Santa Feans driving by the state Capitol on Wednesday likely saw a new architectural feature.

Workers had erected a 6-foot-high chain-link fence around three sides of the Capitol earlier in the day. Trucks bearing more fencing later pulled up to the fourth side in the back of the building.

The move — which Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth hinted at Tuesday night — is another sign state officials are determined to protect the Roundhouse after rioters breached the U.S. Capitol last week.

State officials and those overseeing the Capitol building said earlier this week they would add security measures in light of a recent FBI report that indicated armed protests were planned at all 50 of the country’s state capitols in the lead-up to Inauguration Day on Wednesday. But tangible evidence of their concern came yesterday, when the fencing went up.

In addition, the Legislature is slated to convene its 60-day session Tuesday, adding to the potential for tension and violence.

Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, said he still doesn’t feel safe as the session approaches.

“I’m feeling very concerned,” he said Wednesday after learning about the new fencing surrounding the building. “We all should feel very concerned.”

Candelaria said he does not think Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration has done enough to address the security issue or keep people safe around the Capitol.

Candelaria said a statement from the Governor’s Office about its hopes for a peaceful legislative session was “more a political statement than a true analysis of our situation. We should be taking this seriously.”

Candelaria, an attorney, is representing a man who said he was struck by a vehicle during a summer protest outside the Capitol. He said some demonstrations have led to fights.

He also took issue with comments made by Sen. Greg Baca, who said he feels safe coming to the Capitol and that no outbursts of violence have yet occurred.

Baca, R-Belen, acknowledged it may be “a little bit uncomfortable” for lawmakers to go into this year’s session with added security measures, but “I’m looking at what the public is giving up: access to the Capitol, access to their legislators. We’re paying a small price compared to what the public pays.”

Candelaria, noting how outnumbered U.S. Capitol Police officers were when they were overrun by protesters, said he would feel “more secure if the National Guard was called out on the first day of the session or even the first week.”

Nora Meyers Sackett, a spokeswoman for the governor, declined to comment on Candelaria’s statement.

But she wrote in an email: “The governor’s office is not a law enforcement agency and does not assess threats, but the governor and senior staff are briefed by those agencies whenever threats may arise. Naturally, we are all on high alert after the right-wing domestic terrorism seen last week and with even elected Republicans continuing to stoke conspiracy theories and traffic in violent rhetoric.”

She said the state takes “any threat of violence very seriously.”

She said the New Mexico National Guard will be ready to move if called upon.

Late Wednesday, the National Guard announced it is sending soldiers and airmen to Washington, D.C., for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony. The New Mexico contingent, which will provide security, communications and medical evacuation, is part of a buildup that includes 15,000 troops and airmen from 43 states, territories and the District of Columbia.

U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez, a Democrat who represents the state’s 3rd Congressional District, told The New Mexican on Wednesday the U.S. Capitol building is full of National Guard members on alert.

“Our nation’s Capitol should not look like this,” she said in a phone interview.

She said those charged with protecting the state Capitol building “should be alert, absolutely, from reports the FBI has provided and circulated in the press. There are terrorists, insurrectionists and white supremacists who are intent on causing harm at the national and local level.”

Yet other state lawmakers said they have no fear. Newly elected Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe, said she is “aware” of the potential for problems. But given the need for lawmakers to act on legislation that will help those hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, she said she won’t let fear cast a shadow over the legislative proceedings.

“I’m still very eager to get into the Capitol and get that work done because we have folks who are waiting to get back to work and get kids back to school,” she said. “That responsibility in front of me outweighs anything else on my mind.”

Incoming Rep. Stefani Lord, a Republican from Sandia Park who has taken part in pro-gun demonstrations at the Roundhouse in the past, said she “is not afraid at all.”

She was an organizer of the January 2020 pro-gun rally at the Capitol in which hundreds of supporters, many armed, showed up to voice opposition to gun control legislation.

“There were lots of people packing, and no violence,” she said.

She said the newly erected fence around the Capitol makes it look like a demilitarized zone.

“It seems like fear mongering to put that fence around there,” she said. “It’s embarrassing.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Alan Webber said the city is working with Lujan Grisham’s administration to “ensure that we are taking the right steps here in Santa Fe to protect people and property in the event of any violence.”

He said city police are coordinating law enforcement efforts with New Mexico State Police.

Deputy Chief Paul Joye of the Santa Fe Police Department said Wednesday his agency is working with state police to collect information on any potential protests this weekend and through inauguration week.

“We are meeting with law enforcement agency partners to make sure we are in a position to safely assist them as well as protect the public, to make sure any event this weekend is conducted as safely as possible,” he said.

General Assignment Reporter

Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.

(35) comments

Kathy Riley

THIS is what I was suggesting :

Oregon state lawmakers delay gathering for 2021 legislative session, brace for armed protests

Richard Irell

The start date of the session is mandated by the NM Constitution, noon on the third Tuesday in January

Kathy Riley

Thank you. - There isn't an emergency clause ?

