Pistols, guns and even assault rifles were a common sight at New Mexico protests last week following the death of George Floyd.

The guns weren’t held by cops or protesters but by armed civilians who say their intention is to protect the public from riots and looting. They appeared at at least three peaceful demonstrations across the state in recent days.

Police and protesters across the state and in Santa Fe have mixed reactions to the presence of militias or other armed groups at events where demonstrators speak out against police violence in the black community, though many say their arrival is a threatening and unwelcome trend.

Nikki Archuleta, who helped organize a Monday protest in Albuquerque, said the presence of such groups can amplify feelings of fear and suppression.

“We are having a peaceful interaction with our community. There is no need for these types of groups to come out. On top of that, not even defending human life but defending property,” Archuleta wrote on Twitter.

Keiran Freeman, who also helped organize Monday’s protest in Albuquerque, said “people are going to be intimidated by people showing up to peaceful protests with M-16s and AR-15 guns.” But he added everyone has a right to be there.

Armed civilians’ attendance is still “American and constitutional and they’re doing what they want. … As long as no one is getting shot — that’s all I can hope for.”

The Albuquerque Police Department faced criticism after a video showed interactions between police and an armed group, leading to speculation they were working together.

In the video, posted Monday on Facebook, an Albuquerque police officer spoke with Mixed Martial Arts champion Jon “Bones” Jones in front of the Jackson Wink MMA Academy on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, alongside men with Jackson Wink shirts and others in camouflage fatigues.

Many in the group of men, including Jones, were wearing tactical vests. Some were armed.

Jackson Wink MMA Academy and the police department released statements saying they were not coordinating.

In a video Jones shared on Instagram, he called on people in Albuquerque to prevent spray-painting and breaking windows. “Tonight, we’re going to try and stop as many of you guys as we can. We come in peace,” Jones said, surrounded by about 25 others. “We’re going to use our voices, our numbers and we’re going to be the difference.”

Freeman said he didn’t “think [police were] officially collaborating with people from Jackson Wink” and said he felt Jones’ intentions were “to protect the peace.”

MMA fighter Jon Jones speaks with the Albuquerque Police Department prior to a protest in Albuquerque on Monday, June 1. 

In the video of Jones and others speaking with Albuquerque police, one officer said, “Some of these guys are dummies. If they see crime of opportunity, I’m sure you guys can de-escalate just by talking to them.”

Albuquerque Police Department spokesman Gilbert Gallegos declined to identify the officer and said the department was investigating the interaction between officers and the group from Jackson Wink. He called the exchange an “unplanned, unsanctioned conversation.”

“We want to discourage groups from attempting to engage in a public safety role during protests and large gatherings. They are not trained, and they are more likely to escalate tensions if they are carrying firearms and dressed like military or law enforcement officers,” Gallegos said in a statement.

Gallegos said the officer in the video has not faced disciplinary action over the incident.

Any findings would be sent to the agency’s board for review, and any recommendation for discipline would be forwarded to Albuquerque police Chief Mike Geier, who has the final say.

Michael Lyubimov, general manager of Jackson Wink, said many members of the gym are former members of the military or police officers who wanted to prevent looting and rioting, which he said were a threat to downtown Albuquerque businesses, including his gym.

He said he was inside the gym during the exchange between Jones and the Albuquerque officers but has seen the video. “Of course we’re not against peaceful protests,” he said, “but most of the protests that start peaceful end up very violently in the end. “Police cannot be everywhere, right?” Lyubimov added. “I mean, if people are breaking our businesses and causing chaos in our neighborhoods, who’s supposed to protect us if police cannot be here?”

After Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said dozens of fires were set and windows were broken late Sunday night and early Monday morning, Lyubimov said he and others were concerned things could get out of hand.

“Fortunately, it was way more peaceful” Monday night, Lyubimov said, when hundreds of protesters marched down Central Avenue and neighborhoods surrounding the University of New Mexico.

But Albuquerque isn’t the only place where quasi-militia groups have been seen at protests.

Wednesday night in Santa Fe, members of the New Mexico Civil Guard — a self-described “Second Amendment citizen militia group” — stood outside a building near Rio Chama Steakhouse, holding long guns, as people marched by.

John Burks of the New Mexico Civil Guard declined to be interviewed Friday.

A protester who attended the Santa Fe protest but declined to be identified said she was “deeply unsettled” to see armed people identifying themselves as the New Mexico Civil Guard. Although the group was not overtly threatening anyone, she and another woman placed themselves between protesters leaving the event and the armed people by the Roundhouse.

