SANTA FE – About 250 people amassed at the state Capitol late Friday afternoon for a peaceful protest, joining hundreds of thousands of people across the country demonstrating against the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died at the hands of white police officers in Minneapolis on Monday.
The demonstration, organized through social media, came a day after protesters in Minneapolis set fire to a police station and other buildings, resulting in the National Guard being deployed. That same night in Albuquerque, police in riot gear used tear gas in a confrontation with protesters and several arrests were made.
A New Mexico State Police helicopter circled overhead at the Santa Fe demonstration.
Santa Fe police showed up briefly after protesters took to the streets and marched to the downtown plaza and back, but left soon thereafter. After most of the crowd dispersed, about 50 protesters lingered and continued the demonstration at the intersection of Paseo de Peralta and Old Santa Fe Trail, shouting at passing vehicles, some of which answered back by honking their horns.
“I think everyone has had enough. There needs to be change,” said 17-year-old Abby Bay, one of the people who spread the word about the protest on Facebook. “What happened in Minneapolis, it could happen anywhere, even here.”
Lacking an organizer, several people stepped up to lead the crowd in chants of “black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe,” the latter words spoken by Floyd as a Minneapolis police officer pressed him to the ground with a knee to his neck.
“We’re standing up for the injustices against black people,” said Lonnica Montoya, who led most of the chants.
At one point, Montoya read the names of several dozen black citizens who have died at the hands of police.
Another woman, Amy Linquist, led the protesters in a song called “Somebody’s Hurting My Brother,” which she said grew out of the Poor People’s Campaign.
Protesters also carried signs, some reading “There’s power in Unity” and “Complacency = Complicity.”
Holding a sign that said “I can’t breathe,” Derrick Gomez was one of fewer than a dozen African Americans at the demonstration.
“What’s going on in Minneapolis with the riots and looting, and in Albuquerque with police and their guns, we’re here with just signs,” he said. “We have to stand up for what we believe in.”
Gomez, who grew up in Santa Fe, where fewer than 1% of people identify as black or African American, said he’s experienced racism all his life.
“It’s great to see the diversity here, especially here in New Mexico, where our culture is rich,” he said. “It’s moving that people here do care.”
Gomez said he hoped the protests being held across the country will make a difference and change attitudes about racism in America.
“As long as we continue, they have to listen to us at some point,” he said. “The moment we quit is the moment they win.”