Diad Wheeler

The Definition of a TERRORIST: “a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”

I’d say a mass armed gathering of people with a common political agenda with a stated promise of violence, are DOMESTIC TERRORISTS, and should be treated as such. They only bring their guns to intimidate those who disagree with them.

If they come to the Capital with their guns and promises of violence, then lock them up for what they are: Domestic Terrorists.

Emily Koyama

Carrying out violence, such as what happened at the Nation's Capitol, and showing up armed to a protest, are not the same thing...

It's not a sensible thing to go to political rallies armed, in my opinion, but in this State, it is legal, at least for now. Your "arrests" would be followed by lawsuits.

Khal Spencer

There have been bipartisan calls to ban firearms in the Capital in prior years. I think folks interested in their RKBA should ask whether showing up loaded for bear simply to make a First Amendment statement on the Second Amendment might eventually do more harm than good for the cause. Just sayin'

Susan Craig

so one thing that stood out to me while i was listening to news. and it's this how is that these "patriots" feel that they are above the law? what even makes them think that they are above the law and can threaten those who disagree with them? what kind of hubris is this?

Stefanie Beninato

You can ask the same thing of the vandals who destroyed the obelisk but now want to make nice.

Russell Scanlon

I think that the protestors who pulled down the obelisk should have realized that what they did was unlawful and that they would probably be arrested and punished.

That is not the same as rioting in the nation’s capitol with the purpose of overturning a national election. And no one was killed in the obelisk incident. And at the very least it is worth noting that there is probably no prominent monument anywhere in the USA that describes your people as “savages”.

Richard Irell

Your attempt at equivalency fails. What the obelisk rioters did was wrong and they should be punished for it. But what they did wasn’t sedition or treason and it wasn’t orchestrated by the President of the United States.

Khal Spencer

"so one thing that stood out to me while i was listening to news last summer. and it's this how is that these "activists" feel that they are above the law? what even makes them think that they are above the law and can tear down statues and occupy portions of city centers? what kind of hubris is this?"

What goes around comes around, and it comes around in spades.

Kathy Riley

I admit no knowledge on how the sessions of NM assembly are decided. But commonse tells me postponing the start of this session to the following week might save riots, destruction & perhaps lives.

Richard Irell

The session start dates are specified in the NM Constitution:

Each regular session of the legislature shall begin annually at 12:00 noon on the third Tuesday of January.  Every regular session of the legislature convening during an odd-numbered year shall remain in session not to exceed sixty days, and every regular session of the legislature convening during an even-numbered year shall remain in session not to exceed thirty days.  No special session of the legislature shall exceed thirty days.

Jim Klukkert

David Romero on Jan 14, 2021 at 9:09am, posted this comment regarding the story titled "Mix of extremists who stormed Capitol isn't retreating." Romero's comment: "I doubt that Biden will proceed with an ultra liberal agenda or there will be 35 million armed protesters instead of 35000."

It would seem that extra security measures, and a law Forbidding the Brandishing of Fire Arms, as well as Rigorous Enforcement of all statutes by Law Enforcement Officers of unquestioned professionalism, training and loyalty, in large enough numbers to be effective, and with National Guard back up standing by, is the appropriate choice for our Capitol.

In answer to any and all Fascist threats of insurrection, we call out

¡No Pasaron!

Khal Spencer

DC gun laws are extremely strict. I doubt any of the folks coming in from out of state and packing heat were doing so legally. For that matter, DC has no legal open carry so if you saw a gun, it was already unlawful carry.

https://www.usconcealedcarry.com/resources/ccw_reciprocity_map/dc-gun-laws/

Also, Jim, brandishing has a very strict legal definition. Open carrying of a weapon is not brandishing. Handling a firearm in a threatening manner (by reasonable person standards, I suppose) is "brandishing". Remember the McCloskeys in St. Louis who were waiving a little silver pistol and pointing an AR in the general direction of protestors on a private road? That was, IMNSHO, brandishing as they were pointing the guns in the protestor's direction. To point a gun at someone is to threaten deadly force and can only be done in legitimate self defense. Now if the protestors had charged at their home.....

And no, this is not legal advice nor am I a lawyer or play one on TV. My only connection to the Bar is to order a drink.

Khal Spencer

The McCleskey incident. If I were on a jury, I'd say Pat was definitely brandishing.

https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/the-st-louis-couple-charged-with-waving-guns-at-protesters-have-a-long-history-of/article_281d9989-373e-53c3-abcb-ecd0225dd287.html

Jim Klukkert

Thanks Khal. Two things-

1. So does the very hostile tone of recent armed demonstrators rise to "brandishing" in your opinion?

2. I'll have a double, on ice, thank you.

Khal Spencer

Good question. So far, no DA has tried to read minds and prosecute. My guess is they would want a pretty obvious case or a jury would likely find reasonable doubt.

I'll have a double with a beer on the side.

Khal Spencer

But regardless of whether a hostile tone and a rifle on the shoulder rises to the level of brandishing (I have my doubts unless the person behaves in a manner that seems overtly threatening), the whole emotionally charged state of these protests and counterprotests suggests to me that folks should leave hardware (guns, knives, bats, chains, brass knuckles, chainsaws, molotov cocktails, etc....) home. Or just stay home entirely.

