A still-hollow promise to remove a controversial monument from the Santa Fe Plaza echoed loud and clear Saturday afternoon.

Mayor Alan Webber said in June he intended to call for the removal of the obelisk in the center of the Plaza, which is dedicated to “heroes” who died in battle with “savage Indians,” because the action is “the right thing to do” and “long overdue.”

Now activists are fed up that the monument has made it to Indigenous Peoples Day weekend.

A news release from protest organizers said they plan to occupy the Plaza through Monday.

“The three-day occupation leading up to Indigenous Peoples’ Day seeks the liberation of Indigenous peoples from all forms of colonialism,” the release said. “Including the removal of racist monuments and an end to the continued, systematic oppression of Indigenous communities.”

On Saturday, the protesters’ message was on display.

Women in masks that said “listen to Tewa Women,” in reference to the original occupants of present day Santa Fe, held signs that read “land back,” “It’s time to stop celebrating conquest” and “this monument erases indigenous history and peoples.”

Two activists identifying as white allies to the Indigenous-led protest used bike locks and chains to lock themselves to the obelisk.

“This is supposed to be a representation of what white ally-ship has become,” said one of the chained activists who declined to provide a name. “As much as we want to hold signs, we’re still chained to the racist monoliths that hold us back.”

The activists chained to the obelisk said they were prepared to stay overnight and “as long as it takes” for Webber to remove the monument.

At 10 p.m. Saturday, Webber and around 10 police officers approached a handful of demonstrators sitting on the obelisk and pleaded with them to come down. After the demonstrators refused, Webber did not rule out forcefully removing them.

"My understanding is I cannot just unilaterally take down the obelisk. One of the reasons the statue of Don Diego was removed was public safety. Two days before, there had been a shooting involving a statue," Webber said, referring to a statue of Don Diego de Vargas that was removed from Cathedral Park in June a few days after a protester was shot at a protest in Albuquerque.

"There isn't a statue on any side of this debate that's worth a human life."

The protest intentionally disrupted some tourists’ Saturday afternoon on the Plaza as demonstrators extended a basket to ask Texans to directly donate to their cause instead of buying culturally appropriated art and knockoff jewelry. Organizers also passed out pamphlets with a timeline of the obelisk from the vote to erect it in 1866 to a failed measure to remove it in 1973 to Webber’s latest promise.

“I think it’s great how they’re out here educating people on this history,” said 20-year-old Candida Lucero, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation visiting Santa Fe from Oklahoma, who happened to be walking by the protest.

“There seems to be a lot of political these days. You would think removing an offensive monument like this would be something that would be easy for all of us to get behind.”

(45) comments

Tom Hyland

Read my comments below. Or I'll repeat it here in a condensed version. The duped mask-wearing zombies have attacked and destroyed the obelisk while the mayor and city council applaud the erasure of history and humanity. All the while the zombies don't realize they are committing suicide. No reason to take Gates' vaccine. Your ignorance and compliance will end in your own erasure.

Stefanie Beninato

I do believe the headline should read Vandals--not protesters. Protesters are the ones with the signs--even chaining themselves to the obelisk--but not its destruction. What have these vandals done to bring about substantive constructive change? Are they helping build water tanks on the Navajo Nation? Are they calling their reps in the states they come from and advocating against Amy Coney Barrett's nomination given her stance on doing away with the Affordable Health Care Act? Again how does taking down a 150 plus year monument do anything constructive to end systematic racism/inequality?

It takes a lot more dedication to get systemic change to happen than pulling down an obelisk. As a historian I am deeply saddened that we do not have the obelisk as a talking point about attitude/value change over time.

Donato Velasco

its no different then a hanging tree on the town square with a noose.. but then they used to hag people on the portal of the palace.. take that down

Khal Spencer

That is one of the most ludicrous statements I've ever heard.

KT Rivera

How is an obelisk holding them back? Perhaps these protesters should put their time and energy into supporting their communities in this time of real need. Don’t need items to topple to do that!

Khal Spencer

That would mean they would have to work, KT.

Samuel Herrera

Mayor Weber would you grow some and quit begging? Let them stay chained to the obelisk and ignore them. Pray for rain and snow.

Oshana Spring

There are many obelisks in the world, and they all harken back to domination. In a way it's like a middle finger pointing to the sky reminding all who see the obelisk that they are not free. We are in a time where freedom is barely holding on. We are in a time of domination. Our rights are so infringed upon that the basic necessity of breath is impinged. Why focus on a mere statute that has only symbolic reference when we the people are coerced and mandated, however unlawfully, to the point that our health crumbles under, not COVID19 a seasonal flu, but the weight of oppression and the fear that the right to autonomy of bodily decisions may soon not be our own to make. Do what you will with the statue. I personally never liked it unlike some of the more artistic examples that should be saved for historic reference. However, the time for bravery, the time for action directed at the current enemy to freedom: global control and oppression, is a worthy fight to regain our almost lost rights as guaranteed by the Constitution.

