Racist far-right vigilante shoots peaceful activist protesting Spanish conquistador statue in New Mexico

On Sept. 28 in Española, New Mexico, a far-right Trump supporter shot an unarmed activist during a peaceful demonstration against the reinstallation of a statue depicting brutal Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate. 

The shooter, identified as 23-year-old Ryan Martinez, now faces charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and attempted first-degree murder. Martinez is known for frequently wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat in photos, videos and on social media. Martinez openly supports Trump and the unfounded claims about the 2020 election’s legitimacy.

The victim, 25-year-old Jacob Johns, is described as an activist, artist, musician and father of Hopi and Akimel O’odham descent. A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to support his recovery, as Johns remains hospitalized in Albuquerque, south of Española.

Fueling the menace of far-right racist violence 

After harassing protesters, shooter Ryan Martinez was asked to leave, but Undersheriff Monica Salazar allowed him to stay citing “civil liberties” 𑁋 once again cops aided a racist violent shooter. How did this happen?

In the United States, there exists a deeply rooted tradition where courts, racist killer cops and fascists work hand in hand to uphold white supremacy. 

The Trump-backed fascist mob’s insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, has further incited right-wing political violence that has spread to New Mexico. In January this year, former Republican House of Representatives candidate Solomon Peña, a Trump supporter, launched a multi-month shooting spree targeting political opponents’ homes, including two Bernalillo County commissioners and two New Mexico state legislators.

Now this shooting in Espanola marks the second time in three years that a right-wing extremist has shot at protesters opposing an Oñate statue. In the summer of 2020, during nationwide protests against police violence following George Floyd’s murder, Steven Ray Baca, the son of a former Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputy and armed member of the far-right “New Mexico Civil Guard,” confronted anti-police violence protesters demanding the removal of the Oñate statue in Albuquerque’s Old Town neighborhood. 

Baca was offered a plea deal that dismissed the initial charge of aggravated battery causing great bodily harm. Instead, he was only charged with battery for harming a third protester, who was not shot, and for unlawfully carrying a deadly weapon. Baca’s light sentencing isn’t anything new for racist vigilante killers.

On Nov. 19, Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal for the killing of two people during a protest starkly exposed the deeply ingrained white supremacy within the U.S. legal system and sanctioned that racist vigilantes could kill and enact violence with impunity.

Racist monuments glorify colonialism and perpetuates white supremacist violence

The Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate — a murderer, enslaver and rapist — orchestrated the genocidal massacre of 800 Acoma Pueblo people and the mutilation of 24 Acoma men. He enslaved children, young men and women at Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo for nearly two decades.

His cruelty was so extreme that even the Spanish Crown convicted and exiled him for his crimes against Indigenous people and the abuse and killing of his own soldiers. 

The Oñate statue in Espanola is one of many racist monuments in the Southwest. The United State’s violent colonial and apartheid history is preserved in stone with memorials and monuments, portraying conquerors, missionaries and Confederate generals.

Following the summer 2020 rebellion against police brutality, Confederate monuments and dozens of statues memorializing anti-Indigenous genocidal conquistadors were also toppled, from Richmond to Santa Fe. Colonial monuments in the Southwest perpetuate violence by emboldening white supremacists and racist vigilantes who view these statues as legitimizing their dangerous far-right ideology.

Resistance has always existed 

The Rittenhouse acquittal in 2021 handed racist vigilantes a license to kill. With that disgraceful acquittal, the U.S. legal system sanctioned that killings of anti-racist protesters would be with impunity.

The movement against racist violence will not be terrorized or coerced into passivity. Now is not the time to cower. It’s a time to unite, stand strong and continue the fight back. Resistance to white supremacist terror and racist statues has always existed.

In 1680, a successful uprising known as the Pueblo Revolt drove away 2,000 Spanish colonists for 12 years. The fight must continue for a whole new system that actively works to eradicate white supremacy, that will not tolerate racist violent vigilante terror nor injustice!

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