A group of 50 or so protesters in attendance at a Black New Mexico Movement (BNMM) rally held in Rio Rancho on Sept. 12 were met with hateful rhetoric from a large crowd of right-wing counter-protesters.
BNMM held the rally on the eve of the late rapper Tupac Shakur’s murder “to call for the same changes Tupac called for many years ago,” according to the Facebook event page, a reference to Shakur’s activism against racism and police bruality. Organizers encouraged attendees to register to vote, fill out the census and keep working toward racial justice.
During speeches from organizers and BNMM demonstrators, counter-protesters across a dirt road — lined with cars protesters had parked there for safety reasons — started yelling “All lives matter” and “Get out of our city,” to which some protesters replied that Rio Rancho is their home.
“We are over here with a peaceful protest, and they started cursing us out — telling us to go back where we came from, telling us that this is their city,” Black resident Barbara Jordan told KOB. “Well, guess what: This is my city as well. I live here in Rio Rancho, and they’re telling us to go back home as if there are no Blacks, no minorities here in Rio Rancho.”
About an hour in, counter-protesters crossed the road dividing the two groups. Some counter-protesters openly carried guns. One man was armed with a baton, another a baseball bat.
Counter-protesters brought up baseless conspiracy theories about antifa and the Black Lives Matter movement, with one man saying, “Jump in your Soros-paid-for cars and get the fuck out of here.”
The Three Percenters — a right-wing paramilitary movement — had a presence, with three armed men dressed in tactical gear. Craig Fitzgerald, a New Mexico Civil Guard member and former member of a white supremacist group in New York, was also present, armed and wearing an InfoWars shirt.
Cowboys for Trump, led by Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin, also arrived on horseback to cheers from the counter-protesters.
Rio Rancho police officers eventually got in between the two groups as smaller confrontations arose. Throughout the night, officers and Sandoval County sheriff’s deputies engaged in friendly conversation with right-wing counter-protesters, some of whom shook hands with officers and deputies.
By 8 p.m., almost all of the BNMM protesters had left, leaving a few dozen counter-protesters standing on the side of a busy road with Trump 2020 and Back the Blue flags.
The counter-protest was organized online by an anonymous right-wing Twitter account, as the Daily Lobo previously reported. A week before the rally, the account — which has nearly 2,000 followers — announced that the counter-protest was canceled, although that same account tweeted in support of the counter-protest throughout Saturday evening.
“All in all, Patriots showed up to protect their city and they were heard loud and clear,” reads one of the account’s tweets. “We are proud of you all for standing up for your town. Don’t think this is the end though.”
Adding fuel to the fire, the Republican Party of New Mexico put out a press release Monday afternoon stating that the “Democratic Party of New Mexico (is) hypocritical when it comes to calling out people for not wearing masks.”
The release falsely claims that many of the protesters at the BNMM rally did not wear masks, when in fact, the Daily Lobo and KUNM observed and documented most of the anti-racism protesters wearing masks, while most of the counter-protesters were maskless.
Bella Davis is a senior reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @bladvs