Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – The two men arrested during Monday’s protests that resulted in the obelisk at the center of Santa Fe’s historic Plaza being torn down were pepper-sprayed by police and taken to a hospital for medical evaluations, according to court records.
Police arrested the two men – Dylan Wrobel and Sean Sunderland – when officers and protesters clashed during an Indigenous Peoples Day demonstration on Monday. Native American activists and their allies toppled the obelisk, a 152-year-old “soldiers’ monument” that many people consider a symbol of oppression against Native Americans.
Wrobel, 27, is facing battery on a peace officer and resisting arrest charges, and Sunderland, 24, is charged with resisting an officer and criminal trespass. Both have pleaded not guilty and were released from jail Tuesday after posting $2,500 bond.
During a skirmish that broke out between demonstrators and Santa Fe police, court documents say that one officer was attempting to arrest Wrobel when Sunderland and others tried to knock the officer down. That’s when the officer deployed pepper spray.
Eric Sirotkin, the attorney representing Wrobel, said in an interview his client was pepper-sprayed in the mouth, which potentially could be lethal.
“And so it is not a benign weapon,” he said. “It is something that needs to be used as a last resort, and we’ll be examining whether pepper spray was used appropriately.”
A news release from demonstrators on Wednesday claimed other demonstrators were injured, saying that Santa Fe police had “inflicted serious harm, concussive blows and broken bones to demonstrators.”
Sunderland’s attorney, Kitren Fischer, said the incident should never have happened.
“I think the arrests just indicate how urgent that matter is in terms of needing to come to the table and talk about this stuff,” she said. “I think the mayor has acknowledged that the time has run out in terms of addressing some of these deep-seated, long-running issues.”
Also on Wednesday, Santa Fe police issued a news release asking for help identifying the man seen wrapping metal chains and cargo straps around the obelisk before it was torn down. The man, who identified himself as “Red” to a Journal reporter, had also chained himself to the obelisk over the weekend.
Santa Fe police, the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, New Mexico State Police and the FBI are investigating Monday’s incident.
The Santa Fe City Council on Wednesday was considering a resolution to form a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address racial divisions in the community.