As soon as Santa Fe police officers abandoned the Plaza on a sad afternoon in October, cowards became emboldened.

Self-described demonstrators — ignorant of history and happy to remain that way — were free to break laws with impunity.

That's exactly what they did. A mob destroyed the Plaza's 152-year-old obelisk, crimes enabled by Mayor Alan Webber and his retreating police officers.

One injustice often leads to more of the same, and it's happened again in this case.

Only a handful of lawbreakers who damaged the obelisk were identified by prosecutors and charged with crimes.

Seven of eight defendants last week accepted soft plea bargains from District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies.

Those who violently destroyed public property and sent police fleeing will not spend any time in jail. They will be asked to perform some sort of community service.

Having been spared any real punishment, the Plaza vandals might be inclined to laugh at how they were allowed to abuse the obelisk and then the criminal justice system.

Most of them probably are smart enough to appease Carmack-Altwies by claiming the community should come together now to mediate any lingering disagreements after this unfortunate bit of mob violence.

Settling a criminal case in this weak, unjust style is what Carmack-Altwies and the Plaza criminals call "restorative justice."

Exactly what has been restored by the district attorney's deal-making?

Not the obelisk. The criminals defaced it with hammers and red paint, then tore down the upper portion. It's in pieces.

Webber once told me it's possible the obelisk could be put together again. His Humpty Dumpty claim carries a hollow but predictable ring.

Webber is running for reelection this year, and he hopes his pitiful leadership on the obelisk will be obscured by the plea bargains. The case is over, fairly resolved by the state, he will say. Time to move on.

We shall see if he makes the same statement when the next mob attacks City Hall or a minority-owned business, then seeks restorative justice on grounds of its distaste for tax rates or immigration policy.

How about public confidence in the Santa Fe Police Department? Will it be restored because of the district attorney's willingness to let criminals get off easy?

Hardly. The best police officers keep the peace. Webber's chief and command officers let lawbreakers rule the Plaza. Webber said abetting criminals was safer than confronting them.

Politics guided the mayor. Many of his ardent supporters viewed the obelisk as a racist symbol. They didn't want those who destroyed it treated as common criminals.

The messages the obelisk carried were mixed and more complicated than Webber's cohorts will ever acknowledge.

Three panels honored Union soldiers who stopped the Confederate Army's westward advance in New Mexico. It was a victory that helped end slavery.

Criminals who yanked, sprayed and smashed the obelisk didn't want to recognize that history. They spoke only of another panel of the obelisk that praised soldiers for warring against "savage" Indians.

Most everyone today finds that characterization wrong and repugnant, just as they view slavery to be cruel and indefensible.

The obelisk contained no singular, simple message on New Mexico history. Some of what it highlighted was an immoral war. Other sections gave a capsule summary of soldiers who helped set free Black people.

Vandals who wrecked the obelisk were a lot like people who want to ban books rather than encourage reading and critical thinking.

The criminals objected to part of what the memorial said, so they decided no one should ever see it or delve more deeply into the history it mentioned.

Webber and his police commanders were foolish in letting them decide what belongs in a public space — on a national landmark, no less.

Carmack-Altwies' plea bargain for the Plaza criminals doesn't serve the public interest. It is a good deal for the defendants, a rotten one for anyone concerned about fairness.

Still, one defendant, Stephen Fox, has rejected the deal. Fox claims to head a branch or office of the United Nations that, he says, has been established in Santa Fe.

For a time, Fox sought me out because he wanted publicity for his purported U.N. initiative.

He evaded each question when I pressed him for particulars on what authority he had to claim he was representing the United Nations.

His attempts at media manipulation typified that of the Plaza mob, whose approach goes something like this: Ignore any contradictions or holes in our story. Accept what we say as truth. Let us think for you and take power from you.

It worked. They're skating free as the learned district attorney claims restorative justice is served.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at msimonich@sfnewmexican.com or 505-986-3080.

(75) comments

Jay Bird

the short and long of it is, no one loved that damned obelisk except property-value junkies. it was a g/d eyesore and an embarassment. save your performed outrage

Anita McGinnis

Yes, Jay Bird- impunity, ugliness and discord. Sound familiar?

Anita McGinnis

The thugs should pay for restoration and apologize to the community.

