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GOP irked by Rep. Haaland’s ‘peaceful protesters’ remark

Did U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland call leftist group antifa peaceful protesters in an interview with CNN, and should the rest of New Mexico’s congressional delegation condemn her for doing so?

Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce believes so, and called on Haaland’s Democratic colleagues to do so in a news release last week by the party.

“Rep. Deb Haaland’s comments calling Antifa ‘peaceful protestors’ are reprehensible, and our Federal delegation should disavow Haaland’s irresponsible and incorrect statement that goes against our American values,” the former Congressman said.

Rep. Deb Haaland

U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland

In the clip Pearce cited in the release, Haaland was asked about President Donald Trump’s post on Twitter about the possibility that antifa would be labeled a domestic terrorist organization and the protests going on in Portland, Oregon, over the weekend.

“It’s not surprising Trump would side away from the folks who are peaceful protesters, working to safeguard their city from domestic terrorism. Not surprised at all that the President sides with the white nationalists. That’s been his mode of operation since before he was elected President,” Haaland said during the interview.

Although Haaland did not mention antifa by name, the New Mexico Republican Party, Fox News and conservative websites were of the opinion she was referring to the leftist organization.

“Violent extremism must be called out truthfully no matter the source,” Pearce said. “I call on Sens. (Martin) Heinrich and (Tom) Udall, along with Reps. (Ben Ray) Luján and (Xochitl) Torres Small to join me in condemning Rep. Haaland’s inexcusable and baffling support for this violent group.”

Haaland’s office deferred to the state Democratic Party, which said Haaland was not referring to antifa.

“Anyone who listens to the clip will hear that Congresswoman Haaland is standing against white supremacy and expressing her concern for communities that are being targeted because of President Trump’s daily embrace of hatred and bigotry,” the party said in a statement to the Journal.

Although Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and published reports called the protests last weekend involving antifa, the right-wing group Proud Boys and other left and right leaning groups as largely non-violent, Pearce cited conservative media reports of violence by antifa. Thirteen people were arrested and six people were reported injured during the protests.

“It’s a shame that the Republican Party of New Mexico is spending their time pushing this propaganda instead of focusing on the issues that are affecting New Mexicans in their day-to-day lives,” the Democratic Party’s statement said.

‘BIG IDEA’ GETS BIG GRANT: Udall, Heinrich and Luján last week announced that the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration has awarded $384,777 to San Juan College in Farmington to launch the Big Idea Innovation Accelerator, which will offer resources, consulting, and mentorship to boost entrepreneurship.

The accelerator will provide critical assistance to entrepreneurs, researchers and inventors as they translate innovative ideas into products, services, companies and jobs, the lawmakers said.

“When entrepreneurs are given the right tools, they can turn good ideas into innovative products, new companies, and good-paying jobs. San Juan College’s new Big Idea Innovation Accelerator will serve as a resource hub for emerging businesses, helping to expand networks for entrepreneurs and connect them to the resources they need to succeed,” Udall said. “This critical funding will help build the next generation of New Mexico entrepreneurs and innovators as they continue to drive our economy forward.”

Heinrich said San Juan College is leading the way in supporting new job creating small business owners in Farmington and the entire Four Corners region.

“Small businesses are job creators and are truly the heart of our state’s economy,” he said.

Luján said the New Mexico students he met have big ideas.

“They’re creative, hardworking, and entrepreneurial,” he said. “These funds will go a long way in bridging the waters between idea and reality.”

The grant was awarded under the EDA’s i6 Challenge, which provides funding for projects that will increase regional capacity to accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship.

Scott Turner: sturner@abqjournal.com

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