Santa Fe brutalizes Native activists
website details a police attack on a protest by Native and other activists in Santa Fe against an ugly local celebration known as the Entrada.
Note: Since this article was published Jennifer Marley has been released. However, people still need legal support. Please consider donating to help those arrested.
ON FRIDAY, September 8, approximately 200 people rallied in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico, to demand that the city of Santa Fe abolish the racist re-enactment of reconquest known as the Entrada ("the entry") and to bring attention to illegal fracking in Chaco Canyon, a site that is sacred to Diné and Pueblo people. The rally was led by The Red Nation (TRN), the University of New Mexico (UNM) KIVA Club, In the Spirit of Po'Pay, and New Mexico Showing Up for Racial Justice (NM-SURJ), as well as various other Native and non-Native groups.
The city ignored a statement issued by the #AbolishTheEntrada coalition prior to the protest encouraging officials to stand with us in denouncing racism and the celebration of genocide and conquest. They instead chose to double down on their defense of racism and violent colonial revisionist history by brutalizing Indigenous people and violating their First Amendment rights. On Friday, in Santa Fe, history didn't repeat itself--it stayed the same.
Indigenous people undergo ongoing brutalization by armed men of the state who uphold white supremacy and settler colonialism on stolen Pueblo land. Today, conquistadors and cavalrymen simply wear different uniforms. But the tactics remain the same.
PROTESTERS FACED obstacles before the protest, which was scheduled to start at 1 p.m. Around 11 a.m., social media posts began to circulate alerting protesters to the decision by Los Caballeros de Vargas to start the reenactment two hours earlier than the scheduled time of 2 p.m. Although Manuel Garcia, the president of Los Caballeros, claims the time change was made several days prior, the announcement was not issued until late Friday morning. Although clearly a tactic to silence public dissent, the 11th-hour decision neither deterred nor demoralized protesters.
From mid-morning onward, social media posts and photos showed extensive police presence, what the Santa Fe New Mexican called a "small army of police officers". With state, city and county forces on the ground, it is clear that the city intended to wield the power of the state to further censor #AbolishTheEntrada protests.
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But protesters would not be silenced. At noon, five Indigenous women were the first to arrive. Slowly, hundreds joined them filling the streets. Entire families came out with their children. Native students from nearby colleges such as the Institute of American Indian Arts and UNM joined. Standing on the right side of history, every walk of life came together in unison to demand the abolition of the racist Entrada. The city of Santa Fe stood as it has for centuries: on the side of conquest; on the wrong side of history, with blood on its hands.
In a further attempt to silence constitutionally protected free speech, Santa Fe Police Captain Adam Gallegos took to the mic on the Plaza stage to announce that the event permit holders wanted to limit protest to a designated "free speech zone." The "free speech zone" was a heavily guarded police barricade that was meant to corral protesters and force them off public space. Of questionable constitutional or legal validity, this "free speech zone" had a clear political message: Shut up and go away or you will be silenced and arrested. The Santa Fe Police Department and Los Caballeros De Vargas made the unconscionable decision to not only keep protesters out-of-sight and out-of-earshot by limiting their First Amendment right to free speech, but they also dehumanized Native people by corralling them--just like conquistadors and cavalrymen of the past who forced Native men, women, children and elders into heavily policed and surveilled open-air concentration camps like Fort Sumner. Again, the racist message was loud and clear: go back to the reservation or get arrested; Indians are not welcome here.
AFTER SEVERAL other protesters were arrested, our very own TRN-Albuquerque leader and UNM KIVA Club Vice-President Jennifer Marley (of the San Ildefonso Pueblo) was seized. Jennifer is a leader in efforts to #AbolishTheEntrada. The Santa Fe police knew this. It is clear to us that she was targeted for arrest and harassment by police specifically because she is a high-profile leader of the resistance. Multiple videos of her arrest show several male officers violently grabbing Jennifer without provocation, slamming her to the ground and aggressively pinning her arms behind her. Officers then paraded her through the streets where she was verbally assaulted by bystanders, jeering, "Go back to where you came from!"
