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Gov.: Call for show of force ‘tone deaf’

Albuquerque Police Officers in riot gear make their way North on Third Street Early Monday as they begin to clear the area after a riot erupted in Downtown Albuquerque. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

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 during a conference call Monday morning.

The Washington Post, which obtained a recording of the call, reported that 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 that she was not able to respond to the president’s remarks and that 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.”

Filling Philly’s restaurant in Downtown Albuquerque was heavily damaged during a riot that broke out overnight. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

The governor confirmed her administration has had discussions about deploying the National Guard to quell violence but said the intelligence available 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, protests and riots are a “serious public safety issue,” and the risk of spreading coronavirus at the gatherings is high. 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 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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