Rio Rancho saw supporters for Black Lives Matter and counter-protestors in support of President Donald Trump collide in tense moments on Saturday.
On Southern Boulevard by the MVD Express, the Changes Rally, organized by the Black New Mexico Movement, was being held to honor rapper Tupac Shakur, according to the rally’s event page on Facebook.
A few hundred people went to the event, with a majority of people there protesting against the rally. Many people there were not wearing masks.
Shakur was shot in a drive-by in Las Vegas, Nev., and died six days later on Sept. 13, 1996, according to history.com.
“Unapologetically outspoken, courageous, and passionate about reform in our country, Tupac Shakur never shied away from a chance to speak out about police brutality, war, poverty, and corrupt politics,” according to the Changes Rally event page on Facebook.
Shakur served time for multiple charges throughout his life, including in 1995, for sexual assault against a 19-year-old woman, according to an article in the New York Times.
The founder of the BNMM, La’Quonte,’ “Te” Barry, was asked why he chose such a controversial person.
“There are a lot of people that have a past, and I am not saying that what he did was right or anything like that, but I am saying everybody goes through situations in life. It is about what you do to grow from there; what do you do to change your life,” he said.
The rally became less about the former rapper and more about social injustices, with supporters of the rally wearing Black Lives Matter shirts and carrying BLM flags.
Rio Rancho resident Chad Rutter went to the rally to counter-protest.
“The silent majority brings me here today to stand up against the Marxism that is being taught on the other side of this line here,” he said. “I don’t agree with any of it. Black lives (are) not the only thing that matters, all lives matter.”
Black Lives Matter is the right hand to Antifa and it won’t be in Rio Rancho, he said.
“It’s not happening; it is not going down here. We are not Portland, we are not Chicago we are none of those other cities. We are a Republican run city and we are here to make sure it stays that way,” Rutter said.
Barry said he receives messages through social media from people in Rio Rancho, saying they don’t feel like they have a voice.
BNMM has been planning a rally in Rio Rancho for a few months but had to change the location frequently due to threats from counter-protesters, Barry said.
“They made up all kinds of lies that we are Antifa and violent and we do this and we do that, and that is not what we are. These people have called us n—— and flipped us off and all kinds of just stupid stuff,” Barry said.
President of the BNMM’s Rio Rancho chapter, Barbara Jordan, has been a resident since 2015. She would like to see more local politicians show their support for BLM and BNMM.
Jordan spoke about Martin Luther King Jr. at the rally.
“Judge us by the content of our character instead of the color of our skin. And here we are 57 years later trying to fight the same thing. This has spanned over 12 generations of minorities and we still have to capitalize on this moment and remind America that Black lives matter. In Rio Rancho, Black lives matter,” she said.
Jordan said the movement will not stop until there is change.
“People think that somehow Rio Rancho does not have systemic racism but it does,” she said. “I know because my son is in school and he has been called n—– there, too.”
For safety precautions, a wall of cars separated those attending the rally and protesters. In addition, BNMM had a wall of veterans lined between the cars to prevent counter-protesters from crossing over.
“They have been antagonizing us all day, saying how are we are the violent ones, when we had a wall of cars here, and these people are coming to our wall to say things to us,” Barry said. “Those people are just out there reckless with guns.”
Barry would later arm himself with a handgun in a holster after a counter-protester started crossing the line of cars yelling, “Get out of my city.”
“I am not afraid. That is one thing we can’t be. We have to come and stand our ground,” Barry said.
Though many moments during the protest were tense, there were occasions when people from each side would shake the hands of each other and hug.
When people on both sides of the line merged in tense moments the “wall of vets” would lock hands trying to keep the groups a part. Someone from the counter-protest, attempted to punch someone attending the rally.
Shortly after, officers from the Rio Rancho Police Department appeared on the scene.
Organizers from BNMM began asking supporters of the rally to leave, saying it was no longer safe to be there. By 7:30 p.m. fewer than 30 people were left. Officers from RRPD created a barrier, with the wall of veterans behind them, to separate counter-protesters and the people supporting the rally.
