Less than one month after the June 15th protest at the statue of Spanish conquistador, Juan de Oñate, near Old Town in Albuquerque, the Bernalillo County District Attorney, Raúl Torrez, filed amended charges against Steven Baca, adding aggravated battery with a deadly weapon for allegedly shooting and injuring a victim during the protest. In addition, DA Torrez is filing the nation’s first civil suit by a district attorney to protect the public from paramilitary forces.
The civil suit against the New Mexico Civil Guard (NMCG) challenges the group’s presence at the protest as unlawfully acting as a police force and military, and threatening public safety. Members of the NMCG, who include individuals associated with the white supremacist and neo-Confederate organizations, attended the protest as private vigilantes wearing camouflage attire and other military style gear and carrying assault rifles in an effort to “protect” the statue from defacement. New Mexico law prohibits unregulated private security forces and paramilitary organizations.
The civil suit seeks a declaration that the actions of the NMCG are unlawful and aims to prevent the NMCG from continuing to act as an unauthorized military or police force.
“Whatever our differences are, there is simply no place in our society for private paramilitary groups to impose their will on other citizens or threaten public safety. Regardless of our diverse political views, we must remain committed to the rule of law,” Torrez said.
The District Attorney’s Office collaborated with the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP), based at Georgetown Law Center to formalize the charges against the group. ICAP previously represented the City of Charlottesville in successful litigation against privatemilitia organizations that engaged in unlawful paramilitary and law enforcement activity at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017.
“Self-proclaimed private militias in New Mexico and elsewhere are increasingly purporting to “protect” property and monuments against unsupported claims of anti-fascist violence, unlawfully usurping the role of law enforcement officials while intimidating peaceful protesters and raising the risk of violence,” said ICAP’s Legal Director, Mary McCord, “The District Attorney’s action today is necessary to thwart this threat to public safety and ensure the protection of fundamental constitutional rights.”
ABOUT THE INSTITUTE FOR CONSTITUTIONAL ADVOCACY AND PROTECTION
The Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP) uses the power of the courts to defend American constitutional rights and values. Based at Georgetown Law Center, ICAP draws on expert litigators, savvy litigation strategy and the constitutional scholarship of Georgetown to vindicate individuals’ rights and to protect America’s constitutional way of life. More information about ICAP can be found at https://www.law.georgetown.edu/icap/.
Brandale Mills Cox
Office of the Second Judicial District Attorney 520 Lomas Blvd NW
Albuquerque, NM 87102