Khal Spencer

Brandishing (in states where it is defined as a crime....)

https://aizmanlaw.com/penal-code-417-brandishing-a-firearm-or-weapon/

Emily Koyama

I read this....so, it would appear that someone carrying a holstered sidearm, or a long gun slung over their shoulder, is not in danger of being arrested for "brandishing".

I think some would like it be be so, but it would not be a lawful arrest.

If the person carrying said weapons "brought them to bear", pointed them, or otherwise indicated to others in the vicinity that they intended to use them, then it's a different matter.

I agree that as a result of these armed displays, there will be a push for more laws restricting firearms near government buildings, so these individuals are probably shooting themselves in the foot 🤔😁.

Richard Reinders

So far all the armed protest at the Roundhouse have been uneventful with the exception of some jerk antagonizing the crowd and another jerk kicking his car, there is no reason this protest would be different. DC drew the extreme that don't represent Republicans and are on their way to jail I didn't hear if any of them took guns into the Capital. All the talk needs to come down a notch or two. We have to remember the Proud boys and alt right, Antifa and the extreme left do not represent the 99% of hard working, tax paying, law bidding citizens in this country but they have been able to wag the dog and this country has fallen down that rabbit hole. It needs to stop!

Khal Spencer

Yep. I read these that if open carry is legal, then carrying openly is legal as long as the firearm is not explicitly displayed in a threatening manner. I thought the part of one piece that said that any exhibition of a firearm suggesting a threat can be prosecuted as brandishing or assault with a weapon. So glaring at someone while slapping a sidearm, shaking a rifle in the air, etc. all are things to consider at an armed rally.

As far as these armed demonstrations being self-destructive, well...my concern too. If the idea is to get support for one's cause, the way to do it is not to scare the living bleep out of people. And given the way tensions are being ratcheted up right now, I think its time to stand down. Completely.

Alexandra Lynch

Trump supporters have demonstrated a number of times at the roundhouse, and every time some of them are armed. If guns are not allowed in schools, maybe they shouldn't be allowed in any public buildings.

Rosemary Johnson

However no one pulled a weapon .

Jim Klukkert

Rosemary Johnson– Trumpers have clearly brandished their semi-automatic weapons. The intent is clearly to intimidate lawful citizens and lawful, constitutional activity. A reasonable case can be made that these folks are trying to inhibit the lawful activities of our duly elected representatives.

Please get you facts right Ms. Johnson. Lives, and our American experiment in Democracy hang in the balance.

Khal Spencer

"Nora Meyers Sackett, a spokeswoman for the governor, declined to comment on Candelaria’s statement. But she wrote in an email: “The governor’s office is not a law enforcement agency and does not assess threats"

Seriously? The Governor is the chief executive of the state. If the Governor's office doesn't assess threats, than who the devil does? Her cabinet includes the Dept. of Public Safety and the National Guard.

https://www.governor.state.nm.us/our-leadership/

Maybe we need a new administration. Or at least a new spokesperson who reads the org chart.

John Cook

One assumes the Governor's Department of Public safety and the State Police assess threats. You know, the people whose business is threat assessment. And protection.

Khal Spencer

You know, those folks who report to the Governor...

John Cook

The Governor's spokesperson spoke carefully. 'The Governor's office doesn't....'. She did not say, 'The Administration doesn't.....'. You know, for folks who read carefully.

Khal Spencer

She is the Chief Executive in charge of the relevant departments. My point is the governor should not be out of the loop and is the person ultimately responsible for managing and implementing the departments that report to her.

John Cook

I agree with what you say, below. Certainly the governor should absolutely stay in the loop on this and I have confidence she is doing so. I think almost all of us support the right to protest and do not support violence during protests. If the governor is not taking strong action to avoid this I will be the first to be critical.

Khal Spencer

Hi, John. I think we agree. Intermediate snark notwithstanding....

[innocent]

Stefanie Beninato

[thumbup]

Richard Reinders

Emergency Powers

As chief executive, governors are responsible for ensuring their state is adequately prepared for emergencies and disasters of all types and sizes. Most emergencies and disasters are handled at the local level, and few require a presidential disaster declaration or attract worldwide media attention. Yet governors must be as prepared for day-to-day events—tornadoes, floods, power outages, industrial fires, and hazardous materials spills—as for catastrophes on the scale of Hurricane Katrina or the September 11 terrorist attacks. States focus on four stages of disaster or emergency management:

Prepare

Prevent

Respond

Recover

These components afford a useful rubric for thinking about the cycle of disasters and emergencies and for organizing recommendations for state action. During an emergency, the governor also plays a key role in communicating with the public during an emergency, providing advice and instructions and maintaining calm and public order.

State emergency management laws usually define how a governor may declare and end a state of emergency. In some cases, the necessary response to a disaster is beyond the capacity of state and local governments. A state may petition the President to declare a major disaster. The declaration of a major disaster triggers a variety of federal programs depending on the scope of the disaster and the type of losses experienced.

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