Anita McGinnis

What is it that attracts people to Santa Fe? Is overpriced rent, overcrowded sprawl, work opportunities, maybe the Cerrillos Road/St. Francis adventures? It seems that the "quality of life" for everyone has declined. The Plaza was a place that we all felt was part of home, a peaceful place in the midst of everything going on in the world today. It had its special identity, it sounds sentimental but now the lawless thugs are here to cause , with impunity, ugliness and discord where we once had some respite. It feels as if someone has come into our living room and broken the furniture. Maybe even kicked the dog or cat. I think that they should pay for the destruction as they would have had they vandalized someone's property in a home or business. They should at least pay for the restoration.

Tammy Tapia

I am sorry, but the part about the " "savage" Indians was changed a few years ago right? People seem to just want to hear about the bad, why couldn't it have been brought up at city counsel or another meeting? Then to top it off they are from out of state most of them and have reason to be in out city destroying our property that our children actually learned from. What is next? There are monuments in Pecos, Taos, every city in NM. I do not want to make others upset, but really !!!! Stay home if you can't behave!! Didn't your mothers teach you any manners?!

Kirk Holmes

New Mexico MVD is now offering a new plate design: "New Mexico, Land of Lawlessness".

Grace Trujillo

In Webber's own words, "It's time to Move On"! So move in on! We don't want him or his crony's!

Grace Trujillo

Shame on us for letting an outsider run our city! That's our fault. Born and raised in Santa Fe, it's a shame that the locals were pushed South and the rich and outsiders took over our city. We don't need webber. He doesn't respect our views. We were fine without him and fine without the people that don't belong here. GET OUT! It wasn't the locals that demolished the oblisk. We don't need any of you. Santa Feans, we need to pull together and select politicians that are going to be here for the people and the city.

Jay Bird

a little outside perspective is useful as New Mexico stagnates in our toxic stew of failed-colonialist, bitter, toxic, misogynist Catholicism

Anita McGinnis

It sounds like you've had a bowl of bitter, toxic stew.

Emily Hartigan

Seems a bit over the top, Milan.

Dennis Romero

I think it's very appropriate and spot on.

Katherine Martinez

Good Job Milan!

Russell Scanlon

People who commit acts of civic disobedience or destruction of public property should be prepared for the legal ramifications. And i am a ‘liberal’ BTW.

Khal Spencer

[smile]

Tom Hyland

Russell, civil disobedience was how America got started. It's a beautiful thing when applied correctly. However, destruction of public property should be prosecuted with a vengence.

Khal Spencer

I think it was more than civil disobedience, since civil disobedience generally is taken to be peaceful resistance a la King, Gandhi, etc. The founders took up muskets and knew that to lose meant to find themselves at the business end of a rope.

Tom Hyland

I was saying America BEGAN with civil disobedience. Thomas Payne wrote "Common Sense" which was a plea to the people to think and live as being independent of Great Britain. It wasn't a call to arms, but it did quickly evolve to that. And in that situation there wasn't anything wrong with that, too. Unless you were wearing a red coat and had an English accent, that is. Civil disobedience is as simple as not wearing a mask... all because government & pharma announced a "pandemic" in which I stand a 99.5% chance of survival if I should contract the germs. I am not alone in that disobedience. Civil disobedience is choosing not to remove yourself from a seat on the bus because you are not the "preferred" color. Civil disobedience is brave and demonstrative, but not INITIALLY violent if the message is taken well. "In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot." - Mark Twain

Samuel Herrera

The value of the obelisk cannot be determined merely by the cost of materials

Karla Moya-Crites

Our DA let these felons go free but if one of our own committed these crimes they would be locked up. Shame on the media for not reporting the assault on the police or the destruction of Property. I guess in Santa Fe if you have same skin color or be part of the woke generation you get out of jail.

Joe Brownrigg

There are TWO things seriously omitted from this article. (1) What IS "restorative justice"? The author did not bother to spell this out. The result was wild disregard for crucial definitions and hatefilled claim about what the protesters should do. (2) Did the judge ever say what "restorative justice" is? I am left to doubt the judge knew what the term means either! CLUE: IT IS NOT THE SAME AS "community service"!!

Prince Michael Jauregui

Get the entitled wannabe radicals where it hurts: Their trust funds.

Augustin de la Sierra

lol

Though I am not so sure the defendants are trust fund folks.

Still, a little lampooning of the wealthy Far Left seems harmless enough.

Khal Spencer

Here is one explanation.

http://www.commonground-adr.org/page.php?pagename=restjustice

Joe Brownrigg

If one reads this ENTIRE reference, they will have a good understanding of "Restorative Justice." It is entirely different than what people here are assuming. There are two basic principles: (1) genuine participation by both sides and (2) the actions "restore" what has been damaged, physically and psychological. Thanks, Khal.

Khal Spencer

Hope it helps, Joe!

