As the work day came to a close on July 31, Albuquerque’s courthouse district resembled a ghost town. Roads were barricaded for blocks in each direction, and the air felt still in the absence of the usual motorized vehicle traffic.
But by 6 p.m., hundreds had assembled at the intersection of Fourth Street and Lomas Boulevard chanting, burning herbs and readying shields.
The assembled protesters shouted that they were rallying against the influx of federal agents into Albuquerque.
Organized by The Red Nation, Pueblo Action Alliance, Indigenous Women Rising and Youth United for Climate Crisis Action, the protest was assembled in opposition to federal agents recently deployed to the city under “Operation Legend,” purportedly in response to recent Black Lives Matter protests and to address what has been described as unchecked crime in Albuquerque. However, due to recent tactics by federal agents in Portland, Oregon during demonstrations there, the Trump administration’s initiative has been criticized as a political stunt just before the presidential election.
While no federal agents were seen during the protest, the actions taken by federal law enforcement under Operation Legend in Oregon have sparked additional protests in numerous cities. On July 22, President Donald Trump announced the expansion into Albuquerque.
The announcement drew criticism from state and local leaders, including Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, who warned, “If the Trump administration wishes to antagonize New Mexicans and Americans with authoritarian, unnecessary and unaccountable military-style ‘crackdowns,’ they have no business whatsoever in New Mexico.”
At least 200 protesters gathered near Albuquerque’s three towering courthouses as a rainstorm approached. News and police helicopters retreated as lightning crackled in the sky. Within minutes, a torrent of rain was unleashed on the crowd. Even so, protesters kept chanting, undeterred by the storm and shielding themselves with their signs.
The crowd then proceeded to march alongside an affiliated truck toward the downtown area, intermittently stopping to chant and rally support as Albuquerque police continued retreating to accommodate the crowd. Some protesters, clad in black clothing, brought homemade shields and assembled at the front of the march. The shields ranged from plywood to foam pool noodles and were spray-painted with slogans.
“Land back,” read one shield. “No Feds,” read another.
As bystanders looked on from their balconies and windows and the sky began to clear again, the protest moved down Broadway Boulevard to Central Avenue. Protesters could be heard voicing chants against fascism and in support of indigenous rights.
The group, led by a large banner reading “End the Occupation,” eventually made its way to Civic Plaza by dark, after which protesters peacefully dispersed.
Liberty Stalnaker is a freelance reporter and photographer at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @DailyLobo