ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Tensions flared Sunday morning during a protest at Civic Plaza, when one group protesting the governor’s mask mandate, was met with counter-protesters upset over the slogan they were using.
At least a dozen officers in riot gear responded to Civic Plaza, setting up on Marquette Street in an effort to defuse a tense situation. A confrontation between an anti-mask protester and counter-protesters with the Black Lives Matter movement ended with someone being pushed to the ground.
It started peacefully with a group of about two dozen maskless protesters standing on the corner of Marquette and Third Street. “We have an event going on called We Can’t Breathe. I hear it every day that we cannot breathe,” said Rebekah Stevens, the organizer of the event.
The maskless protest sparked another that had nothing to do with New Mexico’s public health order. “I’m not here for the masks, I’m here for the title,” said one of the BLM protestors. Black Lives Matter protesters say it’s insensitive to name the anti-mask protest, “We Can’t Breathe.”
“It’s an obvious disrespect to the young men and women who were brutalized, terrorized, and killed by police and their last utterances were, ‘I can’t breathe,” said Lisa Christopherson an organizer with Black Lives Matter.
Rebekah Stevens says her event name was not meant to be disrespectful. “We’re not using the term I can’t breathe, we’re not using the term I can’t breathe, we’re using the term we can’t breathe,” said Stevens.
Police arrested three people for having weapons during Sunday’s protests. Two of them were released right away, it’s unclear if the third is still in custody.
The organizer of the protest against masks is no stranger to controversy. Rebekah Stevens was former Congressman Steve Pearce’s Press Secretary. She resigned over the potential of a defamation lawsuit regarding a previous position as a political blogger.
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