Ted Varney

Well said, Oshana. But removing our history, good or bad is criminal. How dare you so called "offended" make this decision for me. When I show this statue to my grandson, how am I supposed to teach him of both the good AND the bad if this history is removed from sight. When he asks why the statue was placed how do I teach him also about the changes that have taken place, about the process of normalization that has taken place and the beauty of this normalization that will continue to take place provided that those who feel they are so "woke" don't exacerbate the antagonism with their phony "offense" . History should be told as truth, not as some pablum for the sake of a minority.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it-

George Santayana

Stefanie Beninato

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Khal Spencer

Obelisks mean and have meant a lot of things to different people. For those who want to go beyond the comment above, there is a lot out there.

https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/obelisk

"Summary

The many meanings of obelisks across nearly forty centuries, from Ancient Egypt (which invented them) to twentieth-century America (which put them in Hollywood epics). ..."

Angel Ortiz

Oshana. All cultures and races have a dark past. From the Spanish and French who entered North America centuries ago to the US government and how they were able to acquire the southwest from Mexico. The way in which the American Indian was shuttled into reservations so the American government could florish. I say learn from the past. Understand it. Make sure your house is in order before you run out into the street and toss blame.

Stefanie Beninato

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Khal Spencer

If these so-called activists want to make a difference, they should get down off that %$#@ obelisk and put their backs to something useful. Unfortunately, they have too much free time on their hands and insist on stirring the pot for political grievances about stuff that is long ago history.

As I have said before, I don't know of any statues that are going hungry tonight, or obelisks that are in need of emergency crisis intervention. Pathetic.

Richard Reinders

Are the two protestors tax paying members of this community? And khal I agree there are other thing that demand attention.

Stefanie Beninato

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Tom Hyland

You know what's long overdue? You know what's the right thing to do? ALL the people, not just the indigenous people and their supporters, should protest the mayor, his city council, the governor, and all the governors and mayors who are continuing the systematic oppression of ALL communities with their lockdown orders for this virus hoax. Look at those two duped obedient dudes sitting up there with their masks on. What a joke. The powers that be are laughing at all of us as the world wide economy spirals down the toilet towards a cataclysmic destruction that will result in digital currency chips and vaccine chips under our skin allowing us to "live." They call it living. How myopic, how puny and pathetic is this protest reported here that is oblivious to the reality that there's an enormous boot crushing the throat of ALL the people. Wake up, people. Tear down city hall, tear down the governor's mansion, and protest Big Pharma and the legislators who profit from the Big Lie if you want to protest what is truly killing us all.

Irene Edwards

Just take the thing down.

And, wear a mask.

John Cook

The print newspaper has a quote from police Captain Matthew Champlin that isn't in this on-line article. I want to give a shout-out to a smart cop. The print article quotes him as saying: "Yeah, they climbed up on the obelisk. We don't necessarily like that, but it is what it is." Sensible restraint by the police in situations like this is what we need all over the United States. Bravo to Captain Champlin.

Khal Spencer

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Jennifer Johnson

It is telling that Webber only showed up under the cover of darkness. He met with Indigenous leaders 116 days ago in the light of day for press, photos and false promises, but scurries about at 10pm to wring his hands again. The Indigenous people that he made the promises to have tried to reach him ever since and he has not returned a any of their calls. They deserve open dialogue and communication. Webber created this situation and he needs to stand up in daylight and walk his talk. “It’s time to stop celebrating conquest.” Webber’s words June 17,2020

Mike Johnson

Happy Columbus Day! Join us in celebrating the beginning of the incredible culture and economic progress brought to the Americas with the arrival of our European ancestors. Nothing we have today would have been possible without their bravery and sacrifices. The Knights of Columbus stand in tribute to the brave explorers who settled this land and made this the greatest country in the world.

Khal Spencer

Hey, Mike. On behalf of my Eye-talian and Eye-talian-American ancestors, especially Grandpa Mike, who was in the Italian merchant marine and jumped ship to settle in the United States (With Out Passport), happy Columbus Day to you too!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Columbus

Patrick Brockwell

Mike Johnson, this land was settled long before Columbus sailed.

Mike Johnson

"...a place, typically one that has hitherto been uninhabited, where people establish a community." Yes, it was. But settlement of the land and civilization, codification of laws, culture, business, prosperity, etc. are quite different things. Try to imaging what it would be like living here if Columbus had stayed home, if you like wandering around in loincloths and buckskins, moccasins, and chasing game on foot with clubs, bow and arrow, etc., to eke out your livelihood and get from data to day "civilized", go up to Taos and live that way for a while. But to each his own, I think most all people like it the way it is today, and that is because of the European peoples.

