The same spirit that captured the world's attention at Standing Rock—a reinvigorated defiance by Native people to excuse injustices both past and present—rocked the Plaza area today, with tensions boiling before Santa Fe Police directed protesters to a designated "free speech zone," where the crowd gradually thinned over the span of a few hours.
Earlier in the morning, congregants at Rosario Chapel prayed to La Conquistadora, the patron saint worshipped by Catholics in this area during Fiestas week. They asked the war deity for peace and unity in the community.
The irony struck those protesting the Entrada, and city officials were ready. They moved the event two hours earlier in the day, to noon, in an attempt to cool what was always going to be a heated scene.
While the move was intended to minimize disruptions of the event, it appeared to also limit the number of supportive people in attendance, and the protestations of a handful were magnified as the man playing Don Diego de Vargas and his procession took the stage for the awkward, divisive performance.
Actors onstage looked tense and defensive as people chanted for abolishing the Entrada. Insults were exchanged among audience members: A Hispanic man and a supporter of the Entrada, who declined to give his name, accused two white women chanting against the pageant of profiting off of the African slave trade. Several Native people chanted, "No pride in genocide."
"They're not looking at everything that happened," says Ana Barger, who claims, falsely, that all of the protesters were not from the Santa Fe area. "It's about the entrance of the conquistadores and how they helped bring safety to the city. They brought God, and that's what it's about, unity that way."
Delvin, a Native man from Santa Fe, sided with the protesters.
"The Entrada is racist," Delvin tells SFR. "A lot of lies are being told. The truth is a lot people were massacred, they think this celebration is a reconquest. We don't want it anymore."
Toward the end of the performance, raw emotion was palpable on both sides. Middle fingers and curse words were exchanged. The de Vargas procession chanted "Que Viva La Fiesta!" from the stage as protesters attempted to drown them out with their own chants. Two younger actors, teenage boys, were visibly enraged as they screamed in support of the Entrada and Fiestas before exiting the stage.
That's when police began trying to direct people to a "free speech zone," prompting many protesters to balk. Police atop the Santa Fe Dry Goods building and the Palace of the Governors peered down with binoculars and photographed people. One officer, Sgt McCord, pushed people toward the edge of the palace, at which point people sat down and formed a human chain, periodically moving back at the behest of police. Officers made several arrests (editor's note: ending of story has been appended to include the names of eight arrestees).
Shortly after, more than 100 protesters who had arrived from Albuquerque joined with those already in the Plaza. Blocked from entering by police barricades, the group walked up Washington Avenue, hoisting signs honoring Po'Pay and the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, and decrying the ongoing slow genocide of Native people. A few people carried life-size marionettes, including one of a conquistador—perhaps Don Diego de Vargas—with a black heart.
At E Marcy Street and Lincoln Avenue, the atmosphere became heated. Jennifer Marley, a Native woman from San Ildefonso and an organizer of the day's action against Entrada, was suddenly yanked into a throng of police. The immediate reasons for her detainment are not clear, though she appeared to make physical contact with an officer in a crowded environment about five minutes prior. County records at press time show she was charged with criminal trespass (editor's note: Marley was later charged with an additional count of trespass as well as two counts of assault on an officer, a fourth degree felony). Protesters unsuccessfully attempted to pull Marley back into the crowd, growing incensed as police took her away.
The police were noticeably on edge, as the crowd shouted anti-police and anti-racist slogans. At one point, Sgt McCord told a reporter to move back from the scene or risk arrest. Another officer insisted that a photographer move onto the other side of a police line and only relented when she pulled her press pass out of her bag.
Protesters continued to bang drums and march, demanding police give way so they could move back to the Plaza. Officers relented and allowed protesters back up Washington Avenue to the designated free speech zone. At publication time, tourists passing by could be heard expressing confusion at the dedicated core of protesters who remained, and Native protesters were overheard telling somebody to go back to Europe.
Editor's note: SFR has confirmed the names of eight arrestees, including Carmen Stone, Nicole Ullerich, Sierra Logan, Julian Rodriguez, Jennifer Haley, Trenton Ward, Chad Brown Eagle and Jennifer Marley. Most have been charged with either criminal trespass or disorderly conduct.