One truth about hometown politics is self-evident.

An election year expands the number of cops on the beat, no matter how peaceful the day.

Six city police cars and almost as many officers were on the Santa Fe Plaza by 8 a.m. Saturday. Vendors hadn’t yet set up their wares on the portal, and only a few tourists were out for a stroll. Yet officers were positioned as though they expected a crush of humanity for the burning of Zozobra.

Why the heavy police presence?

“We just want to make sure everybody’s safe. It’s a holiday weekend,” said Sgt. Patrick Sanchez.

It was a holiday weekend one year ago, too, but police officers weren’t conspicuous on the Plaza then. Far from it.

Police in 2020 knew violent demonstrators had arrived in town to break laws as Indigenous Peoples’ Day approached. Yet few police officers were on the Plaza.

Dozens of officers had been mobilized at Fort Marcy Park, more than a mile from the heart of downtown. The police command staff was well aware a mob was defacing and hammering the Soldiers’ Monument on the Plaza. But the brass told rank-and-file officers to stand down — to let criminals rule the day.

Emboldened by the absence of police, vandals destroyed the 152-year-old monument.

Now that the stone obelisk has been broken to bits, there’s little reason to expect another violent uprising on the Plaza.

But one significant difference exists between last year and the present: The city election is underway.

Early voters are casting ballots. Election Day itself is only about three weeks away.

Mayor Alan Webber is seeking a second term. He said he agreed with the police command staff’s decision to cede the Plaza to the lawbreakers. Police prevented injuries by backing down, Webber said.

His rationalization can’t mask a hard truth. If police officers been deployed properly throughout the holiday weekend, they could have kept the peace. They could have saved the obelisk.

Webber always ignores this point, as if “To serve and protect” is nothing more than a slogan.

Because he is on the ballot this fall, Webber cannot afford a repeat of violence, especially in the most famous part of Santa Fe. Lawlessness while voters are going to the polls could only help his main challenger, City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler.

Law enforcement should not shift direction with the gales of politics.

Destruction of public property was as much a crime last October as it is today.

Yet, when the threat to public safety was the greatest, the police presence on the Plaza was small and then nonexistent. This time, there were so many police cars and officers that tourists were puzzled.

By a little after noon Saturday, the number of police cars had increased to eight. Officers took a prominent stand in front of the vehicles.

A man from Wisconsin approached three police officers who were chatting among themselves. He wanted to know why so many cops were on hand.

“We’re just hangin’ out,” one officer responded.

It wasn’t much of an answer. But why bore visitors with the politics of policing?

Native dancers finished a performance on the bandstand. Tourists clicked cellphone photos. Other people shopped for jewelry or looked for something to eat.

Another tourist asked the assembled trio of police officers if he could buy Indian fry bread nearby. He walked away disappointed by their answer.

Kevin McKown, visiting from Albuquerque, learned about the destruction of the obelisk as he and his friends from Las Vegas, Nev., wandered through the Plaza.

The mayor and many in his political base wanted the Soldiers’ Monument removed from the Plaza. The criminal element knew Webber’s leanings.

Webber said it contained a racist panel that once referred to “savage” Indians. That word was removed in 1974 by an objector wielding a chisel.

Other panels of the obelisk lauded Union soldiers who helped save the country by stopping the Confederacy’s westward advance in New Mexico.

The obelisk was a complex mix of messages, a point not lost on McKown.

“If you hide history, you’ll never learn anything about it,” he said.

The crowd on the Plaza had grown to a few hundred by early afternoon. It was calm, orderly, polite.

Nowhere were hooligans like the ones who arrived last year to destroy the Soldiers’ Monument.

Mostly from other towns, the lawbreakers had no reason to return to the Plaza this year. They had nothing else to break. Even if they did, police would have shut them down. It’s campaign season.

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

(44) comments

danis kelly

All I know is:

We have a great police department.

I watched as my neighbor’s bicycle was stolen in broad daylight a couple days ago. The police were notified and they found it within a half hour. The police returned the bicycle to the owner and put the loser ( who was “high” on something) in jail.