The parading of Jennifer through the streets of downtown Santa Fe parallels a long history of parading captured Indigenous prisoners of war as trophies on their way to concentration camps called reservations. An eyewitness to the arrest, TRN organizer Demetrius Johnson (of the Diné) recounts:
During the Long Walk, in the very beginning the cavalry would purposefully take us [Diné] through Santa Fe, Las Vegas, and all the way back down to Fort Sumner. They did that to humiliate us, but also to lift morale for the soldiers and these [white] towns. That's what these police officers did to [Jennifer Marley] yesterday. They cleared that whole street and walked down this vendor line with her in the front. Parading her like, "look, we caught her." But what they didn't know is that it didn't lower our morale, like they hoped, but instead made it stronger.
While Santa Fe sent its weakest men armed to the hilt to defend the City's genocidal pageantry, we sent our strongest women armed only with their love for Indigenous peoples and lands.
WEEKS EARLIER, the city of Santa Fe welcomed Indigenous artists at the annual Southwestern Association for Indian Arts Santa Fe Indian Market. On Friday, Native people faced an entirely different scene. Police created a militarized zone with sniper nests, barricades, and processing tables for mass arrests to protect a racist celebration of genocide. In this "free speech zone," protesters were surveilled under the oppressive gaze of the police state. The city loves to exploit Indigenous art and culture because of the cash flow it brings to city coffers. But at the first sign of Native political demands for human rights and justice, what does the city do? It pursues an aggressive campaign to silence and criminalize Indigenous people by unleashing the full force of the police state on Indigenous women, children, and elders, pointing guns at them and arresting them for "criminal trespass" on their own ancestral lands.
The city of Santa Fe is guilty of criminal trespass on the lands and bodies of Pueblo people, not Pueblo people themselves.
The police were so empowered after Jennifer's arrest that they arrested an Indigenous man, Julian Rodriguez, who had nothing to do with the protest. Eyewitnesses report that Mr. Rodriguez was walking down the street with his partner when police officers stopped him and asked him to remove his bandana. He removed it and then put it back on as he walked away. He was then arrested and charged with "criminal trespassing." In a clear case of racial profiling consistent with the city's racist message to silence Native people for resisting dehumanization, Mr. Rodriguez was made a criminal simply for being Native in Santa Fe. He was "off the reservation" and therefore open to arrest.
As Jennifer Marley stated prior to the protest:
We don't expect the cops to protect us now or ever. In fact we expect intensified police brutality, and intensified violence from Entrada attendees. The lengths [to which] the city is going to police this event with firearms and even police from departments all across the state is disgusting. But what it does tell us is that Pueblo resistance is a true threat to them. Their cowardice is a show of our strength and potential to make cracks in the settler colonial project!
Despite dozens of livestreaming feeds that documented this cowardice as it was unfolding, Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales did nothing to stop the police free-for-all against peaceful protesters and innocent bystanders. Instead, Mayor Gonzales took to social media Friday afternoon to thank the Santa Fe police officers who "helped maintain public safety." To detract from the actual repression he promoted, he euphemistically called the arrest and censorship of Native people and allies "a very difficult conversation" that "move[d] forward" as a result of the day's events.
How can we move forward when Santa Fe uses spectacular violence to silence Native free speech? When it so brazenly and unmercifully profiles, harasses, brutalizes, intimidates and humiliates Native men, women and children? When it continues to celebrate genocide and settler revisionist history?