Samuel Herrera

No judge was involved. This a DA decision. It shows the power of DAs to decide who gets prosecuted and who gets off

Teri Sullivan

Therein lies the problem. A south Louisiana resident all my life , our family has been visiting Santa Fe for thirty years. It has become our second home. Simply stated, the destruction of the obelisk was a temper tantrum gone wrong by people with not enough to do. It should have been prevented by police. It saddens me that it is gone and I believe that it should be resurrected, perhaps with the verbiage changed.

There is not one thing about Santa Fe that I would change. Except maybe, the mayor.

Teri Sullivan

May,25

Howard Houghton

Well said, Milan.

Angel Ortiz

Excellent article Milan. Thank you. I find the actions of our District Attorney offensive. Allowing these cowardly vandals to escape any form of justice is not acceptable. The Native Americans did not solicit a need for assistance from anyone much less those who were on the plaza on that day.

Richard Reinders

[thumbup][thumbup]

Mike Johnson

[thumbup][thumbup]

Lee Vigil

Sorry Angel, but the second part of your comments isn't true. There were many Native Americans on the plaza that day that were instrumental in the takedown. I don't know what you've been reading, but to say that they didn't solicit or need help couldn't be further from the truth. There's video evidence as well as photographic. They absolutely colluded.

Anita McGinnis

Is it not true that these few Native Americans were idealistic young persons who were led by the false (Marxist) group -The Three Sisters Collective- which are against the family and for the breakdown of society. As are the false group Black Lives Matter? BLM say they are for justice but are for chaos and violence.

Ernie Barney

The "punishment" didn't surprise me at all. In fact, I was shocked anyone was ever singled out of that mob for arrest and prosecution. Besides, if the vandals were subjected to greater punishment here come more protesters down to the Plaza demanding their release and "justice". We wouldn't want that during Tourist season now would we?

Prince Michael Jauregui

Congratulations Mr. Simonich, for -yet another- most compelling perspective. Aside from the essentially hug-and-a-Happy Meal given by the inept "judge", perhaps more telling -and disturbing- is the absence of nary a Hispano nor Native-American surname among the defendants.

Ah "American Justice", strikes again.

Mike Johnson

"...absence of nary a Hispano nor Native-American surname among the defendants". Indeed, an astute observation, you see today the left wing/socialist types who do this are not first person interests, they are seaching for victims to attach themselves to in order to justify their violence. It has been playing out recently in LA and NYC, as gangs of non-Palestinian thugs attack Jews on the streets waving Palestinian flags, a common tactic these days among the left.

Prince Michael Jauregui

Thank-you Dr. Johnson, AKA Brother Miguel. The cowardly attacks upon our Jewish sisters and brothers is merely an extension of previous mob-violence and thuggery perpetrated under the guise of "injustice". Good to see another expansive mind has returned, my friend.

Joe Brownrigg

Most of the world knows Israeli actions are grossly unjust and violations of universal principles of law. (This does not excuse any violation of Israeli persons.)

Joe Brownrigg

You are inaccurate on two counts. There were persons of Hispanic and Native ancestory. And your picturing of anti-Israeli violence is simply pathetic. Study up on an issue before you express you ignorance.

Prince Michael Jauregui

Dylan Wrobel, Dawn Furlong, Lily Schweitzer, Ryan Witt, Melissa Rose, Lauren Strailey, and Zachary Young.

Be sure Joe, if ANY of the defendants were Hispano and/or Native American they would've faced harsh punishment - Recent history confirms this deplorable truth.

Further, coward criminals have been arrested in N.Y. and L.A. for unprovoked attacks upon our Jewish-American sisters and brothers.

Study up on an issue before your futilely attempt to insult the living heir of King Solomon, Mr. Brownrigg, is it?

Bob Res

You wrote “ Most of the world knows Israeli actions are grossly unjust and violations of universal principles of law”.......really?

Please explain the specifics of your comment. I think even the slowest out there would have a tough time ignoring 4000 rockets fired at Israel, and the admission by Hamas leadership that they shoot from civilian centers in hopes the Israeli retaliation harms civilians, when evaluating the situation.

Jim Klukkert

[offtopic]

mark Coble

Yes, coddle criminals. Should all work out fine. Lower expectations for hiring and education...that's working out well too!

Harvey Morgan II

No fountain. There is not enough water available to let a constant flow evaporate away like in Las Vegas, Nevada. Uncover it, rename it "Frustration" since a whole lot of us are frustrated at how things have played out at every level.

