Trump rally. They include two adults and one minor, two of whom have been charged with felonies and one charged with misdemeanors. One outstanding warrant remains for a unnamed 17-year-old who police say was filmed running on top of and damaging two state police cars. “We want to make sure that people in the city of Albuquerque feel free to come voice their opinions,” Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry said in a Thursday morning press conference. The city is now offering more than $20,000 for information that lead to arrests, Berry said.

Striking employees confront Verizon CEO

While protesters took the streets outside to support striking Verizon workers, 10 striking employees and two union staffers went inside Hotel Albuquerque, eventually confronting the telecommunication corporation’s chief executive. As Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam wrapped up the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting inside, he finally addressed the elephant in the room. Roughly 40,000 wireline company employees across the nation are into their fourth week of striking after coming to an impasse in negotiations with Verizon management over a new contract. Related: Protesters stop traffic outside Verizon shareholder’s meeting. “While I won’t say a lot about the strike we’re experiencing today, I would like to thank the members of the union who are here today and your approach to this,” McAdam said, referring to Communication Workers of America employees in the room and picketing outside the hotel.

Protesters snarl traffic outside of Verizon shareholders meeting

A demonstration outside of a Verizon shareholder’s meeting resulted in brief detainment and criminal citations for a group of union members and one New Mexico lawmaker. Executive Director of the Southwest Organizing Project Javier Benavidez, New Mexico Federation of Labor President Jon Hendry and state Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, were among those who received citations for blocking traffic near Old Town in Albuquerque. Albuquerque police confirmed 15 protesters received citations, but said police made no arrests. These were just a portion of the hundreds of protesters who set up shop outside a Verizon shareholder’s meeting. Police also said there were no injuries at the peaceful protest.