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Gov: Call for show of force ‘tone deaf’

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state health and election officials host a news conference on Friday, May 15, 2020. (Santa Fe New Mexican, pool)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As riots, protests, and racial unrest erupt in cities across the country, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said her administration is more interested in keeping protesters safe and allowing their voices to be heard, than in the show of force President Donald Trump urged governors to display at a conference call Monday morning.

The Washington Post, which obtained a recording of the call, reports Trump berated the governors, called them “weak” and said they would look like fools if they did not take back the streets.

“Militarizing our response is incredibly callous, dangerous and tone deaf…,” Lujan Grisham said in a phone interview with the Journal on Monday. “I think the president is more interested in looking tough himself instead of solving problems, and that’s what these protesters are asking us to do is to commit to solve these problems.”

Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, said she was not personally able to respond to the president’s remarks, and the reaction from her fellow governors was mixed.

“The message the president wanted the governors to take away is ‘you’re weak if you don’t have a strong show of force’ and again I’m interested in solving people’s problems and doing something about racial inequalities,” she said. “It wasn’t a very effective call for me.”

The governor confirmed her administration has had discussions about bringing in the National Guard to quell violence, but said it is really premature and the intelligence they have so far does not suggest that will be necessary.

“We have had discussions about what would have to happen in order for us to even consider it and it would have to be about the safety of the officers who are trying to maintain the safety of the protesters,” Lujan Grisham said.

However, she said, the protests and riots are a “serious public safety issue,” and the risk of spreading coronavirus at the gatherings has not gone away. She said she was encouraged to hear that the vast majority of people at the earlier peaceful protest were wearing masks.

While Albuquerque’s melees have resulted in property damage to businesses and police property, no injuries have been reported. Lujan Grisham said this speaks well of the progress New Mexico has made in addressing the issues.

“One broken window, one police officer attack is one attack too many, and they’re really unforgivable acts when we’re trying to bring attention and respect for the lives lost, and tragedies that have occurred…,” Lujan Grisham said. “None of it is acceptable, but compared with what we’re witnessing around the world and around the country…I think it speaks volumes that we came a long way in New Mexico, we are open and we recognize we have a long way to go.”

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