As supporters left, counter-protesters would yell, “Mission accomplished,” and the crowd would cheer.
One counter-protester was escorted off the property by RRPD and deputies from the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office but was not arrested.
“It is said we live in a diverse place, and there is so much hate in the world,” Barry said. “I have children that live in New Mexico that I have to raise — a son and a daughter — and I don’t want them to have to walk around in fear or know that people hate them. So I am going to fight to the end so my children can have a better tomorrow.”
In mid-July, Barry was charged with unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon on school premises while in Civic Plaza in downtown Albuquerque. There is no school in sight at the plaza. Prosecutors dismissed the charge two weeks later, according to a report on Aug. 22.
“It is something held over my head now. As you can see, these Trump people there, that is all they can talk about is the gun charges as if I am some violent person. I was wrongfully arrested, so I don’t get how I was the wrong one,” Barry said.
Barry hopes the counter-protesters will understand who is standing on the other side of the line, he said.
“We always accept people, we don’t have hate in our heart and I think that is what these people have: They have hate in their heart — they look at color, and we look at people’s hearts and what they are about,” Barry said.
Rio Rancho resident Amy King went to protest against the rally.
“As you can see, we have much more people on the Trump side, kind of drowning out, I guess, the Black Lives Matter side,” King said.
When Jordan started her speech, bikers counter-protesting would rev the engines of their motorcycles.
“It seems like the rest of us, if you’re white, for some reason, we are the problem; the police are the problem and I don’t think that’s the problem,” she said.
King said she is a Christian who believes Jesus died for everyone.
“They have a much more proportionate amount of them committing crimes. That’s just how it is; that’s the facts. I don’t make up the facts,” she said. “I think that if Black lives matter, they would be fixing their own communities, they would be working in their own communities to better their own communities, more business, more educational opportunities and this is what Trump’s trying to do.”
According to the 2018 crime report from the FBI, 69 percent of people arrested nationwide were White, 27.4 percent were Black, and 3.6 percent were of other races. In the same report, the FBI separates the ethnicities Hispanic or Latino in a data set. Of those ethnicities, 18.8 percent of arrestees reported being Hispanic or Latino and 81.2 did not.
The Rio Rancho protest ended with no arrests and no property damage.
“Only certain Black lives matter to them; for some reason that I don’t understand. I never hear them talk about all the Black kids killed in the cities. How come they don’t talk about that? That’s what I want to know, because to me they are hypocrites,” King said.
There will be a peace talk at Civic Center Circle west of City Hall, on Oct. 3, where speakers from BNMM will be. The event will have voter registration and speakers to inspire change, according to its event page on Facebook.
Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people in the U.S. overall.
- 1,147 people were killed by police.
- 13 of those cases resulted in officers being charged.
- 149 people killed by police were unarmed.
New Mexico statistics:
From 2013-2019, police in New Mexico killed 142 people.
Native American 6
Unknown race 12
NM Race/Ethnicity in 2017:
American Indian/Alaska native 9.1 percent
Asian/Pacific Islander 1.7 percent
Black/African American 2.2 percent
Hispanic 48.8 percent
White 38.2 percent
Sandoval County by race/ethnicity in 2017:
American Indian/Alaska native 12.5 percent
Asian/Pacific Islander 1.7 percent
Black/African American 2.4 percent
Hispanic 39.0 percent
White 44.4 percent
Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office had two killings in the county.
- In 2017, a deputy backed over a 68-year-old woman on his way to another call.
- In 2009, Sgt. Joe Harris died in a shootout that also killed the suspect.
Rio Rancho has had two police killings in both incidents the victim was armed.
- In 2017, Rio Rancho police shot and killed one person; a Hispanic man who attempted to kidnap a woman and later fired at officers.
- In 2009, Rio Rancho police shot and killed one person while responding to a domestic violence call. The 31-year-old man killed was armed with a shotgun.
Mapping Police Violence
NM’s Indicator-Based Information System