ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – During Monday night’s protest, a group of heavily armed militia, who call themselves the New Mexico Civil Guard showed up. Protesters said their presence raises tensions and provokes violence and the mayor of Albuquerque and the governor want the group to stay away from protests. The New Mexico Civil Guard said they are armed to deter violence and protect counter-protesters but their presence makes protesters nervous.

At Monday night’s prayer and protest against the Juan de Oñate statue, were about eight members of a heavily armed militia. “Why do you feel the need to be here?” asked a protester.

“Second amendment,” replied a member of the Civil Guard. The Civil Guard is a group of people who said they are not affiliated with law enforcement or a political party but they’ve been present at a handful of recent protests in New Mexico which has caused unease among protesters.

“When they do show up to protect property like they say they are as we saw yesterday with the events that occurred, they are placing a protection of property over people’s lives,” said Fight for our Lives co-founder Zoey Craft.

“We certainly don’t feel protected, we feel endangered when they are around and they intend to intimidate us because they don’t agree on the issues that we are fighting for,” said protester Ana Moreno.

“We’re not there to intimidate peaceful protesters,” said Civil Guard Chaplain, Bryce. “We are there as a visual deterrent to those violent elements that are tagging along to this because they need to know that they’re showing up with bats, chains, knives and sometimes guns. But there is good men in there who are there willing to put themselves in between them and the rest of the city.” The militia said they were there to protect counter-protesters but things got even tenser between the groups after a protester was shot.

“Got my kit out, got my gauze out, handed it to another gentleman that was there, and told him to hold on because I ran back to the suspect to make sure he was disarmed,” said Bryce. “We formed a parameter around the then-we didn’t know if it was murder suspect or assault suspect – we formed a parameter to help keep the integrity of the investigation by making sure none of the evidence was taken from the area and then at that point, formed a parameter and kept the others from attacking him.” People do not want the militia at future protests.

“I don’t want the narrative taken away from this,” said Fight for Our Lives President, Jonathon Juarez-Alonzo. “This is a peaceful prayer gathering, what happened because of a white militant group showing up was only inciting violence and that was not the intent whatsoever.”

The Civil Guard said the shooter from Monday night, Steven Baca, is not affiliated with them. Members of the Civil Guard were arrested by Albuquerque Police but were released a few hours later without any charges. The governor and the mayor condemned the group; the governor said in part:

“The heavily armed individuals who flaunted themselves at the protest, calling themselves a ‘Civil Guard’ were there for one reason: to menace protesters, to present an unsanctioned show of unregulated force.”

The mayor mentioned the group, saying that these militia or vigilante groups attempt to prop up white supremacy and intimidate protesters.