On the morning of Saturday, Sept. 15, a far-right organization and protesters gathered on the corner of 1st Street and Central Avenue in downtown Albuquerque, diversely dressed and loudly making their voices heard.
Two different groups convened: the Proud Boys — a self-identified western chauvinist group — and counter-protesters. The event was organized by the Proud Boys and registered ahead of time with the city.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has described the Proud Boys as an "alt-right fight club."
At around noon on Saturday the first four right-wing protesters arrived, with one wearing full body armor. There was a minor kerfuffle when the two groups first confronted one another, but the Albuquerque police quickly separated the two sides on either side of 1st Street and maintained that separation for the entirety of the demonstration.
“I think it’s so important, so important, that when they show up, we make clear that we aren’t fighting them, we’re fighting racism.” said Don Schrader, a long-time activist and presence in Albuquerque. He attended the event as a protester.
Counter-protesters outnumbered those who showed up for the Proud Boys demonstration by a ratio of around 10:1. One of the organizers of Albuquerque Community Defense, Marty Adamsmith, said they arrived early to create a large presence in order to dissuade these groups from coming to Albuquerque in the future.
“The Proud Boys (are) nationwide — if you don’t have a show of force against them, they’ll truck in more from around the country going forward,” Adamsmith said.
A wide variety of people could be seen on both sides of the event. There were signs on the counter-protester side advocating for ending immigrant detention, opposing fascism, advocating for feminist ideas and LGBTQ pride.
Adamsmith described Albuquerque Community Defense as “an organization that came together quickly because of this event being announced,” and the quick organizing meant little coordination between everyone that showed up. There were occasionally conflicting directives shouted by some of the counter-protesters.
This diverse group of activists coalesced across the street from the Proud Boys and their associates. They were from a variety of backgrounds — some were even from out of state and belonged to the group called the Hiwaymen, a neo-confederate group from Arkansas. A few more members of the Proud Boys showed up later on, but their rally never reached more than a dozen people.
A member of Hiwaymen, Asa Duran, described the group as “people that support the Constitution, the United States of America and the American flag,” and said he came to support and protect people’s First Amendment right to fly the flag.
“I don’t think there’s anything racist about flying flags in support of the Constitution,” Duran said.
However, many of the counter-protesters had different views of what groups like the Hiwaymen represented.
“You have to stand up to fascism when it arises,” Gabriel Gonzalez, one of the counter-protesters, said.
The general sentiment among the counter-protesters was that they were there to oppose fascism by demonstrating against the Proud Boys' event.
An Albuquerque social worker, Brayna Walizer, said she wanted the event to “instill hope in others” and “have everyone know there’s a visible presence of people that will stand against these folks that are threatening their safety and wellness.”
All in all, everyone that was interviewed by the Daily Lobo expressed a desire for nonviolence.
“More than anything, I didn’t want any blood or violence,” said Adamsmith, and Duran also expressed his desire for a “peaceful event.”
One Albuquerque native, Cody Craig, said he wasn’t affiliated with any group, and he came down after seeing the kinds of violence that happened during recent Proud Boys-related demonstrations in Portland.
“I came down to prevent something like that, or at least help out," Craig said. "As long as nobody gets hurt, I’m okay. I think everybody should have a right to their opinion. They have a right to their opinion, and they have a right to theirs."
Protesters of the event could be heard chanting the words “love not hate” throughout the rally and protest.
Alex Hiett is a freelance news reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted through email@example.com or on Twitter @dailylobo