Thank you, Santa Fe Police Department.

Dennis Romero


Thank you for pointing this out.

SFPD has good men and women in their ranks.

They don’t deserve the blame for Mayor Webber’s poor performance over the past year or his la k of common sense and judgment that led to last year’s violence on the plaza.

The rank and file of SFPD deserve our support.

Lupe Molina

And they just don't show up to calls about more serious things sometimes. That's far from dependable. Glad your friend got their bike back, but the DA just abandoned a murder case because they failed to collect evidence. Inconsistent to say the least.

Khal Spencer


Khal Spencer

The worst thing I could say about the P.D. command and the Mayor is perhaps they were highly naive in not thinking that agitators were going to come in and trash the place. In retrospect, given that statues and memorials all over the country were being smashed, that seems like wishful thinking. But we are all Monday Morning Quarterbacks here.

Thing is, once the SHTF, I respect the command officer's decision to do what was best for his people. As I wrote in an email to Captain Champlin yesterday, rocks don't bleed. People, whether cops or ordinary citizens, bleed and once things were out of control, regaining control would have been a mess. I respect the police captain's decision and am proud of SFPD. He was in the hot seat, not any of the peanut gallery members here.

Further, I'm not mad, at least any more, at Mayor Webber for this. Regardless of what he could or could not do, it was not the Mayor who destroyed the obelisk. I hold the culprits responsible for their actions. I only wish we had a Federal prosecutor who would have assumed the prosecution and hauled the thugs into Federal court for crossing state lines and destroying a soldier's memorial rather than a soft hearted DA who insists on some sort of rinky-dink, pop culture form of restorative justice.

In retrospect, perhaps there should have been a massive police presence there from early on in the day in question. With tear gas and paddy wagons handy. But most of the citizens of this city are to the left of me and I'm not sure how well that would have gone over. But hey, to paraphrase Apocalypse Now, I love the smell of tear gas in the morning when its being used to subdue thugs.

Let's move on.

Dennis Romero

Khal - completely disagree on the perspective that tear gas and paddy wagons would have been necessary. They wouldn't have. Had the Mayor passed on the threat he received, the plaza would have likely been cordoned off, and potential mob defused.

On moving on? I agree. Know what one great way of moving on is? Voting. Having people vote for their candidate of choice, based upon their record and performance history.

I made absolutely sure I registered to vote the first day I moved back home.

I will be casting my vote, and it won't be for Alan Webber, based upon his extremely poor performance on multiple levels and multiple issues over the past four years.

Khal Spencer

I said with tear gas and paddy wagons handy. Didn't say they would be needed but as some say, "better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it". With the Plaza cordoned off and sufficient police present, maybe this could have been avoided.

I was first eligible to vote in 1972. I may have missed one or two elections in the intervening years but otherwise, I'm at the polls.

Dennis Romero


I hope you and every single eligible vote shows up for this municipal election.

Whoever wins has a huge job ahead of them, and a large turnout will show the elected officials that we, the people, carr about our community and will hold them accountable.

Emily Hartigan

Khal, no evidence that the majority of protesters "crossed state lines" despite the press hysteria. The Three Sisters and Red Nation are right here in NM. Even among the tiny number selectively charged, there were NM residents. Webber set them up by his arguably illegal night-time attempt to tear the obelisk down.

Khal Spencer

Several were from out of state and they should have been brought up on appropriate charges. Secondly, I don't buy this "the Mayor made them do it" excuse. That's no different than "the devil made me do it" or "the trigger pulled my finger". No one does anything unless they elect to do it themselves. As much as some would like to suggest that people are no different than sheep, we all have free will and a conscience. Those responsible for taking what should have been a slow but justified civil decision into their own hands should have been held accountable. I don't care where they were from.

Emily Hartigan

I agree that breaking the law should have consequences.

AND the lousy example set by the Mayor with his nighttime attempt to circumvent the very "slow but justified" community decision, contributed to their lawlessness.

Karen Pacha Wasiolek

It’s embarrassing how racist this city is and doesn’t understand the larger issues

Dennis Romero

What are the larger issues, Karen?

