SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – No jail time for all but one of the protesters charged in connection with the toppling of the Santa Fe Plaza obelisk. Most of the protesters charged were offered and took a plea deal.
In October, the 150-year-old controversial obelisk was torn down by protesters in a matter of minutes. After charges slowly trickled in as police identified protesters. Out of dozens of people at the Plaza that day, eight were ultimately charged. Thursday morning, court paperwork was filed showing that seven out of the eight people took a plea deal and will avoid jail time.
Lawyers for the seven defendants pointed out in the filings that the obelisk, originally erected to honor union soldiers who died in battle, was oppressive to Native Americans. An engraving on the obelisk referred to Native Americans as “savages.”
As part of the plea deal, the defendants will take part in a mitigation program that will bring together those in the community who felt harmed by the loss of the obelisk and those who felt the monument’s presence was representative of a longstanding, traumatic history.
That program will last at least six months. However, the group, Union Protectiva de Santa Fe, is not satisfied with the deal. The group was created to “preserve the language and culture of Santa Fe for descendants of Spanish colonizers.”
“The district attorney, another newcomer, comes over here and tries to change our history and our culture and that’s not right. What does she do? She gives them a slap on the hand and she lets them go,” said Virgil Vigil, of Union Protectiva de Santa Fe.
Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmackaltweis is a University of New Mexico law school graduate.
Carmack-Altwies says, “It was my promise upon assuming this position that our office would do our best to divert non-violent and first-time offenders from costly and unnecessary incarceration. The Obelisk case defendants meet the criteria I set out for diversionary programming. We have reached a resolution after months of careful investigation and negotiation between defendants, their attorneys, and my office that ensures justice while working toward community healing.”
The court filings also point out that all of the seven defendants are eligible for a pre-prosecution diversion program because none of them have a prior felony conviction. It’s not clear why the eighth defendant did not accept the plea deal or where his case will head now.
As part of the plea deals, the district attorney’s office will put $1,500 in a fund and so will all the defendants to help with the ‘restorative process.’