Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Although a flyer advertises a parade in Grants to celebrate the Fourth of July on Saturday, Mayor Martin “Modey” Hicks insists it’s a protest.
“It’s a protest, make no doubt about it,” he said of the event scheduled for lineup at 9 a.m. at City Hall.
It was because of the flyer that state Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel sent Hicks a letter Thursday saying that holding a parade would violate Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s public health order attempting to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The order prohibits “indoor and outdoor parades of any sort” and “designates such events as impermissible mass gatherings.”
“I hereby direct you to cease from conducting the parade and any related events that would violate the Public Health Order for the protection of your constituents and the public,” Kunkel wrote.
As of Friday morning, Hicks said he had not seen the letter. The mayor said the parade was on the city council’s agenda, but was not approved, and that it was not a city-sanctioned event.
The flyer advertised an “Old Fashion Route 66 Cruise” that would include lowrider and classic cars.
“The mayor’s flyer – which it sounds like you have – identifies the event as a parade. It says PARADE in all caps on it twice,” governor’s spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said in a statement to the Journal.
Hicks insists he’s participating in a protest as “private citizen Martin Wesley Hicks,” and dared the governor to try and violate his and others’ First Amendment right to “celebrate our history and the birth of our nation.”
Hicks criticized comments by Lujan Grisham praising “thousands of exemplary protesters” while at the same time issuing orders against parades, large family gatherings, and limiting the capacity of church attendance and businesses.
Hicks said he wasn’t aware of any citation issued to protesters who tried to “tear up Albuquerque and tear it apart because of her failure to do anything.”
“And she wants to stop us from acknowledging our constitutional rights and the birth of our nation?” he asked. “This is absolutely insane.”
This is the latest in a series of confrontations between Hicks, the Governor’s Office and DOH since Lujan Grisham issued initial orders closing nonessential businesses and banning large gatherings at the onset of the pandemic.
Hicks encouraged businesses to reopen in defiance of the orders in April, which resulted in the mayor being issued a notice of violation by New Mexico State Police for opening the city-owned golf course. Other businesses in town were cited and fined for violating the health order.
In May, the state Supreme Court issued a writ against Hicks, prohibiting him from operating city facilities in defiance of state public health orders, as well as from issuing directives that contradicted the orders. State Attorney General Hector Balderas sought the writ.