ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A militia group that showed up to the Juan de Oñate protest in Albuquerque last year with guns in hand is suing the city. They claim they were targeted that night by law enforcement. The New Mexico Civil Guard claims that they didn’t do anything wrong that night and believes the city zeroed in on them anyway.
About eight members of the heavily armed militia, the New Mexico Civil Guard showed up to last summer’s protest of the Juan de Oñate statue near Old Town. Now, several of them are suing the city. According to a federal lawsuit, the guard says city officials targeted them for no reason. They allege that the city was aware the Civil Guard was going to be there that night and positioned officers near the protest waiting until a Civil Guard member “committed a crime and planned to then arrest them.”
Members claim they did nothing wrong and were detained anyway. One former guard member shared his experience earlier this summer. “We were illegally detained. We were treated as prisoners instead of witnesses,” said the former guard.
Civil Guard members claim that one of them was actually attacked at the protest and they all left the crowd. They say after they moved away is when 31-year-old Steven Baca started shooting, hitting one man. That’s when guard members say they returned and ran toward Baca and stepped on his gun.
“If we hadn’t been there, who is to say he wouldn’t shoot into the crowd and or the crowd tore him limb from limb?” said the former guard.
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After the lawsuit alleges that even though police knew the group wasn’t associated with Baca, they arrested the plaintiffs anyway, held them for hours for questioning, not allowing them to talk to lawyers or even use the restroom. They were eventually released after interviews and no member was ever charged.
However, protestors say guard members escalated tensions that night and at one point, people in the crowd yelled for the guard to stop touching them. The group claims to have been there to protect counter-protesters but protesters believe they did more harm than good.
KRQE News 13 reached out to the city for comment on this lawsuit. All they said was “we won’t be bullied by fate groups.” The Bernalillo County District Attorney has previously said that members had a right to be at the protest and bear arms but they did not have the right to intervene as enforcers of the law. The DA filed an injunction to prohibit the Civil Guard from acting in any police or military capacity.