A MONTH prior to the Entrada protest, hundreds of white supremacists and Nazis descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, to protect the "history and heritage" of racist Confederate monuments similar to the Entrada reenactment. Police stood down to protect Nazis' right to free speech in Charlottesville, but came out in full force to prevent Natives' free speech in Santa Fe. One Nazi, James A. Fields, drove his car into a crowd of protesters, injuring dozens and killing anti-racist protester, Heather Heyer. Last February, Santa Fe Police Union chief Troy Baker posted a meme that read "ALL LIVES SPLATTER" to his Facebook page encouraging murderers like Fields to run over protesters exercising their First Amendment rights. Baker is still employed with the Santa Fe Police Department.
Clearly, Santa Fe police officers are inclined towards violence against those demonstrating their First Amendment rights. As history has shown, Nazis, racists and white supremacists are never brutalized by police; it is always people of color, women, non-gender conforming people, the poor and Natives who are. In other words, it is always those who challenge power and oppression who are met with the full force of the police state. Yesterday was no different. Claiming it was because they did not want "anyone getting hurt," Santa Fe police protected Los Caballeros and their followers at the behest of City officials. The lone white racist pro-Entrada protester, Richard Polese, arrived at the #AbolishTheEntrada protest with a full police escort. Meanwhile, Entrada protesters did get hurt, all at the hands of the police.
They can arrest us, but they cannot kill or imprison this movement. Native people will never relinquish our human rights to move and speak freely on our own lands.
Prior to the protest, the #AbolishTheEntrada coalition undertook a public education campaign to explain why celebrating a crime against humanity--genocide--is wrong. These organizations also asked the city to stop violating the "separation of church and state" clause of the First Amendment because the Entrada is a Catholic Church-run event that is partially funded by public tax money: the lodgers tax. It is worth noting that Indian Market is the largest annual event in Santa Fe that draws over 80,000 visitors each year. These visitors pay a lodgers tax every time they book a room for Indian Market. Not only does the City make a killing off of lodgers tax revenues from Indian Market, but it uses these revenues to fund a celebration of genocide. It exploits Native labor, then uses profits from that exploitation to dehumanize Native people.
This is called anti-Indianism, and Santa Fe is anti-Indian to its core.
While we continue to work towards total Indigenous liberation, it is not too much to ask that the colonizer uphold his own laws set forth in the First Amendment. The city of Santa Fe has deliberately rejected Pueblo and Native concerns despite several peaceful attempts since 1977 to ask the city to stop celebrating conquest and genocide. It has instead offered empty gestures of "dialogue" and "conversation" while also aggressively pursuing censorship and violent repression.
In other words, the City has a long track record of denying Indigenous people free speech and fundamental human rights. This must end now.
IN CLOSING, the Red Nation issues the following demands to the city of Santa Fe:
As of approximately 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 9, all of those arrested have been released except for Jennifer Marley, who now faces five counts--both felonies and misdemeanors--of battery of a peace officer, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct. This is a clear case of a strong freedom fighter and leader being persecuted for political dissent. Jennifer is a political prisoner. Her political act is defined as criminal by the state to discredit the Indigenous liberation movement because it is gaining momentum and legitimacy in New Mexico. The political act of protesting genocide is reduced to a criminal act to affirm the absolute invulnerability of the existing order. In other words, Santa Fe criminalizes Native people to justify its own criminal behavior.
Demand #2: Drop All Charges Against Those Arrested
As of now, there are eight confirmed arrests. Those who were arrested include Chad Brown Eagle, Julian Rodriguez, Nicole Ullerich, Trenton Ward, Carmen Stone, Jennifer Haley, Sierra Logan and Jennifer Marley. The Santa Fe police department has also charged several of those arrested with felonies, after the fact, in an attempt to justify the outrageous charges of "criminal trespass" in a public plaza. Anyone with a basic knowledge of trespass law knows "criminal trespass" is reserved for trespassing on private property, not public property.
Demand #3: Abolish the Entrada
We ask that people flood the mayor's office with calls, e-mails, Tweets, and Facebook posts to demand Jennifer Marley's release; all charges against all protesters are dropped; and that the Entrada is abolished:
First published at The Red Nation.