Tensions ran high in Española, New Mexico, on Thursday as a peaceful protest against the planned redisplay of a statue of the controversial Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate took a violent turn.
A protester was wounded in a shooting in front of the county’s offices, where the statue was initially intended to be displayed before the county reversed its decision. In this article, we delve into the incident and its surrounding circumstances.
The incident unfolded a little before 12:30 p.m. local time amid a crowd of protesters gathered in front of the county’s offices.
Rio Arriba County Sheriff Billy Merrifield revealed that the shooting resulted from an altercation between demonstrators.
A sheriff’s office spokesperson later confirmed that a male protester was shot in the upper torso and subsequently transported to a local hospital, though his condition remained unknown at the time of the report.
Authorities swiftly arrested the suspected gunman, identified as 23-year-old Ryan Martinez. The exact sequence of events leading up to the shooting remains unclear.
However, it was reported that Martinez had been instructed by police to leave the protest area earlier due to his confrontation with demonstrators and his use of obscene language.
A chilling cell phone video captured the suspect’s return to the protest site, where he engaged with several demonstrators.
After breaking free from their attempts to restrain him, Martinez produced a handgun and fired a single shot into the group of people before fleeing the scene on foot.
Within minutes of the shooting, deputies arrived at the scene, and an investigation was launched.
New Mexico State Police took the lead in investigating the incident, though they had not provided any immediate comment.
Divisive Oñate Statue Sparks Protests in New Mexico
The statue at the heart of this protest depicts Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate, a historical figure known for colonizing New Mexico on behalf of Spain during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Oñate’s governorship was marred by brutal actions against indigenous peoples and settlers, leading to ongoing criticism and controversy surrounding his statues.
In 2020, a similar incident occurred in Albuquerque when a protester was shot while demonstrators attempted to tear down a different Oñate statue.
Such incidents underscore the deep divisions and emotions that these historical monuments continue to evoke.
Sheriff Merrifield had previously expressed his concerns about relocating and redisplaying the Oñate statue.
He submitted a letter to the county commissioners, outlining his reservations and emphasizing potential safety issues.
After the sheriff’s letter, Two of the three commissioners agreed to cancel the rededication ceremony. The decision was made late Wednesday night, just hours before the event.
The shooting during the protest in Española serves as a stark reminder of the polarizing nature of historical monuments and the complex historical legacies they represent.
As authorities investigate the incident and the wounded protester’s condition, the debate over statues like that of Juan de Oñate continues to spark discussions about the appropriate ways to remember and address controversial figures from history.
Source: CBS News