As right-wing violence continues to escalate across the country, a Black Lives Matter counter-protest is organizing online.
Black New Mexico Movement (BNMM), a group that formed over the summer, is planning to hold a demonstration on the eve of the late rapper Tupac Shakur’s 1996 murder “to call for the same changes Tupac called for many years ago,” the Facebook event page states.
Shakur was outspoken about systemic racism and police brutality, having himself been a victim of such violence.
In response, an anonymous right-wing Twitter account created in June has been promoting a counter-protest The flyer reads “Rio Rancho: Protect Our City” and “BLM New Mexico will be holding a ‘Protest Against Police Racism.’ NOT IN MY CITY.”
The account has been active throughout the summer, frequently posting photos from local protests and encouraging who they often refer to as “patriots” to arm themselves.
On Aug. 25, the account shared a video reportedly showing a Milwaukee resident shooting at Black Lives Matter protesters, writing, “These people are TERRIFIED of Americans standing up for themselves! Arm yourselves while you still can.”
The account also shared two YouTube videos made by a man identifying himself as a Rio Rancho resident. The first video — which was posted on Aug. 31 and has since been deleted — showed the man standing in front of a movie theater that’s the planned meeting place for the demonstration.
He said that although he “has faith in” and supports Rio Rancho police, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham should request the presence of federal officers.
“Governor, the blood will be on your hands,” he said. “Swallow your pride, show that you actually care about this state, maybe even save some face — contact the federal government and ask for those reinforcements.”
Federal agents policed Portland, Ore. protests for several weeks, during which time they brutalized and detained protesters using unmarked cars. One protester was left hospitalized after agents shot him in the head with “less lethal” munitions.
President Donald Trump announced in late July that Operation Legend, an initiative launched under the guise of stopping violent crime, would be expanded to Albuquerque. Local and state officials initially condemned the move, with Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller calling it a “re-election strategy.”
In the video, the man went on to say that any counter-protesters who come to the demonstration should “seek conversation” but “be prepared, because there is a risk.”
The second video, posted the next day, is a response to what the man referred to as “push back” on the first video.
He said he welcomes conversation with BNMM organizers, some of whom responded to his first video, but then quickly added, “The thought that Rio Rancho’s going quietly or that I’m just gonna bite my tongue because you guys called me a couple of names? No shot. It’s not happening. It’s not happening.”
Throughout the past three months, protesters have been met with attacks from right-wing extremists. On the night of Aug. 25, during a protest in Kenosha, Wis. over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse shot three protesters, killing two.
Albuquerque has seen its share of violence, too. During a June 15 protest against a statue of colonizer Juan de Oñate, Trump supporter and former City Council candidate Steven Baca assaulted multiple women before shooting and injuring protester Scott Williams.
A Department of Homeland Security document states that “violent extremists who are motivated by white supremacy and other far-right ideological causes” are the gravest terror threat to the United States, Politico reported on Friday.
Responding to an inquiry from the Daily Lobo, Annemarie García, the public affairs division manager for the City of Rio Rancho, sent an official statement saying city officials are aware of the planned protest.
“We understand it is a privately organized event that will take place on private property,” the statement reads. “Our goal is to always ensure the safety and security of our community, the attendees and public/private property in the area. The Rio Rancho Police Department respects and supports the right to speak freely and to assemble peaceably. We encourage all participants, and those present, to be respectful of each other and to any businesses in the area.”
Local protests have not resulted in widespread property damage. On May 31, hours after a peaceful Black Lives Matter march ended, a small group of people vandalized and looted a few downtown businesses. The organizers of the march were not involved and quickly took to social media to condemn the individuals responsible.
Even so, concern about property damage has been used as an excuse by right-wing groups to monitor protests. The New Mexico Civil Guard — a militia founded by a man who spent most of his adult life as an avowed neo-Nazi, as New Mexico In Depth reported — was present at several protests under the facade of protecting life and property.
Organizers with BNMM have repeatedly emphasized that they are a peaceful group that doesn’t support property damage or violence.
“Black New Mexico Movement loves the city of Albuquerque and the state of New Mexico,” organizer Te Barry said. “We would never want to destroy what we call home. That’s why, still to this day, we have not burned or broken anything, nor have we been the violent group.”
Bella Davis is a senior reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @bladvs