Candles dripped wax onto pavement at the foot of the Capitol building on Sunday night as hundreds of people gathered in a vigil to remember George Floyd, the black man killed by police in Minneapolis on May 25. The death has sparked protests, some turning violent, across the country.
Multiple Santa Fe rallies remained peaceful over the weekend, despite reports that someone hit a Black Lives Matter protester with their car—and kept going—on Friday. Santa Fe Police Department made contact with the victim who suffered minor injuries, but have made no arrests.
Sunday's vigil saw dozens of people of all ages and races speaking at a microphone set up on the back side of the Roundhouse. The prompt for the evening: What does justice mean to you?
For Christin Tolentino, justice looks like bringing her daughter, Lillian, to the vigil to "raise a new generation that's very different from older generations."
"I think it's important to start teaching children as young as possible to stand up for justice," Tolentino says. "We were raised with very different belief systems which we're having to undo."
Two 20-year-olds spearheaded the organization of Sunday's event. Dominc Vinge and Alyssa Romero, who both live in Santa Fe, were driven to action by Floyd's death. Neither of them have ever organized an event.
"We decided to get together to voice our thoughts, get everybody's opinion on what they think and try to get laws changed," Vinge tells SFR.
Romero hopes change in New Mexico will look like deeper background checks on police officers before they are hired.
But Sunday was not the only rally in the city over the weekend. Paralleling cities across the country, people gathered on Friday afternoon to protest police violence.
Many of the people who took to the streets on Friday afternoon were teens and young adults. Some were families. Some stopped their chanting for a few minutes to tell SFR why they braved COVID-19 to show up, and what messages they would like to share with elected officials.
"This is my life, this is my son's life," Denise Lee says in tears while protestors chant "I can't breathe" in the background. "I just played a video for my kids and I am watching a man die. My 10-year-old just watched a man die… And I'm just tired of our elected officials not coming out and not standing up for us, not representing us, they want our vote but they don't take action. I need action, I need my kids to be protected. Their life matters and I need them to know that. I need them to know that they have a community of people to back them, and that will stand with them and protect them."
Lee says she brought her family to the protest because she wants her kids to know that there are people who support them and who will fight for them. But she also has a message for those in government.
"I think all of our elected officials need to be given training. They need anti-bias cultural sensitivity training, I think they need to get it from people who are looking to make a difference and to hold people accountable. People need to feel uncomfortable and be able to sit in the bias that they have," Lee says. "We are all raised under white supremacy, and to dismantle that takes a lot of work, and you have to be uncomfortable, and you have to hear the things you don't want to hear, and you have to hear that no matter how much of an ally you are, you still played a part in why our lives are like this today."
Carla Ferrer Hurtado attended with her friend Grisel Anahi Salas Gonzalez.
"The police think that they have so much authority, and I come from an immigrant family, and they are scared of police and scared to speak up because they think something like this is going to happen to them," Ferrer Hurtado tells SFR. "So I hope people will wake up and realize what is happening, that this is so real, if the elected officials could do their job and take responsibility to hold power accountable, I just think that it would change our whole generation,"
Salas Gonzalez says as a child of Mexican immigrants, she has also experienced racism and fear of law enforcement.
"I believe that it's unfortunate that at this time in history, things like this are still occurring. I think that now because we have cellphones we have proof to show that there are cops that are bad and people that are racist, because before people never really believed us or people never saw it as brutality," Gonzalez says. "Today I want to support black people who experience violence and I want them to know that we're with them and I know they are with us in our fight as well."
There was a strong police presence at Friday's protest, but there were no altercations between police and protestors.
Derrick Gomez, who attended the protest with his sister and her two children, told SFR, "there is too much injustice in the country right now, and in the world but mostly in the country. You know it's big for minorities, not just black but Hispanics and Natives, even whites to be here supporting. Santa Fe is not the biggest city and new Mexico is not the biggest state, but the black community is out here and we are a force to be reckoned with and we have a voice."
To elected officials, he said, "you know what's right and you know what's wrong… and if you look the other way, you are the problem. Do your job."
After marching to the Plaza and back, protestors took over Paseo de Peralta. Police officers initially blared sirens to warn protestors to vacate the street, but then began to block traffic instead.
"When I was 13 years old I lost my best friend and mentor. He was actually shot and killed by the police. And the fact that I put in so much work since the age of 13 to change something, and nothing is changing?" Malaya Peixinho asked with rage after leading protesters in a moment of silence to honor those who have been lost to police violence.
"We're out here and we are screaming until we can't scream anymore. We are here kneeling in the streets because we are fed up," she tells SFR. "We're fed up with it and nothing is changing and the police officers who are murdering people aren't getting prosecuted. We need to change the system, because it's a broken system."