EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this article reported that many of the individuals present at the protest were opposed to the protest's message as well as a summary paragraph addressing the ANSWER Coalition's motivations to organize the rally. These have since been updated to reflect the proper, smaller size of the counter-protester attendance and to include a more accurate description of the ANSWER Coalition's motivations.
Protesters’ viewpoints clashed at the corner of San Mateo and Gibson boulevards on Saturday, March 18 during an anti-war rally that called for an immediate end to the Russian invasion in Ukraine.
The event was attended by over 100 people with a smaller group of counter-protesters also in attendance. This was not surprising to Jeanne Pahls, co-founder of Stop the War Machine and one of the rally’s organizers.
“I was anticipating it. I’m not surprised to see that some people are here to say the opposite of what we’re saying,” Pahls said. “This is the U.S. People have different opinions. People have a right to stand up for what they believe in.”
The intent of the protest was to call attention to the needs of Americans as opposed to continued funding for militarization both nationally and internationally, according to Joel Gallegos, a member of ANSWER Coalition.
“We’re not the police of the world; we’re not the world police. We have problems here at home that we need to take care of,” Gallegos said.
Members of the Ukrainian Americans of New Mexico who attended the rally believe the U.S. should continue to help Ukraine for the preservation of democracy, according to Larysa Castillo, vice president of the organization.
“If we don’t support Ukraine right now and don’t stop this war on the border where it started, then the whole independent, democratic world is in jeopardy,” Castillo said.
Since Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, the New York Times estimates hundreds of thousands of people have died, millions have fled Ukraine and the damage to the nation’s infrastructure and society has been catastrophic.
"ANSWER is demanding to end the war with negotiations, not weapons. Almost half of the 100 billion spent on U.S.-led war in Ukraine has been explicitly for weapons — simultaneously lining the pockets of war profiteers like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin," Gallegos wrote to the Daily Lobo following the protest.
For New Mexicans who want to see a tangible change for those impacted by the war, Pahls believes the best thing they can do is get out and get involved.
“Get connected … Pick one thing. Pick one thing you want to do,” Pahls said. “If you want to help fold clothes for refugees or if you want to feed the homeless. If you want to work on lobbying or contacting senators. One thing will take you into all the rest of it. So all you have to do is take a baby step.”
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Members of Ukrainian Americans of New Mexico asked for help from the U.S.
“We need support. We can’t do it forever. We just need honest help,” Castillo said. “There’s no way to stop when they start going and going. Their appetite will grow more. It won’t stop.”
Isabella Frasco is a freelance reporter at The Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @bellafrasco