The protests are persisting.

A few hundred New Mexicans marched Saturday night from the Roundhouse through downtown Santa Fe and back in the name of defunding the police. While not to the extent that the demonstrators are demanding, the Santa Fe Police Department says it’s at least open to alternative forms of responding to crises beyond armed officers.

“This is an opportunity for all community partners and service providers to enter the discussion and collaborate on how we can all move forward with handling issues that could be resolved through an alternative response rather than considering the police as the only response available,” Deputy Chief Ben Valdez said Saturday afternoon. “This reimagining of a response protocol may not eliminate a police response, but it has the potential to improve the manner we all provide services to our community.”

While the wave of protests in Santa Fe and the nation began when George Floyd died at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer May 25, local officials have given activists plenty of motivation to march in recent weeks.

Outside India Palace, demonstrator Rasanjana Bhandari used a megaphone to criticize Santa Fe police for taking three hours to respond to the racist vandalism and destruction of the restaurant last week. Then Bhandari pointed out that while Steven Baca, who allegedly shot a protester in Albuquerque earlier this month, was released Monday, Clifton White, an African American who was arrested at a Black Lives Matter protest in Albuquerque earlier this month after allegedly violating his parole, remains inside the New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas.

“The state of New Mexico actively chooses to keep a Black man hostage when they perceive him as a threat, but a white man is free to attempt murder in defense of white supremacy wherever he pleases,” Bhandari told the crowd. “Our police and elected officials are saying they are comfortable with white supremacy.”

Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber was not available to comment Saturday afternoon on the degree to which the city has been discussing reallocating its resources away from the police and toward social services.

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“No one is available for non-emergency issues,” city spokeswoman Lilia Chacon said in an email Saturday afternoon.

Over the past five years, the Santa Fe Police Department has received about a quarter of expenditures from the city’s general fund in each year’s budget.

Last spring, Webber and the City Council passed a budget that gave the police department around $24.7 million of the roughly $102 million appropriated from the city’s general fund. Meanwhile, community services such as libraries, senior services and support for youth programs received around $9 million.

“Our money needs to be directed towards the south side and its nationally unprecedented levels of child poverty,” said Artemisio Romero y Carver, a community organizer and rising senior at New Mexico School for the Arts. “In my experience, and the lived experiences of many others, that means you’re starving.”

The march, organized by local advocacy groups Walk the Talk, Democratic Socialists of America-Santa Fe, The Red Nation, Santa Fe While Black and Youth United for Climate Crisis Action, was a smooth operation with free water bottles, a team of medics, and cars and cyclists coordinating to block traffic ahead of those on foot.

At street corners and outside restaurants, passersby pulled out their phones to take pictures and videos while protest signs were reflected in the glass windows of high-end jewelry stores and art galleries.

“We’ve lived in a world where some of us have had the ability to check out. Certain white liberal parts of the population have the ability to check out,” Romero y Carver said. “After Donald Trump, after COVID-19 and after seeing videos of all these deaths at the hands of police, I don’t think you can be a caring, thinking human being and not know that something fundamentally has to change. And I do believe Americans have that capacity. We’re at a point where we have very little to lose given how much this country has already been lost.”

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(23) comments

David Markun

The left has shown its true intent: stir the pot. Progressives seem to care little for facts. The local police department here is a professional organization and well intentioned. Its ironic that there were no african americans in the protest but instead white rich liberals.

Maxwell Vertical

Thinking back decades to when I was a naive virtue signaling idealist, I’m glad no one listened to my dumb ideas.

Donato Velasco

Many social programs were started in the past but people lost interest and officer had training in dealing with people in crisis but due to political changes in the community and failed to keep the vision with in the police department,, you have the current situation,, a transformation needs to take place from city management to police administration to better serve the community more pro active community out reach and citizens involvement,, you make your community safe by action

Prince Michael Jauregui

I try to be honest in-regards to my perspectives on Police and Policing.

At-times, I've offered great praise. Other times, brutally harsh.

Still, "defund the Police"?

Maybe if we defund, rioters, looters and vandals first?

Dr. Michael Johnson

More irresponsible activity sanctioned and encouraged by the politicians, who will have blood on their hands once all these diseased people spread the virus and death. Cases spiking in SF Co. and BernCo due to the previous ones, and the press is starting to wake up to this unnecessary disaster brought about by these selfish and ignorant people....

Pam Walker

I can't believe you folks are even asking for this. Better hope no one breaks in or snatches your children from the yard. Hopefully there are no domestic violence situations, or heaven forbid drug overdoses. Shesh lets just send counselors out to talk people into not commiting crimes. We will see how that works for you.

Eleanor Stevens

Pam, no one is suggesting completely abolishing first responders to dangerous situations like child abduction. But we need to redesign the system for responding to just about everything else. What you need in the case of a drug overdose is a nurse, not an armed person with no mental health training. When you have domestic violence, a counselor would probably be the perfect person to respond. Police responded to just such a situation recently in Española, and someone ended up dead. Is that really keeping us safe?

Here's an inspiring article about alternatives to policing:

Barry Rabkin

Domestic violence situation ... yes, don't send an armed police officer but please volunteer to track the number of injured or killed counselors who respond instead.

