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Member of armed group shoots protester trying to tear down statue of conquistador in Albuquerque

Member of armed group shoots protester trying to tear down statue of conquistador in Albuquerque
Posted at 8:12 AM, Jun 16, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — 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.

Police said the man is listed in critical but stable condition.

On Monday, protesters wrapped a chain around a statue of conquistador Juan de Oñate on the city's east side. At least one other protester was carrying a pickax.

As protesters attempted to topple the statue, shots rang out from a group of armed men trying to protect the statue. Police said they took the individuals involved into custody for questioning and the shooting remains under investigation.

On Tuesday morning, The Washington Post reported that police detained "several" members of the armed group. According to The New York Times, the armed members said they were part of the New Mexico Civil Guard — a civilian vigilante group.

Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham took aim at the armed individuals, accusing them of being there to menace protesters.

"Let me be clear: There is absolutely no space in New Mexico for any violent would-be 'militia' seeking to terrorize New Mexicans," she said in a statement. "And there is no space for violence of any kind on our streets and in our communities, or any sort of escalation of reckless, violent rhetoric, no matter who strikes first. The instigators this evening will be rooted out, they will be investigated and they will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law."

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said later that the city would remove the statue to prevent further violence. The statue had been removed by Tuesday morning.

"The shooting tonight was a tragic, outrageous and unacceptable act of violence and it has no place in our city," Keller said in a statement. "Our diverse community will not be deterred by acts meant to divide or silence us. Our hearts go out the victim, his family and witnesses whose lives were needlessly threatened tonight."

Juan de Oñate was a Spanish explorer who colonized New Mexico in the early 1600s and slaughtered hundreds of native people in the area.