The fact that Mayor Webber promised to bring the community together for a dialogue to address these issues, then proceeded to sit on his rear end for over a year, with no progress or action taken?

The fact that local Pueblos have disavowed the actions of the Three Sisters Collective?

The fact that Mayor Webber attempted to remove the monument with no public input, public hearings or Council action?

The fact that Mayor Webber didn't understand the local history and dynamics of people to make any rational decision?

The fact that you make a general, vague statement without specifying what you are referring to?

Please, please tell all of us how we don't understand the larger issues.

Dennis Romero

Karen - know that I am willing to listen to you and will do my very best to keep an open mind.

Khal Spencer

Ms. Wasiolek's definition of racist: "Anyone who expresses an opinion different than my self-defined woke one". If not that definition, I wish Ms. Wasiolek would explain what in detail is racist rather than tossing out a vague insult. Milan's scathing criticism is about the way the city handled the vandalism of the Soldier's Memorial. I don't see where he is passing judgement on the memorial itself.

LeRoy Sanchez

I totally agree with Milan. He always hits the nail on the head! Vigil Coppler will make a better mayor who truly understands and cares about our little and world famous city.

Janet Eduardo

Seems like Milan, along with Virgil Vigil, thinks that if the police had just shot some of those protestors, things would have been hunky dory. Protect and serve means the PEOPLE, not inanimate objects. Thinking that someone chiseling the word "savage" off the monument makes it OK also seems a little strange. Were Indiginous people OK with that? Seems that the final result points to a NO.

Lupe Molina

Yep. All the commentary on this is wacky. There were kids and old ladies in that crowd. Milan apparently wanted it to be Kent State.

Dennis Romero

No Janet.

No Lupe.

Nobody, including myself is advocating for another Kent State or protestors being shot.

You two twist this issue and others on a daily basis, and it is almost laughable.

What people are advocating for is for Mayor Webber to do his job. This is something he has consistently failed at over the past four years.

Webber had credible intelligence that a violent mob was forming to destroy public property. He didn't pass this information onto SFPD or the NM State Police. Didn't do his job.

Had SFPD and the NM State Police been informed, do you two really think they would have shown up guns ablazin'? No - they would not have. They would have likely set up barriers and obstacles to prevent the mob from forming in the first place.

If you two ladies would stop your melodramatic rumor mongering and stop stirring the pot to make excuses for Alan Webber and his poor performance, I think we'd all appreciate it.

You want to support Webber? Do it with your ballot. My vote will go elsewhere, along with lots of others.

LeRoy Sanchez


Lupe Molina

Cool. Cool. Cool. Can you show me proof Webber knew people were going to tear down the obelisk?

Dennis Romero


I figured it was only a matter of time before you tried to twist words. I said he had credible intelligence that he should have passed onto SFPD or NM State Police.

Lupe Molina

What? I've been trying words for decades. So you don't have any proof? So your whole story breaks down. Sorry the cops decided to protect human life over a couple of marble blocks. Ironically, a rare good judgement call from SFPD.

Dennis Romero

Lupe - once again, you are trying the spin to no avail.

If the mayor had passed on this credible threat and intelligence onto SFPD or called the NM State Police, the mob could have been prevented from forming in the first place.

Additionally, the members of the mob put themselves in a position where they could have been hurt - that was their choice.

I'm glad nobody was hurt, but Webber's lack of leadership has created numerous issues for the City and its residents.

For you to claim "there is no evidence" is simply evidence that your goal is to serve as Webber's apologist on the SFNM Comment Board. Read the article I referenced. Read the email exchange between Webber and the Three Sisters Collective. Reach out and ask the NM State Police what they would have done if that information had been relayed to them.

Do your own research. Open your mind.

Have a great day, Lupe.

"What? I've been trying words for decades. So you don't have any proof? So your whole story breaks down. Sorry the cops decided to protect human life over a couple of marble blocks. Ironically, a rare good judgement call from SFPD."

Barry Rabkin

"Protect and Serve" means PROTECT THE LAW !!!!!