“I felt fear, but it just felt like the right thing to do,” she said.

Santa Fe police Deputy Chief Ben Valdez said in an email the department supports peaceful assemblies but does not “tolerate anyone who engages in menacing conduct threatening the use of violence, whether armed or unarmed.”

The department, he added, encourages people “to leave firearms and other weapons at home.”

Though there were no reports of violence at Wednesday’s protest, a threatening social media post by a Santa Fe man named Leroy Trujillo drew the attention of New Mexico State Police. In the post, Trujillo claimed billionaire George Soros is paying protesters to riot.

State police spokesman Dusty Francisco said the agency conducted a threat assessment “and it is believed his comments were in general and he just wanted to express his rights to open carry.”

Meanwhile, the Navajo Times reported a group “dressed like an outside militia” also attended a peaceful protest Wednesday in downtown Gallup.

Among them was a man standing outside a martial arts gym holding a semi-automatic rifle.

Gallup Mayor Louie Bonaguidi said there were rumors on Facebook that a large group of people were headed to the city to protect businesses there. “I didn’t want any white supremacy coming in here,” Bonaguidi said. “That would send the wrong message to the protest group.”

He said while he respected business owners’ rights to protect property, outsiders shouldn’t be the ones doing it.

Bonaguidi said the protests in town drew about 150 people and were peaceful.

Gallup police Capt. Erin Toadlena-Pablo said officers spoke with an armed member of the True Patriot Foundation on Thursday. When questioned, the man — who lives in Gallup — told police he did not have information on how many people were thought to be coming to the Wednesday protest and that businesses had asked the group to protect their property.

Having to see people with long guns outside of businesses or at a protest can increase tensions and take away from the intent” of the protest, Toadlena-Pablo said, adding the department asked individuals to go into the business they were protecting and not stand on the street.

(36) comments

DG Citizen

Makes me feel safer, I'm glad they are here.

Khal Spencer

Georgetown University compiled a list of state laws regulating so called private militias. If New Mexicans want to follow suit and regulate them, we can. If not, open carry is legal. Meanwhile, the bigger threat to public health were the mass gatherings, carried out in violation of the Governor's order.

But you wouldn't expect this newspaper to criticize the mass gatherings of liberals. Just go after a few conservatives who are exercising their RKBA.

Mike Johnson

Exactly Khal, the partisan bias here is thick, which ends up in hypocrisy.

Mike Johnson

Certainly, if the police are not willing and able to protect your person and private property, you are responsible for doing so and allowed by laws. Let the rioters, looters, arsonists and anarchists try something, many of us will be ready for them, and prepared.

Bryan Bird

To do what? Shoot someone for breaking a window? S

Looting? I believe that would be murder or at least manslaughter.

Al Chavez

Rob Regehr is right, in a way. The second amendment needs to be changed. No other part of the Constitution has been so grievously misinterpreted. The plain meaning of that amendment has been twisted beyond recognition. This country will only achieve a level of rational civility when deadly weapons are taken out of the hands of self-proclaimed militias.

John Gault

You are correct, the 2nd amendment has been so grievously misinterpreted. The plain meaning of that amendment has been twisted beyond recognition by the anti gun democrats in their never ending mis information agenda. I t is obvious by your post that you know absolutely nothing about the 2nd Amendment in particular or the Constitution in general. The 2nd means exactly what it says in plain english that the average 6th grader can understand. That fact is backed up by the federalist papers and the writings of the individual founders. Good reading you might give it a try.

Andrew Lucero

I fail to see the problem... They have just as much right to exercise their constitutional rights as anyone else. One thing I will give them, there has never been a single violent episode at any of their demonstrations nation wide... The same can't be said for a lot of liberal demonstrations.

The Rob

Open carry is legal and a constitutionally protected. If you don't like it change the law. Demonizing law-abiding gun owners accomplishes nothing.

William Mee

"Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people's liberty teeth and keystone under independence." - George Washington

I believe this to be a false quotation. There is only one quote by Washington on guns. The Rabid Right Wing has made up so many false quotes that Monticello employs a unit to check every Jefferson quote coming out and send letters and emails to people to stop using phony quotes.

John Gault

No it's an actual quote that. One of many that drives the rabid left wing nuts and causes them to froth at the mouth and make nonsensical stupid statements.

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John Gault

You're going to vote for and old pervert with advanced dementia and you're calling me dumb/garbage ? Hahahahaha, the guy that said there's a fool born every minuet must have known you.

