On Saturday, protesters gathered at the La Jornada statues in Albuquerque to speak out against the Nov. 19 acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse. The protest, organized by the Albuquerque Party of Socialism and Liberation and the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice, highlighted the racist precedent set by the acquittal of a man who fatally shot two protesters and injured another.

In August 2020, the individuals that Rittenhouse killed and injured were involved in a protest against the racial injustice in the case of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot seven times and partially paralyzed by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In the trial, Rittenhouse claimed that he acted in self-defense after being pursued by protesters who were attempting to disarm him, and was acquitted of all charges.



“If I would have let Mr. Rosenbaum take my firearm from me, he would have used it and killed me with it and probably killed more people,” Rittenhouse said in the trial.

The site for the Albuquerque protest on Saturday was chosen specifically with a violent situation from two summers ago in mind, when vigilante Steven Baca shot and injured one individual in June 2020 at a protest that called for the removal of the conquistador Juan de Oñate statue among the La Jornada statues.

Community organizer and activist Lisa Christopherson was at that protest and spoke to the crowd on Saturday about the injustices of how protesters are treated by police, illustrating how she had been shot at by riot police with rubber bullets, gas cannisters and a flash bang, which left her with loss of hearing.

Christopherson said New Mexicans should be paying special attention to the Rittenhouse acquittal because the same injustice against protesters happening in Wisconsin exists in Albuquerque too. 

“We have protesters who are targeted by police and militia here. We have a legal system that is sort of weighted against protesters, activists (and) victims and more towards those who have privilege … So I think as Burqueños, we need to decide what kind of community we want to live in,” Christopherson said.

During the protest, University of New Mexico student and Students for Socialism organizer Patrick Gallegos reminded the crowd of the continued legacy that the conquistadors have in New Mexico.

“These (statues) are conquistadors, who are the original oppressors of this land. And as (a result), Black, brown and Indigenous peoples in New Mexico have continued to suffer under the suppression by state police,” Gallegos said.

Others, including UNM student and Students for Socialism organizer Sadie Hollrah, voiced concern over the lack of fairness in Rittenhouse’s trial. Only one of the jurors in the case was a person of color, and Hollrah said since the beginning of the case, Judge Bruce Schroeder showed bias toward Rittenhouse by not allowing the prosecutors to refer to the individuals Rittenhouse killed as “victims” while also allowing the defense to use terms like “rioters” and “looters.”

There were also discussions on the inherent white privilege of Rittenhouse being acquitted, and Party for Socialism and Liberation organizer Ben Imbus compared it to the numerous people of color who have been murdered by police officers without trials.

“Often, these Black and brown youth, they don't even get the luxury of sitting in front of a judge or a jury. Oftentimes, police officers go find them, don't ask them any questions and do the whole trial right there with their gun,” Imbus said.

A concern for many was how this ruling seems to give vigilantes similar to Rittenhouse  an established legal precedent to harm protesters. Christopherson called for everyone to continue to put pressure on the state government to take action to prevent the normalization of violence against protesters.

“(The police) put their aggression towards the protesters, not the militia … I'm angry. I can't even trust my own government that I pay taxes to,” Christopherson said.

Madeline Pukite is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @madelinepukite