There were relatively few cowboy hats but plenty of red “Make America Great Again” caps in front of the Roundhouse on Friday morning as dozens of supporters of President Donald Trump — and a handful of anti-Trump protesters — showed up for a planned rally.
The event initially was billed as a horseback procession from the Santa Fe Rodeo Grounds to the Capitol by the conservative group Cowboys for Trump. However, by Thursday, organizers had cancelled the mounted parade because of an upcoming trip to Washington, D.C., by the cowboys group and because local organizers couldn’t afford a $600 parade permit..
But Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin, chairman of the Otero County Commission, was on hand to give a fiery but folksy speech.
“The president of the United States is one of us,” Griffin said, to the applause of the crowd. He later referred to Trump as “the greatest president of the United States who has ever held the office.”
During his speech, Griffin referred to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and her advisers as “enemies of the people.”
Later he told a reporter, “I don’t know if I would be as strong as to say that they’re enemies of the people. But when they attack the Constitution, when they infringe upon the Constitution, then, yeah, I’d stand by that.”
He added, “I’m not saying that we should physically go to war with them.”
Said Tripp Stelnicki, a spokesman for the governor: “Free speech is a fine thing. Think I’ll forgo exercising mine here.”
Griffin and other speakers acknowledged that Republicans lost last year’s governor’s race and that Democrats increased their majority in the state House of Representatives. And the fault, Griffin said, lies with Republicans themselves, or as he put it, “a failure of conservatives to show up at the polls.”
Lujan Grisham beat her Republican opponent, Trump ally Steve Pearce, now state GOP chairman, by about 14 percentage points.
Speakers on Friday touched on familiar Trump themes, lashing out against illegal immigration, gun control, abortion and the news media.
Apostle Wiggins, the pastor of Redemptive Blood Church in Raleigh, N.C., who described himself as “a black man for Trump,” opened the rally with a rousing prayer in which he said God had chosen Trump to be president.
One Trump supporter from Santa Fe, James Duran, told a reporter before the rally that Santa Fe’s “sanctuary city” policy — which instructs police not to enforce federal immigration laws — has harmed the city’s economy.
Another Trump supporter sitting nearby told Duran, “Don’t waste your breath. [The reporter] doesn’t even realize the media is running the Democrats’ campaign.”
Trump supporters held signs with messages like: “Guns Don’t Kill People, Planned Parenthood Kills People,” “Pray to End Abortion” and “Ask Me about Q” — which refers to a far-right conspiracy theory known as “QAnon,” which holds that the world is run by a Satanic cabal of elites and that Trump is working to expose them.
A contingent of anti-Trump protesters, meanwhile, carried signs with messages like “Dump Trump 2020, Make America Smart Again,” “God is Love, Trump is Hate” and “Elect a Clown, Expect a Circus.”
Some of the speakers took note of the anti-Trump protesters. Griffin said their signs were “stupid” and that they’d “drunk the Kool-Aid” of the news media.
At a couple of points there was shouting back and forth between some of the Trump supporters and opponents. State police and Capitol security guards were nearby, however, and the tensions didn’t escalate.
Republican 3rd Congressional District candidate Brett Kokinadis of Santa Fe told the crowd they shouldn’t make protesters “the enemy.” Instead, he said, “We should educate them, share our concerns and commonality.”
Clarification. This story has been amended to reflect the following clarification: An early version of this story said the event had been organized by Cowboys for Trump. Actually local conservative activists William Barnard and Audrey Trujillo organized the event.