Khal Spencer

I think what we do in Santa Fe with Public Safety Aides is good to control traffic and do parking enforcement and first response to some crashes. But I disagree that you can categorically call things like domestic violence call outs something to send a counselor alone. After all, recall that the second word in domestic violence is violence. Certainly these are complicated and sending people trained in DV response is a good idea. Drug overdoses may not require police but may require force. I say that as someone who once was called to the ER by the ER staff to help restrain a violent patient on some sort of drugs and several of us played rag doll that night and learned what it was like to fly into a wall. Hopefully we have improved our ability to deal with those situations since 1976-77.

That said, you are correct in one sense. Maslow's Hammer says that when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. That needs to be addressed. I don't think we will dispense with armed sworn officers, but if we ask ourselves what resources we want other than armed sworn officers, we might have a good conversation.

Emily Koyama

Eleanor, your lack of understanding regarding what Police Officers can face during during drug overdose calls (irate, often drunk, and/or high friends and family members) and domestic violence call (same kind of people) is a perfect example of why people like you should not be speaking for the safety of this, or any community.

Any of these calls have the potential to spiral out of control on a matter of seconds, and then, what will your "counselors" do?

Police Officers would have to make the initial contact, render the scene safe, so that then you can bring in your counselors. Defunding Police will just leave fewer Officers to protect those "de-escalation teams.

You mean well, you just haven't got a clue.

Barry Rabkin

Emily: you are 100% correct.

Richard Reinders

Police earlier this year responded to an over dose that killed a young man but it was actually a homicide some one gave him a hotshot to kill him so they could rob him. Well you would have a bunch of inexperienced people walking all over the crime scene and evidence. A lot of the calls are not what they start out as. And domestic violence is the most dangerous call to go on, and it was proposed the mental health people go to those calls. A lot to work out but keep the police in the mean time, besides the police are understaffed so just add councilors and leave the police as is.

Joe Brownrigg

Such fear and the bystanders on this page. Let us know when you are ready to discuss the issues, rather than hurl empty slogans.

Eleanor Stevens

As a Santa Fe community member who is out there protesting, I appreciate the New Mexican's coverage of our efforts to bring awareness to systemic problems with policing. However, far from providing "glowing" coverage, you're not doing nearly enough to explain the issue to your readers. For example, people need to understand who Clifton White is: a Black Albuquerque activist who was jailed in clear retaliation for his organizing. David Markun, I, too, used to think the police were a vital part of our community--until a few weeks ago, when I finally started paying attention to the voices of activists and the ample research that shows that policing in the US is deeply flawed. As a former elementary teacher on Santa Fe's South Side, I know that the root of our community's problems is poverty and systemic racism. It's when people lost their jobs and their hope that they start committing crimes. Now I recognize that, far from solving those problems, policing exacerbates them, and I'm convinced we should reallocate our the majority of our city's police budget to poverty reduction programs. A few weeks ago, I had never imagined a society without police; now I'm convinced that it's vital. Khal Spencer, I also wish that the solution were as simple as voting, but show me an elected official who will stand up to the police without massive popular pressure. No, we have to vote with our bodies and our voices out in the streets. No one's paying us to be out there; we're out there because we can't stay silent any longer.

Khal Spencer

Start with the Minneapolis City Council which voted 12-0 to re think its idea of law enforcement. Or I think it is Seattle that has been reorganizing around a wider mission of public service rather than simply law enforcement. And as I said, the police don't get to decide if Mr. White is: that is decided by a judge at a bail or release hearing.

Lee DiFiore

Ms. Stevens, too much Father Flanagan Boys Town I fear. Loss of jobs rarely causes people to start committing crimes. Drug dependent lifestyles do though. Many trillions of dollars have been spent on "poverty reduction programs" and what has it resulted in? Arguably, intergenerational transmission of poverty. Many more trillions have been spent on public schools and, arguably, they are getting worse, not better. In both cases the left's continuous battle cry has been and is "for a few trillion more we can get it right".

And your response further up the page shows how misguided you are. It is clear you have never been on a drug overdose or domestic violence incident or you wouldn't be suggesting we send in a nurse or counselor respectively in lieu of the police. Most nurses and counselors would tell you the same.

Lee DiFiore

I'm confused. One of the protesters wants to defund the police but complains about slow response time? What am I missing?

Paul Davis

I'm not a fan of the phrase "Defund the police" even though I am a fan of the ideas at its core. Try to think of it instead as "Move funding from the police department to other non-armed forms of public safety provision". Instead of sending people with weapons to each and every incident the police currently respond to, try other things. Depend on a large number of complex factors, it could even reduce police response times.


according to mlg the PHO is still in effect and we should practice social distancing Guess its ok to break the law while protesting the police. What about Native American lives, do they matter?

David Markun

I moved here 4 years ago. I have found the police highly professional. Maybe they are not perfect by citizens should be proud of their work. Defunding is nonsense and led by neo marxists. Average new mexicans must speak out against the efforts by the left to stir up non exisitent issues and destablize a great city and great state.

William Craig

The story starts: “The protests are persisting.” Could this be because they’re so well funded? And get such glowing coverage in the mainstream media?

Jim Klukkert

William Craig- Please let me know where I can get funded for protesting. Ever since Soros paid off all my student loans, he won't take my phone calls! [tongue_smile]

Khal Spencer

The city has a population of roughly 80 thousand. A couple hundred protestors are a drop in the bucket, even if this article reads more like a propaganda piece than news. If we want to change city government, including the policing structure, there is an existing mechanism: referendum or voting for your councilors.

Baca was released on bail by a judge considering the specifics of his case. You have a problem with that, take it up with the judiciary. Cops had no control over that one.

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