On Sunday, protesters gathered at Civic Plaza in Downtown Albuquerque with plans to counter a “White Lives Matter” protest scheduled to take place at the Albuquerque Convention Center.
Fight For Our Lives (FFOL), a self-described non-violent student activist organization, arranged the event which lasted about two hours and was attended by close to 120 people. No one directly affiliated with the Proud Boys attended the protest, despite a Facebook messenger screenshot that said members of the organization would arrive at 11 a.m.
The Proud Boys are a designated hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center and described as a white nationalist group with “anti-Muslim and misogynistic” ideology.
Zoey Craft, a FFOL cofounder, said the turnout for the counterprotest demonstrated the community’s dedication to anti-racism.
“It’s really great to see this show of unity,” Zoey Craft, FFOL cofounder, said. “It’s great to see everyone coming together against this planned action that we know is going to further embolden white supremacists in the future.”
FFOL wasn’t the only organization present. ABQ Street Action Coalition also hosted a dance party to protest the Proud Boys in another area of Civic Plaza. The gathering mainly consisted of a group of around 30 individuals, most of which were older than the FFOL crowd.
Besides the ABQ Street Action Coalition, the Black New Mexico Movement and the Brown Berets were also in attendance.
The Brown Berets are a national organization with different chapters across the country, and were also listed as co-hosts for the original Facebook event posted by FFOL.
A member of the Brown Berets, who asked to be referred to as “X,” said it’s important for Chicanos to be at the protest to stand in solidarity and protect other communities from racist violence.
“White supremacy perpetuates violence in every direction but its own,” X said. “(The Brown Berets are) not so blind to think we’re the only people being persecuted and have people suffering.”
Around the time that the Proud Boys were scheduled to appear, a man outfitted in tactical gear arrived with an AR-15 style rifle and a sign that read, “#Save Our Children.” The man was accompanied by a woman and two small children.
“#SavetheChildren” is a popular hashtag promoted by QAnon, an online conspiracy group. The hashtag refers to a theory that former President Donald Trump was “secretly fighting a supposed network of celebrities and government officials who are running a child trafficking ring,” according to AP News.
The armed man, who wanted to remain anonymous, denied any affiliation with the Proud Boys and said, “I’m very passionate about wanting to help people and spread the message that guns can be used to save people.”
The arrival of the armed man caused a small number of protesters to cross the street from Civic Plaza to the Convention Center. The rest of the demonstrators followed, moving from the Al Hurricane Pavilion and other parts of Civic Plaza to the curb along Third Street directly across from the Convention Center.
After some demonstrators began circling the man, waving signs in his face and yelling, a group of Albuquerque riot police made their way towards the protest. The riot police were quickly surrounded by the demonstrators as they led the family into the Convention Center.
According to a tweet from the Albuquerque Police Department, the man was detained and will be cited. It's unclear at this time what the man was cited for. At the time of publication APD could not be reached for comment.
Soon after, as demonstrators began to make their way back to Civic Plaza, a small fight broke out between a few protesters and a man who appeared to be recording the protest. According to witnesses, the man refused to identify himself or why he was recording.
White Lives Matter rallies took place across the nation on April 11, according to NBC, but turnout was dismal. These protests were arranged via Telegram, a widely used networking app that became popular among white supremacists, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League.
Even without the Proud Boys, the event’s organizers still wanted to emphasize the importance of combating white supremacy. A FFOL member, who requested to be referred to as "Johnny," described the importance of being anti-racist outside of protests and demonstrations.
“When you actively live in a racist society, it’s not just enough to be against racism,” Johnny said. “You have to be actively anti-racist every single day.”
John Scott is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JScott050901