Khal Spencer

Spot on, Milan. This "restorative justice" garbage will simply "restore" in this mob its sense of self-righteousness and impunity.

This plea deal did not have to involve jail time, but it could have resulted in taking guilty pleas and in lieu of jail, doing real restoration to this community. Such as:

Working at the Food Bank. My wife says that with the economy opening, volunteers are getting few and far between.

Working with the homeless. How about building homes with Homewise or other nonprofits?

Cleaning up and trimming all those unsightly medians.

Cleaning up litter on our roads and parks.

Standing at the entrance to town with an "I apologize" signboard

I'm sure others can think of a few additional penalties not involving the Greybar Hotel, which admittedly, costs the public something.

Heck, if Martin Luther King could do penance in a Southern jail, these thugs should do something besides walk away laughing. And for the D.A.? We need to clean house.

B. Rosen

[thumbup]

Joe Brownrigg

Too bad, Khal, that you did not read or apply the principles you quoted earlier re. "restorative justice."

Khal Spencer

I looked it up after that post, if you check the time stamp.

Khal Spencer

I'm really curious on how Restorative Justice will work in what is in large part a political act.

Khal Spencer

I say that because these were political activists who were true believers in what they were doing. There was plenty of time and space to negotiate with the city before the deed. Unless the defendants are willing to first, admit they went too far and second, attempt to find common ground with those injured by their acts and restore some sense of justice to the plaza, this seems to me to be a case of trying to pound a square peg in a round hole.

We shall see. I'm quite happy to be surprised if this works.

Augustin de la Sierra

Mr. Milan, you really had nothing intelligent to say about the District Attorney's reasoning?

State sources indicate the annual cost of imprisoning a person in New Mexico at the end of FY 2018 was about $45,000. Here in 2021, I presume this has gone up a bit. By instead imposing many hours of community service on seven of the eight defendants, the state comes out way ahead: It has both spared the cost to taxpayers of a prosecution and imprisonment; it has the defendants doing work for which the state would otherwise have to pay; and I believe the many hours of community service are a deterrent.

The District Attorney is responsible for taxpayer dollars while at the same time, deterring criminal behavior. To me, that this plea agreement was a wise, informed choice by the District Attorney and the defendants' attorneys is obvious.

DeeDee Downs

Amen... Milan got it 100% wrong

Richard Reinders

Just remember they can go after the defendants for all the incurred cost court and repairs, there is 8 of them between them and over the next five years they should pay.

Alfonso Sanchez

It is obvious that it was'nt your ancestors that defended this territory!! You probably have never heard of Hubbells Brigade and their contribution to making this a slave free territory. My ancestor Juan de Dios Castillo is burried in the national cemetary and fought for New Mexico during the Indian wars, be assurred he is frowning down on you Mr. de la Sierra!

Alfonso R. Sanchez

Bob Res

A DA’s job is to seek justice and protect and support crime victims and witnesses, period. This should not be swayed by budgets.

MJ Paul

Santa Fe has a responsibility to insure that these vandals not only don’t return to our city and destroy more historic public property again, but also that they don’t turn up in other communities and repeat their destruction and vandalism. If our DA fails with her hand slap, she will have much difficulty in holding elected office. Additionally the vandals need to pay for the damage they caused to the obelisk and cover the cost to our community to repair or replace the monument.

The white box covering the obelisk stump should be removed so that our community can visually see the destruction our current mayor, Alan Webber, has caused in the heart of Santa Fe. Our community can consider if we can withstand another 4 years of Webber’s stupefied leadership.

B. Rosen

This whole problem could have been avoided had people resolved their differences on this issue through dialogue and compromise. People have become so extreme in their views nowadays that when they don’t immediately get their way, they resort to mob rule. I don’t think any amount of punishment of the guilty parties in this case will deter this type of behaviors in the future. Unfortunately it represents a deeper problem with our poisoned public discourse that will require a total change in mentality.

Joseph Hempfling

WELL THOUGHT OUT AND WRITTEN ARTICLE CAPTURING ONLY ONE SIDE OF THE ISSUE IN MY OPINION; HARSH PUNISHMENT WHICH HISTORY HAS PROVEN, DOESN'T WORK. LOOK AT THE SIZE OF OUR PRISON POPULATION, OVER TWO MILLION . AND THIS BEING THE CITY DIFFERENT AND NAMED AFTER SAINT FRANCIS; TIME TO TURN THE OTHER CHEEK, FORGIVE AND MOVE ON CALL IT WHAT YOU WILL, EVEN RESTORATIVE JUSTICE IF YOU WILL.

