Hundreds of people gathered at the Roundhouse on Wednesday evening marching in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Last weekend saw multiple marches and vigils in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, spurred by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Floyd's death has reignited disagreements over the role of police in nonwhite communities and the disproportionate impact the criminal justice system has on black and brown people across the country. Santa Fe is now no exception.
The protest began and ended peacefully at the Capitol with participants shouting "Black lives matter!" and "Defund the police!" as they marched around the Plaza and back. People marched and biked in the street, holding their signs or fists above their heads.
Similar to the vigil for George Floyd on Sunday, an inexperienced 20-something helped organize this march. Lynne Diaz, 22, tells SFR what she sees as Santa Fe's place in the BLM movement.
"I have things written on my car and someone, while I was driving towards downtown, someone told me while I was stuck in traffic that there were not enough black people in Santa Fe for us to be protesting," Diaz says. "That is a problem… And that is even more of a reason to protest for people of any color, of any place. It is our job to protect each other."
Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber also showed up at the Plaza. He watched and waved as protestors walked by. When asked whether he would consider directing some Santa Fe Police Department funds to training for officers on better conduct with people and other equality measures, he tells SFR there has been training in the department from 2014 until today "covering a significantly large number of subjects".
"When it comes to matters of training and sensitivity we can always do better," Webber says. "We need to do better and continue the training. I sent an email to the chief today identifying another opportunity to improve the training we offer our police… just in overall matters of how you engage people in stressful situations."
A petition sponsored on The Action Network by "Santa Fe While Black" is now making the rounds addressing just that, asking the mayor and City Council to reduce the police department's budget by $3 million dollars in FY 2020-2021 and create a city department of equity and racial justice, among other asks.
But Webber does not see the issue of police violence as something that can be solved by budget changes. Instead, he points to issues such as public education and poverty.
"It's easy to say this is just about the police," Webber says. "It's not. It extends far beyond policing. It extends to public education. How are we educating kids who are living in parts of New Mexico, parts of Santa Fe where the opportunities are less because of your home address?"
Webber went on to say that the issue of police brutality is beyond what the police budget can address.
"A lot of what's going on with the country right now that's institutionalized has to do with class as much as race, with poverty as much as skin color and so the police will always be a flash point because they carry weapons and they're in a position to exert power and they deserve to be scrutinized," Webber says. "But so do our other institutions."
Speaking of exerting power. As the protest winded down, about 10 heavily armed men, some carrying assault-style rifles, gathered on the edges of the Plaza. All declined to give their names and most would not speak with SFR.
State and local police gathered on the opposite side of the Plaza. According to Ray Wilson, spokesman for the New Mexico State Police, state police officers will "be assisting" SFPD as well as additional officers from Las Vegas and Española. Wilson did not know the exact number of officers.
One of the armed men, who declined to give his name, tells SFR he is there with his rifle to protect downtown and "keep the peace."
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story attributed the petition author in an unclear way. We've changed it to quote the author(s) as identified on The Action Network.