Armed men arrested in shooting at New Mexico statue protest
A man has been shot during a clash between armed men and activists who were attempting to tear down a statue of a Spanish conquistador in the US state of New Mexico.
- The shooting reportedly involved a militia group called the New Mexico Civil Guard
- New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said the armed men were there to menace protesters
- The statue is of Spanish conquistador Juan de Onate, who is both reviled and celebrated in the region
Protesters had wrapped a chain around the statue and begun tugging on it while chanting “tear it down”.
One protester was repeatedly swinging a pickaxe at the base of the statue.
But armed men who were part of a militia group, reportedly called the New Mexico Civil Guard, were trying to protect the statue of Juan de Onate.
Gunshots could be heard down the street from the protest outside the Albuquerque Museum and people started yelling that someone had been shot.
Albuquerque police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said a man who had been shot was taken to hospital.
He was in a critical but stable condition, he said.
Mr Gallegos said police used tear gas and flash bangs to protect the officers who arrested those suspected of being involved in the shooting.
He said they were disarmed and taken into custody for questioning as police worked to secure the scene.
Detectives were investigating with the help of the FBI, he said.
“The shooting tonight was a tragic, outrageous and unacceptable act of violence and it has no place in our city,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim 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.
“This sculpture has now become an urgent matter of public safety.”
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said the armed individuals were there to menace protesters.
She said no matter who struck first, there would be no room in New Mexico for any sort of escalation of what she called “reckless, violent rhetoric”.
“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,” she said.
The city announced the statue of Juan de Onate would be removed until officials determine what to do next.
Statues of Onate have been a source of criticism for decades.
Onate, who arrived in present-day New Mexico in 1598, is celebrated as a cultural father figure in communities along the Upper Rio Grande that trace their ancestry to Spanish settlers. But he is also reviled for his brutality.
To Native Americans, Onate is known for having ordered the right feet cut off of 24 captive tribal warriors following the killing of Onate’s nephew.