William Mee

Isn't John Gault the fictional character in Ayn Rand's novels based on a serial rapist?

John Gault

Read the book you might learn something.

Stefanie Beninato

“Some of these guys are dummies. If they see crime of opportunity, I’m sure you guys can de-escalate just by talking to them.” Where does this ABQ officer get off telling armed militias to intervene with potential looters? Were the rabid gun totters deputized? Are they trained in negotiation or community relations? Where do these armed wannabes get the "right" to show up to protect businesses that are not requesting their protection? Please name the businesses in Gallup that hired these crews. Would the NM CIVIL Guard tell us who at Rio Chama hired them to stand in front of the restaurant? Are these armed civilians going to shoot first and ask questions later? An armed civilian militia in the Second Amendment is the NATIONAL Guard. We do not need outsiders looking for a violent thrill coming in to "protect" our state. And the officer in ABQ who was abnegating his responsibilities to these unauthorized groups of untrained armed civilians should be demoted and seriously retrained or fired.

Bryan Bird

I'm just curious how these militia members think they would stop a looter? Would they shoot the said looter? If so, wouldn't that be murder or at least manslaughter? So they are willing to go to jail to stop a looter?

Jim Klukkert

Gentle Reader- I meant to respond to John Gault post below by saying 'I cannot read your post without feeling that you insult our common DECENCY, HUMANITY and my intelligence."

Gaults post is an attack on our most essential human and Constitutional Rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, as enshrined in so many of the most important documents fundamental to our great experiment in Democracy. I have a difficult time believing it has come to this. I call on my fellows to renounce this photo-facist thinking.

Please defend our way of life against such onslaughts.

Thank you.

John Gault

Racism is not dead but it is on life support - kept alive by politicians, race hustlers, and people who get a sense of superiority by denouncing others as racist - Thomas Sowell

A very astute Black Man. I wonder who he's talking about, Jim.

Jim Klukkert

John Gault, writing on this site on Jun 7, 2020 @ 12:23pm

“Travon Martin was not murdered. Travon was a …up and coming street thug that got capped while attacking Zimmerman. Justice served.

George Floyd was a drug addicted street thug… who died while resisting arrest… a victim of his own conduct.”

kyle renfro


John Gault

And our great President Trump

Arthur Lynn

Interesting that there are never riots, looting, violence or destruction at rallies held by Americans executing their Constitutional rights to bear arms.

Jim Klukkert

Arthur lynn- Would you consider the 3 Americans who murdered Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, or George Zimmerman, the murderer of Trayvon Martin, to be executing their Constitutional rights to bear arms?

Would you consider the Police Violence that murdered George Floyd, or that cleared Lafayette Park of peaceful demonstrators so Trump could have a photo op, to be lawful execution of the Constitutional right to bear arms?

Vigilantes and Racist most often operate away from the public eye, but are sanctioned by the power elite to terrorize communities. Brandishing weapons at peaceful, public demonstrations or in government state houses, is hardly a Constitutional right. Rather it is an extension of this campaign if intimidation, and is rightfully to be roundly condemned.

Thank you.

John Gault

Jim, Jim, JIM, look over there behind that tree, it's a racist. An, an, and under that rock, OMG it's another racist. Oh the horror of it all, those privileged white people must be looking for someone of another color to purposely abuse.

Just a few points here. all the facts in the Arbery case have not yet come out so we don't really know what happened. Travon Martin was not murdered. Travon was a very large, strong, young, up and coming street thug that got capped while attacking Zimmerman. Justice served. George Floyd was a drug addicted street thug with a rap sheet as long as you are tall with multiple health problems who died while resisting arrest. Was it proper to lean on his neck like was done ? Of course not but you can't deny the fact that he would not have been in custody there on the ground had he not committed a crime and resisted arrest. He was a victim of his own conduct. Furthermore if he had been a white man and the LEO had been any color you wouldn't be here whining about it. Those demonstrators in Lafayette Park we not so peaceful so quite lying about it. And just like you have the constitutional right to protest no matter how misguided it may be it is any citizens right to exercise their constitutional 2nd Amendment rights as they see fit. If you want to do something positive with your life speak out about the fact that over 90% of black homicides are committed by other blacks and the horrific number of black on black murders in places like South Chicago.

Jim Klukkert

John Gault- Just to be clear about your position, which is:

"Travon Martin was... an up and coming street thug that got capped while attacking Zimmerman. Justice served."