MP Paul

The residents of Santa Fe are even more perplexed by the troubling misstatement of facts pouring out of Webber and his campaign staff. Does Webber really believe that Santa Fe wants leadership that doesn’t take responsibility for poor performance, routinely has faulty memory for inappropriate and sexist actions, and uses such poor judgement that residents are asked to question if Webber’s IQ cracks double digits?

1. If Webber didn’t know that activists threats to take down the obelisk were “credible” then he is struggling with mental acuity.

2. Claiming to have a “progressive” agenda while calling women in a professional workplace “clerkie” or telling a female city councilor “to not get your panties in a twist” harkens back to the good old boys club that was so dominant decades ago. Not only is sexual harassment illegal, but it leaves you to wonder what Webber means by a “progressive” forward looking agenda, when in fact his behavior is more like he crawled out of a cave from the 1960’s.

3. Describing the most recent audit as “clean” to indicate that all is well in our city’s fiscal house is dishonest. Clean in audit terminalogy simply means that the financial statements themselves are free from material misstatements and does not refer to internal controls, where the city failed with over 10 material issues and demonstrated poor internal fiscal oversight. Weber improperly accounted for his teams poor performance and instead offered up more excuses and tried to call it “clean” meaning successful. Santa Fe has not had a successful audit for the past two years, and both audits were inappropriately late. Now Webber’s solution is to have taxpayers pick up a $500,000 tab for an outside consultant to clean up the mess as he doesn’t have the competency in house to fiscally manage the city of Santa Fe.

4. Webber had the head of our city’s union, who is supporting a different candidate for mayor, fired over a 1 hour time card dispute last week and only four weeks before our city elections. The action reeks of political payback, and likely to setup another lawsuit with the tab picked up by taxpayers, again.

5. The poor state of city services is discounted by Webber with more excuses, blamed on others, or not addressed at all. Webber apparently hasn’t caught onto the difference between being a mouthpiece and actual results.

Regardless of whether you support a progressive or conservative agenda, you should not support a failed agenda, and Webber has completed failed the city of Santa Fe.

LeRoy Sanchez

So true!

Chris Mechels

The question is why, today, the "understaffed" SFPD is hanging out at the Plaza, perhaps on overtime due to the staffing issue, when they could be doing something "useful", or just sitting at home NOT on overtime. The answer suggested is POLITICS. And of course, with Mayor Webber, it's ALWAYS politics, and PR, so no surprise there. Let's turn him loose so he can go "hang out" with his buddy Neil Goldschmidt, famous for sexual abuse of a 13 year old girl, as Mayor of Portland. They can swap stories about the good old days. We are tired of his stories.

KT Rivera

Thank you Dennis Romero! I agree. Attention Palace Ave & Canyon road: Webber is on his way out.

Emily Hartigan

Interesting, complex analysis. One question: how do you know that most of the protesters were from out of town? Newbie here wants to know if many of the Three Sisters aren't from Santa Fe, and if "out of town" for a federal monument in the middle of the state capitol properly includes Albuquerque and the pueblos?

Janet Eduardo

He doesn't. Also strange that he complains about the number of police officers present when yesterday's article on the obelisk had a photo with at LEAST six police officers. Counting may not be his strong suit.

Dennis Romero

"Counting may not be his strong suit."

Janet - Milan is a columnist. He is making some pretty decent observations, despite your sarcasm.

You don't agree with his view? Fine, just say so without the sarcasm.

Milan Simonich has written many pieces I don't agree with. Do you think I unload on him or attempt to undermine him with sarcasm? No, I don't. I simply acknowledge that he is another human being and is entitled to his perspective, as I am entitled to mine.

You're entitled to yours, as well, Janet, I can only hope you start expressing it in a more mature and respectful manner.

LeRoy Sanchez


Dennis Romero


You ask a valid question. The entire episode was videotaped and posted on Facebook by several participants. The police used the social media recordings to identify individuals and make some arrests. The majority of the individuals identified were from out of town. Not all, but most.

Concerning the Three Sisters Collective, I'd ask you to do some research on your own. The research I've done shows that two of the three founders aren't members of local Pueblos. I will not personally attack them here or anywhere else.

