In episode 73, we talk to and about militia groups in New Mexico that have floated around the edges of demonstrations against racist police violence and white supremacy. Robert Whitmon of the American Patriots of New Mexico, one such group, says they've been working with police for years. Regardless of their claims of support for protesters, demonstrators say they raise tension and anxiety, and they're already concerned about state-sanctioned violence and the possibility of retribution for speaking out.

We hear from Andres ValdezSelinda Guererro and Amelia Brown. They are among the protesters and organizers of last week's demonstrations who shared their impressions of the men carrying rifles that showed up to watch protests.

Bryce Provance, a chaplain formerly associated with the New Mexico Civil Guard, spoke to KUNM's Hannah Colton in an interview after the group's patrolling of a June 1 demonstration startled protesters. He said the militia does not have a racial bias. He resigned his position with the group within an hour after the interview was conducted. [Here is Colton's original story.]

Arthur Bell, an Albuquerque Black Lives Matter organizer, tells us about the New Mexico Civil Guard's attendance at demonstrations over the last couple weeks.

Gilbert Gallegos, spokesperson for the Albuquerque Police Department, says APD doesn't condone officers working with the militia groups at protests.

Melanie Yazzie from The Red Nation talks about harassment from the New Mexico Civil Guard.

Armed militias are visible in New Mexico beyond Albuquerque. Jesus Chavira was born and raised in Gallup. He describes that city's Black Lives Matter protest last week that he helped organize. The True Patriot Foundation showed up armed after calling out members to defend businesses and citizens from looters and violence.

Robert Whitmon of American Patriots of New Mexico says he feels he has an American duty to protect businesses and citizens from violent protesters. Many in his group are ex-military or ex-police, Whitmon says.

And for more on rifles: Joe Rull, data and sports editor for UNM's Daily Lobo, shares what he knows about New Mexico State Police stationing snipers atop university buildings during BLM protests.

And a news update: 

Days after New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced her new Council for Racial Justice, the head of the state's Office of African American Affairs is stepping down. The AP reports executive director William Scott Carreathers didn't give a reason for his resignation in his letter to the governor.

State Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, a member of the new council, told the Santa Fe New Mexican she believes Carreathers' resignation was a result of miscommunication and that somehow he was not informed about the council.

Today New Mexico officials announced 147 new confirmed cases. That brings the total to 9,250, with about 40% of those listed as recovered. Six more people were reported to have died from the virus. The statewide death toll now stands at 410.

New Mexico's special legislative session begins next week, and lawmakers have decided it won't be open to the public. Reporters can be there with some restrictions. Lawmakers say legislative deliberations will be viewable through livestreams. But there have been problems with this in the past, technologically and otherwise. A session with no public allowed will be a transparency test for the Legislature, and Your New Mexico Government will be watching that closely.

We're keeping a complete list of the resources and volunteer opportunities that we find for each episode at bit.ly/YNMGhub. And here's what we got from today.

  • style="font-weight: 400;">To check out the story from Joe Rull head to Dailylobo.com.

How are things going for you? Did you attend a protest or were you affected differently? We want to know. Share your demonstration stories by calling: (505) 218-7084 and leaving us a message. We could roll them into a future episode.

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Your New Mexico Government is a collaboration between KUNM, New Mexico PBS, and the Santa Fe Reporter. Funding for our coverage is provided, in part, by the Thornburg Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the New Mexico Local News Fund.