Albuquerque: Reactionary Shoots Protester in Defense of Conquistador Statue

By Sandra Harris

On June 15, a member of a right-wing militia shot a protester in Albuquerque, New Mexico during a vigil and protest at a sculpture of Juan de Oñate, the Spanish conquistador who established the colony of New Mexico over 400 years ago. Oñate led the massacre of almost 1,000 Acoma Pueblo Indians and cut one foot off of each of the surviving men over the age of 24 and sold the rest of the survivors into slavery. 

On Monday, the New Mexico Civil Guard, a fascist militia, arrived at the protest and began harassing people as they attempted to tear down the Oñate statue. In several videos from the protest, Steven Ray Baca is seen pulling people off of the statue, as well as striking and injuring several female protesters.

After being hit and chased off by protesters, Baca pepper-sprayed the people pursuing him, and fired his gun at them. A demonstrator named Scott Williams was hit several times in the torso and hospitalized; he is currently in stable but critical condition. When police arrived they used tear gas and bean bag rounds on protesters. The statue was removed by the city the next day.

In news stories after the incident, Civil Guard members claimed Baca was not part of their group, but in videos immediately after the shooting Civil Guard members can be seen surrounding him, kicking his gun away from him and protecting him until the police arrived. Baca, a failed candidate for city council, Trump supporter, and son of a former sheriff, immediately told the police as he was being arrested “my father is the BCSO (Bernalillo County Sheriffs Office).” 

No members of the New Mexico Civil Guard were charged. On Wednesday, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez dropped the aggravated battery charge against Baca related to the shooting. Baca still faces three counts of battery and unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon.

The charges were dropped after a claim that Baca acted in “self-defense,” as he was chased off by protesters, despite the fact that he initiated a violent attack on protesters, injuring several women.

In a statement provided to CNN, the attorney for Williams’ family said, “When Steven Baca repeatedly attacked peaceful protesters in Albuquerque last night, Scott took bullets for the community he cares about.” 

Fascist militias such as the New Mexico Civil Guard antagonize anti-racist demonstrations to ‘defend’ icons of the imperialist state. They initiate violence, yet their claims of ‘self-defense’ are quickly accepted as the truth by the bourgeois government. The presence of right-wing militias are violent and should not be underestimated; they are an enemy of all people fighting against racist police violence and should be confronted with tactical considerations in mind.

The New Mexico Civil Guard was present several weeks ago during a vigil in Las Cruces in honor of George Floyd along with the Boogaloo Bois, a more well known fascist militia. After the protest, they doxxed several New Mexico State University professors with comments stating “Watch your six y’all,” which means “watch your back.”

In an interview with the Las Cruces Sun News a Civil Guard member named Bryce Provance told the paper the comments on the Facebook page were “intended to warn other members about potentially dangerous people they might encounter at protests.” He later told the paper, “We’ve had death threats, we’ve been doxxed, we’ve had Antifa get violent with us at protests.”

Provance claimed they did not have an ideology, despite himself being named as a regional director on CSA II®, a neoconfederate organization’s website, as reported by the Las Cruces Sun News.

Just like the Trump administration, reactionary militias continue to parrot the idea that ‘antifa’ is the reason they harass and harm anyone protesting against racism. They do not differentiate between protesters regardless of what action individuals take, just like the repressive bourgeois state.