As Black Lives Matter protests have rocked the nation and the world, sparking in some places rioting and violence, a group in Edgewood today led by teenagers held a peaceful protest.
The demonstration started at noon at the corner of Historic Route 66 and N.M. 344, and across the highway in front of Smith’s and Walgreens, another group gathered, some armed, to protect the town from what they feared would be rioters from Albuquerque.
While there were a few protestors from Albuquerque, most of them had ties with the high school girl who organized it: Evelin Armendariz, a 17-year old student at Moriarty High School.
At its peak, there were several dozen people supporting the Black Lives Matter protest, the majority of them teenagers. There were also several families with children attending.
Across the way, those who showed up to “make sure it stays peaceful” said they fully supported the right of the protestors to gather and make their voices heard. Asked if they considered themselves counter-protestors, they answered no.
Shorty Casados of a militia group called American Patriot 3% New Mexico said he had words with some locals “four different times to stop them from starting a fight,” adding, “My sole mission was to maintain a peaceful protest.”
Two police officers, stationed just up the hill from where the protest was happening, said they supported the rights of both groups to assemble, and said they had seen no problems.
After about two hours, the protest started to thin, and by 3 p.m. it had dispersed.
Protests have been held in cities around the nation and the world, starting in Minneapolis, where the death of George Floyd sparked widespread outrage. Protests spread to cities around the world, including London, Sydney, Paris, Berlin, Zimbabwe, New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
Some protests started out peaceful and later erupted into violence, vandalism and looting. Downtown Albuquerque was the target of vandals, who broke windows and started dozens of fires.
Dozens of firearms were looted from a gun store, according to reporting in the Albuquerque Journal.
In Edgewood, everything remained calm.
Militia members said they were there to keep the peace and make sure there was no looting.
Protestors chanted, “I can’t breathe” and “Say his name” and took a knee for nine minutes in silent protest of Floyd’s death.
Every now and then, “All lives matter” could be heard from across the street.
“I am here because of police brutality and its affect on people. I have lost friends. I am a Marine vet, I fought for the right for people to live without fear in this country,” said Forest Baker. “This is not the America I fought for. The police have too much power. It’s time to take the power back. They need to be held accountable. The justice system doesn’t work for everyone. The conviction rate of police is really low. A good cop who shields a bad cop is a bad cop.”
Baker served in the Marine Corps from 2001 to 2006 and is from Tijeras.
“We are here because all lives matter but black lives are being targeted,” said one protestor who asked to remain anonymous.
“We are here because people are being denied basic civil rights and it’s unacceptable,” said Edgewood resident Dave Meltzer.
“It’s about more than justice, it’s about respect. I want to see an America where a black trans woman is sought out for her knowledge and wisdom and is respected,” said Edgewood resident Bud Sisti.
“It’s 2020, and it’s shameful people still fear for their lives because of skin color,” said a 15-year-old girl, who was also a person of color.
“We are pretty light-skinned so we have a lot of privilege but we have friends who don’t. We are here to protest police brutality in general because its a really big problem in this country,” said Valerya Baker, adding, “I had been wanting to get involved in the protests in Albuquerque but it didn’t seem safe with children. I thought this was reasonably safe for children to be at the protest.
“Enough is enough. We shouldn’t have to ask to not be murdered,” said Eilean McFadden. Age 16, McFadden attends Albuquerque High.
“We want things to change. Out here its more rural, so they don’t have to pay attention in cities. Our here it’s harder for them to not pay attention.” said teenage resident of Tijeras.
“We are here to show support to these kids and to let people know that police brutality is hopefully over,” said a black woman from the East Mountains. “I live up here and I want to support Black Lives Matter in the East Mountains and the kids that had the courage to speak up.”
“I was born and raised in the East Mountains. For 19 years this was my community. I wanted to support Black Lives Matter and my community,” said Ethan Torres, a resident of Albuquerque.
“If we communicate better we can work through all of this. We listen to respond instead of listening for understanding what they say. It’s okay to ask what they mean. Understanding creates growth.” said Jude Gabaldon from Moriarty.
Gabaldon spent most of his time with militia members during the demonstration, but also crossed the road to talk with protestors.
Gabaldon said his children are half black, but said he doesn’t believe the system is rigged against black people.
“I want to give my kids a chance to be a part of history by using our voice and our privilege to help others. I am also a Girl Scout Troop leader and our motto is ‘Make the world a better place.’” Baker said. From Tijeras, all four of her children were at the protest ranging in age from 6 to 11.