COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 389 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 33,362. Bernalillo County continues to drive the state's new cases with 130 new cases yesterday, followed by Doña Ana County with 83. Eddy County had the third highest number of cases: 21. Santa Fe County had 19 new cases. The numbers were a slight improvement over a record-breaking 488 new cases on Friday, followed by 755 new cases combined over the weekend.
The state also announced four additional deaths from Bernalillo, Doña Ana, Eddy and Lincoln counties; there have now been 915 fatalities. As of yesterday, 127 people were hospitalized with COVID-19—seven more than yesterday.
Activists bring down obelisk
If ever there was a day for the Plaza obelisk to come down, Indigenous Peoples Day was it, as Native American activists have driven the call for its removal. And, indeed, down it came yesterday afternoon. Activists began chaining themselves to the monument Saturday afternoon, but were dispersed by police Sunday night. They returned on Monday and, by 1 pm, a notably police-free Plaza was packed with people. Within the hour, protesters pulled down the obelisk's first massive section using tow rope and chains. Shortly before 2 pm, a second section of the monument was torn down to further cheers, while several Native activists climbed the base to symbolically reclaim the Plaza. Erected in 1868, the obelisk's original inscription read, "to the heroes who have fallen in the various battles with savage Indians in the territory of New Mexico." Its removal has been called for numerous times over the decades, but tensions intensified this year as the obelisk became a local flashpoint in the national discourse about monuments and historical racism. According to a city news release, Santa Fe police made two arrests: Dylan Wrobel, age 27, for battery on a peace officer and resisting an officer; and Sean Sunderland, 24, for resisting an officer and criminal trespass. SFPD is requesting information "related to the individuals that climbed onto the obelisk, tied ropes, or pulled it down."
Mayor calls emergency meeting
Following the afternoon's protest and obelisk dismantling, Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber convened an emergency virtual City Council meeting last night at which he denounced the activists' actions: "It's both sad, tragic, and very disappointing that people have taken the law into their own hands and taken a giant step backwards in bringing more peace to our community," Webber said, describing the event as a "violent demonstration," a message he reiterated in a Facebook video message yesterday, saying community dialogue should have taken place and needs to take place for future discussions of local monuments. "We need to address the past; we don't need to tear down the past," he said.
Webber had called for the obelisk's removal last June—but no action had been taken and unanswered questions remained about governmental jurisdiction for the monument's removal. A city news release issued yesterday says "there are a variety of legal issues under review in the City Attorney's office" regarding the obelisk: "Everyone should acknowledge that these situations are complex and the issues we're engaged with are complicated," it reads. City Council members last night expressed both dismay at the destruction of the obelisk and frustration the city had not acted more decisively on Webber's commitment to create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to confront Santa Fe's sometimes painful history. "It's really disheartening, this is not who we are. I have to believe that some of what happened today is the result of the times we are living in…There is no shortage of things that are causing us angst," Councilor Carol Romero-Wirth said.
The National Drought Mitigation Center released a new map last week that shows Santa Fe has entered "exceptional drought" conditions, the most severe category. "This is one of the worst years that we've had in a long time, because of how hot and dry the spring was and then how weak the monsoon was," John Fleck, director of the University of New Mexico's Water Resources Program, tells the Albuquerque Journal. Española and Los Alamos are facing similar conditions. Rainfall, along with impacts on plant life and crops, help determine if an area has hit exceptional drought conditions. According to State Climatologist Dave DuBois, the city of Santa Fe normally receives approximately 13 inches of rain from January to October but, in the last year, has only received 5 inches. Forecasters also predict a dry winter ahead.
Episode 12 of No More Normal, "What's at Stake?" attempts to fend off the wild pandemic election news cycle in which we've been living—an experience that can feel like a deluge of disorganized tragedies and failures—and focus on what's hanging in the balance these next couple of weeks as we cast our ballots. Topics include voting rights, climate change and health care. No More Normal is a collaboration between SFR, KUNM and New Mexico PBS.
US Sen. Tom Udall and US Rep. Deb Haaland, D-NM, will join members of New Mexico's legal community today at noon at an event honoring the life and legacy of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The participants will host a discussion to "pay tribute to Justice Ginsburg's trailblazing legacy of advancing women's rights and fighting for fairness for all," according to a news release. Other speakers will include: New Mexico lawyer Pamelya Herndon, whose career has focused on women's legal issues and social justice issues; Roberta Cooper Ramo, the first woman president of the United States Bar Association and a long-time friend of Justice Ginsburg; and University of New Mexico Law student Victoria LeBlanc Vialpando. The event will stream live on Facebook on Haaland's and Udall's pages.
Memories of Dick McCord
SFR's co-founder Richard McCord died last week, on Oct. 7, at the age of 79. He had been receiving care at the Santa Fe Care Center after going through a period of declining health. A journalist, editor and author, McCord set the standard for journalistic excellence in Santa Fe for many decades after he and his former wife Laurie Knowles founded the Reporter in 1974. "In terms of starting the Reporter, he was a visionary. He had very high standards," says Knowles. Under McCord's watch as editor, SFR exposed abuse and neglect at the New Mexico State Hospital in Las Vegas and shone a light on the 1980s New Mexico State Penitentiary prison riots, among many other topics. After selling the paper in 1988, McCord went on to write several books, including The Chain Gang: One Newspaper Versus the Gannett Empire, which initially appeared as a story in the Reporter, prompted by Robert McKinney's (later-reversed) sale of the Santa Fe New Mexican to Gannett.