In a letter to Hicks, the department said Hicks had conducted a parade in violation of a public health order prohibiting mass gatherings throughout the state – a restriction intended to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Hicks, in turn, said Thursday that he will request a hearing to contest the fine. The event, he said, was a protest protected by his constitutional rights.
It’s the latest in a series of clashes between Hicks and the administration of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. He had earlier encouraged businesses in Grants to reopen in defiance of the state’s public health orders, and the Supreme Court in May issued an order prohibiting him from operating city facilities in violation of the health regulations.
Hicks contends that other events – a rodeo and protests against racial injustice – have gone forward without the same state action he’s faced.
“What’s really amazing is how they come after me and my town when we have a protest that’s peaceful,” Hicks said. The governor “singles me out because I’m standing up for the Constitution of the United States of America.”
In a recent opinion column, Lujan Grisham, without identifying Hicks in particular, harshly criticized public officials who, she said, “have betrayed their constituents and neighbors with cavalier and dangerous behavior amid this unprecedented public health crisis.”
A KOB-TV report on the Grants event includes footage of a parade of vehicles led by Hicks in an ATV, who shouts, “Our freedom matters,” as he passes by.
Attorneys for the Department of Health this week sent Hicks a letter accusing him of violating the health order by “organizing, conducting and/or participating” in a Fourth of July parade, even after he was warned not to go forward with the event.
The department said it intends to impose a $5,000 civil administrative penalty.