'George Floyd was a victim of his own conduct,' died while resisting arrest. [An arrest procedure that took over 8 minutes of a cop's knee forced on Floyd's neck. DID YOU WATCH THE VIDEO Mr. Gault?]

I most certainly deny that George Floyd is in anyway responsible for his brutal murder. It is irresponsible and reckless to charge that I would not care if a person of another ethic background was brutally murdered by officers of the state. In fact I have protested in person, in writing and in campaigns against the many dictatorships around the world, so many of them supported by the US, who engage in violations of human rights.

A citizen "would not have been in custody there on the ground had he not committed a crime and resisted arrest." So why Mr. Gault, do we have courts to determine innocence or guilt? Is it your views that summary justice meted out on the streets is a Just and Equitable System of La Enflorcement? Were the Founding Father's. indeed English Common Law, wrong to establish Courts? Shall we just strike from the Consitution that portion of the Fifth Amendment that reads " …. nor shall any person… be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."

Whilst we take less than 9 minutes to digest your minority view, racist fictive minority view, recounting of the murders of good men, consider that a study of publicly available statistics, by the non-profit Mapping Police Violence, concludes that African-Americans are two-and-a-half times as likely as white Americans to be killed by police officers.

See https://mappingpoliceviolence.org for more info.

I was surprised to learn that in nearby Utah, where African-Americans comprise just 1.06 percent of the population, African-Americans account for 10 percent of victims of police killings over the past seven years - a disproportional rate of 9.21 times. In Minnesota, Black Americans are nearly four times as likely to be killed by law enforcement, with Black victims comprising 20 percent of those killed, despite comprising only 5 percent of the overall population.

Usually I admonish folks to not be insulting. But even if you had not insulted me for "whining,' and 'lying,' your world view is so delusional and murdereously racist, that I cannot read your post without feeling that you insult common wisdom and my intelligence.

I just cannot comprehend how you arrived at your position. God have mercy upon you.

So many Black Thugs, so little time. Wow...

John Gault

Jim I disavow nothing. I own everything I have posted here, it belongs to me. What I do disavow is your feeble attempt to interpret what I have said to fit your racist agenda. The problem for you Jim is you're a one trick pony. Racism is all you have to offer and sadly enough you're the only racist here.

Jim Klukkert

John Gault- More of your blather. The one trick of my fellows is that we stopped your idealogical ancestors in the 1940's across the Atlantic at Bastogne and Stalingrad; this year we will be stopping you Gault at the Ballot Box all across this land.

See you at the Victory Party in January in D.C. at Black Lives Matter Plaza!

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Jim Klukkert

John Gault- Your post had more hatred bile than any I have read in some time. Your inability to refute my concerns on your lack of regard for due process and our Constituti0n, shows your lack of so many useful talents. Perhaps you would enjoy living in the Philippines where at least 10,000 have been summarily executed under the guise of an anti-drug campaign.

Your lack of a rational response & your insult shows your politics: nativist Republican. Go away, stay away!

Comment deleted.
John Gault

Jim, thank you so much for proving my observation. I know the cruel slap of reality can sting but you will get over it.

Comment deleted.
Jim Klukkert

John Gault- Just to be clear, your position is that George Floyd had ‘committed a crime and resisted arrest,’ and so he was wholly responsible for his death. ¿Correct?

Thanks in advance for your answer to that question.

Comment deleted.
John Gault

Jim, don't try and put your words in my mouth. That's not what I said and you know it, you're just trying to elicit a response so you can launch of on one of your long winded multi paragraph mostly nonsensical racist screeds. I won't give you the opportunity. Besides you don't have the intellect required to tangle with me.

Comment deleted.
Jim Klukkert

John Gault- I needn’t put words in your mouth, I merely quote from your comments. Perhaps now you disavow them, as you appear to have nothing but contempt of People of Color, Due Process, and Constitutional & Human Rights.

I find your insults unworthy of response, though typically of folks of your political persuasion, that is your only strong suit.

B. Rosen

Most of the gun-toting dimwits that show up at protests are just wanting to feel important. They are truly a sorry lot: overweight, incapable of expressing a coherent point of view on any topic, and none of them could get through the police academy or basic training for the armed forces. So they like to parade around showing off their firearms to scare people. Militias are a joke too, usually a bunch of grown men who never outgrew playing soldier as a kid.

Robert Bartlett

So fat shaming is your weapon of choice. Very progressive.

John Gault

"Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people's liberty teeth and keystone under independence." - George Washington

Robert Bartlett

Most New Mexicans support the police as well as their right to bear arms. The democrats have only reinforced this reality.

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