Richard Reinders

Pat you personally have benefited from Columbus and DeVargas and all the pioneers in this country , if you feel you have ill gotten gains , give it all to the first indigenous person you meet and go back to were your ancestors came from.

Emily Koyama

So irritating how these lecturing liberals sit in their fake adobe homes, watching Netflix, sipping French wine, and scolding us for our terrible transgressions....as I've said before, put your money where your mouth is. Turn over everything you own to the indigenous peoples...otherwise, you're just a hypocrite.

Angel Ortiz

Does anyone know how many native americans were involved in this protest? Just an observation.

Maxwell Vertical

Is this a news story or opinion piece? Where are the editors? Dillon Mullan should be taken to the woodshed for that lede.

Khal Spencer

Yeah, that intro sentence ain't nothin' but opinion.

I think the New Mexican long ago abandoned the distinction between news and editorializing. A few good people left there in the news dept. such as Daniel Chacon. And of course Milan Simonich clearly labels his work as opinion/analysis. Some of the junior writers need to be taken to the woodshed by Phill. I've no problem with opinion pieces, but they belong on the Opinion page.

David Martinez

The word SAVAGE was chiseled off the monument how many decades ago?

A Ortega

Again this is Alan and the city councilors fault. Alan boarded up the obelisk because of 20 signatures on a petition and he stands with them. So for months our plaza looks like some sort of condemned building. Aside from Councilor Vigil-Coppler and Garcia no one else has even spoken up. I don't expect much from Villarreal stood by Alan on this and apparently so do the rest of you . Its just ashame the way you allow this to happen to the City of Santa Fe because you have no backbone. We can all come together from all sides if we are allowed to participate . You guys just do things from behind closed doors then cant stand up for your actions.

Khal Spencer

Nothing is easy any more. I have no problem with people objecting to statues that venerate historical traditions that resulted in one man's foot being put on another man's neck. What I object to is the current tradition of caving to a bunch of rowdies trying to hijack traditional forms of governmental decision making. This should not be decided by minorities, or for that matter, a committee formed without public consent. We really do need to have a public discussion about this issue once The Plague lets us have a real sit down in person with each other.

Red Eagle

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Khal Spencer

and by "minorities" I man small groups of people as opposed to consensus decision making. Not referring to PoC or something like that.

Khal Spencer

So the police and Governing Body are letting these people occupy the plaza, chain themselves to things, and disrupt tourism but from what the P.D. spokesman said, it sounds like we want to make sure there are not any counter-protestors? Isn't that content-based First Amendment discrimination and unconstitutional?

Counterprotestors should be just as welcome as the protestors as long as they do not engage in violence. Period. Finally, I am sick and tired of seeing government terrorized into trashing monuments because a few agitators make demands not supported by public referendum.

Pam Walker

For once I actually agree with Khal Spencer. Both sides should be equally welcomed and have the same rights. My favorite part though of his post is the last sentence. You got it right Sir, I totally agree with you.

Khal Spencer

Having a good laugh at my own expense, Pam. I guess a broken watch does tell the right time twice a day!

David Martinez

Disrupting tourism at this point in time isn't a bad thing. We went to a socially distanced Mass at the Cathedral this afternoon, and came out to a crowded downtown, a long packed line of people in front of the Shed, sidewalks full of people. I submit that this influx is the cause of the spike in COVID positive tests.

Khal Spencer

Yep. Came back from a bike ride and one of the homes down the street from us was having a big party. At least twelve to fifteen people piled out at one point in one big cluster, without a single mask in sight. Kinda obvious why we have a spike in Covid cases. Lotta people just not being careful any more.

Khal Spencer

I've seen the DeVargas Mall parking lot full again. OTOH, places like Trader Joe's are still monitoring the number of people in the store and requiring social distancing. I'm simply avoiding places like the plaza or Shed if they are busy since the primary person responsible for me being healthy is the guy who I see in the mirror.

Mike Johnson

I think the Guv wants tourism not only interrupted, but stopped all together Khal. Her 2 week quarantine in place in your hotel or residence is still in place for anyone coming from outside the state. All the other states are supposedly doing much worse than NM in cases and rampant plague spread, so we must be protected, right?

Angel Ortiz

Honestly Mike. Do you honestly believe that the 2 week quarantine is really being adhered to? All other states are spiking and we'll be right behind them Even more tragic NM does not have the resources to deal with a huge influx of hospitalizations. It's going to be a long winter.

Stefanie Beninato

I believe you are not required to quarantine if you have a current COVID test that shows no virus present within so many days of coming to NM.

Shawn Chafins

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