Bob Res

So the huge swing in violence in the cities that have gotten rid of bail, emptied prisons, backed off on policing, etc., is all coincidence?

Mike Johnson

Very well stated, thank you. As Nietzsche said: "The mob is the most ruthless of tyrants". And we have many political leaders, Webber's not alone in that, that foster, encourage, and sponsor this tyranny.

Tom Hyland

Guaranteed.... the same mental midgets who destroyed the Plaza obelisk are Jonesin' to rip apart the Kit Carson memorial obelisk two block north at the Federal courthouse. That item was spraypainted in red with a message "stolen land" and has since been boarded up. I highly recommend reading "Blood and Thunder" by local Santa Fean Hampton Sides which tells the catastrophic history of Kit Carson and how New Mexico and the West was cobbled together. It was horrifying... but it really happened. And how it happened was multi-dimensional much like the Plaza obelisk. The destruction of historical monuments across America does NOT erase history, though the censorship of books, history and public dialog propagated by newspapers, mass media, teachers, politicians and the enraged actions of social justice warriors is a toxic blight upon society. These people willfully embrase ignorance, and thus, we are surrounded by an ignoramus-like and violent mentality everywhere. It was "cool" to beat the chest in self-righteousness and tear apart cities, all across America, while cops stood down by direct command of their chief and that city's mayor. That's what occurred in Santa Fe because these violent posers wanted in on the trendy action happening everywhere else. "Time to move on"?? To what, Mr. Webber? More ignorance and violence politically protected? Ask every merchant on the Plaza how they view the destruction of the obelisk. They will tell you it was a kick to the groin of their businesses and our city. Ask the Natives, who are still disallowed from selling their handicraft under the portal, how this empowered their existance. Read "Blood and Thunder" and awaken to the multi-faceted reality of how this world is spinning.

david cartwright

It's worth a moment to reflect on what a sad outcome this story now has. What is worth defending in our town?

Richard Reinders

Why is it worth a monument the local Native and Hispanic and Anglo population have been working out their issues for 400 years with out the assistance of a bunch of do gooders and trust fund idiots who tear down monuments because they are bored.

Prince Michael Jauregui

Correct again, Mr. Reinders.

Tammy Tapia

Well said!! Thank you!!

Chuck Wooldridge

I think your observations are justified but believe our Native people are equally justified to feel it's removal was long overdue. It's value to the community is dubious, after all, no one has ever said, "hey, let's go down and look at the obelisk!"

What's left of the pieces can be relocated and the event documented if necessary but now we have the opportunity to replace it with something all people can enjoy; a fountain.

Fountains have been the center piece of cities since Roman days and are common in the design and function of city squares. The amount of water needed would be miniscule and put on display what is so precious to all civilizations, especially those in arid climates like ours. Hopefully the sound of the tricking water would help cool the tempers of those embattled in this debate and actually create a place that people would desire to congregate.

Richard Reinders

Chuck the only comment from the Pueblo leadership stated they did not want to be associated with this destruction and other have said it is part of their history. Webber has not sat down with the Pueblo Leadership because he won’t hear what he wants. Milan , in this article shows the truth about the Mayor, Police Chief and now the DA and their agenda to divide the community. Kudos to Milan for standing with the community.

Maria Bautista

Milán thanks for righting the wrong. Alan Webber should s los be charged and made to do community service. He started the destruction, late in the night.

Pam Walker

A lot of times I disagree with you Milan but this articles is right on point. Well said in every way. Hmmm I bet if those folks had a group come to their favorite places, destroyed them, the folks were identified and arrested, they would be asking for prison to say the least.

Andrew Lucero

WOW!!!!! I can’t believe I’m reading this in the Santa Fe New Mexican. I had to re-read it twice just to make sure… You are spot on Milan. How on earth were you able to sneak this article past your biased, pro-Webber editor and publisher?

Pam Walker

Spot on.

Amber Espinosa-Trujillo

Good article Milan! Hopefully you will see past Webber of Lies double talk and not support him as you so strongly did the first time! You have more than seen the terrible failure he and his administration have been for the City of Holy Faith! Time will tell.

Diana L Vigil

Great ink Milan..You do your homework and know the history..As a Sa nta Fean I dont want any of the protestors working community service unless they go around town and remove graffiti and pick up all the trash and shopping carts!

Augustin de la Sierra

Many hours of removing graffiti and picking up trash and shopping carts sounds good to me. The New Mexican ought to get photos of some of the defendants doing this. At breaks, I want to see them eating C-rations (paid for by the defendants) with lots of cheap coffee.

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