I would also like to cut and paste a statement from the Governor of Tesuque Pueblo below. I respectfully say that the Pueblos and Indigenous People do not need me to speak for them. They have a voice and are very capable of speaking for themselves:

"We here at the Pueblo of Tesuque have thought long and hard about the goings-on in our ancestral home of “Ogapoge — Place of the White Shell,” and this is what we would like to say.

We were deeply saddened to see the headline and photo (“Activists topple obelisk,” Oct. 13). We, the Pueblo of Tesuque Tribal Council, have other concerns with those organizations and or individuals who seem to voice the concerns of the pueblo without consent of respective tribal leadership, the Pueblo of Tesuque in particular.

The Pueblo of Tesuque is not an association of individuals who share common goals or interests to effectuate a common purpose. The Pueblo of Tesuque is a federally recognized sovereign tribal government and as such, retains inherent powers of self-governance, and the Tribal Council is made up of duly appointed council members charged with the duty to serve the Pueblo of Tesuque’s best interests and the best interest of all its citizens. The Tribal Council acts and speaks by and through its executive leader, the governor of the Pueblo of Tesuque.

The Pueblo of Tesuque shares a unique legal distinction, like all federally recognized tribal governments, separate and apart from an association of individuals, and acts on behalf of all its citizens when making decisions of support or nonsupport based on the pueblo’s time-honored traditions, customs and laws.

Through this understanding, the Pueblo of Tesuque unequivocally does not support certain actions nor is the Pueblo of Tesuque affiliated with any current associations of individuals advocating for the removal of certain statues and monuments dedicated to historical individuals who were factually cruel and oppressive to Indigenous and certain minority groups in New Mexico. Furthermore, the subversive actions and activities of those individuals/organizations have negatively affected all the Pueblo communities and tribes, and is of concern with the All Pueblo Council of Governors as well.

As a tribal government, the Pueblo of Tesuque stands in solidarity with our sister pueblos and tribes. The Pueblo of Tesuque also wishes to ensure that a candid and robust discussion with elected officials in the state of New Mexico continues in a respectful and beneficial manner to remove certain tributes to historical figures out of respect for all victims of historical trauma and through proper education of all New Mexicans.

In closing, we want to say that if any Pueblo of Tesuque tribal members were involved, made or make public oral and/or written statements, they voice and/or express their opinions as individuals and do not speak for or on behalf of the Pueblo of Tesuque."

Robert A. Mora Sr. is the governor of the Pueblo of Tesuque.

Emily Hartigan

Dennis, thank you. for posting the Tesuque Pueblo statement -- tremendously important.

I'm still learning, and was surprised to learn that there is some movement within the Pueblos that objects to the traditional governance (issues of treatment of women at the fore). Given the history of gaining respect for tribal governance, this movement of mostly younger folks seems a challenging complexity. The entire obelisk episode contains so many cross-cutting stories. That's why Mr. Simonich's weighing in is valuable in itself, even the parts I have questions about.

Dale Richards

The mayor is so full of crapola it’s coming out of his mouth! He’s turned the police force into pussycats. Zero credibility. Replace or resist.

A Ortega

Help Save Santa Fe From Alan Webber !!!

Paul Dirdak Wendy Pomeroy

What a complainer! Are you ignoring yesterday’s article whee the Police Caption on site ordered the stand down because officers were getting injured?

Dennis Romero

Good morning Paul and Wendy-

I read the same article.

The same article stated that Mayor Alan Webber failed to pass along credible intelligence of a violent mob forming.

He did not pass that on to the Santa Fe Police Department.

He did not pass that on to the state police.

Simply put, Alan Webber failed to do his job.

I realize that both of you support far left causes and candidates, no matter the competency of the candidates involved.

I realize both of you are telling people that you are the new Carol Oppenheimer and Morty Simon.

Both of you are trying to be the new king makers in Santa Fe. You picked the wrong candidate.

I also find it extremely disingenuous of both of you that you attend $2000 a person fundraisers on behalf of Alan Webber, but you fail to understand that the progressive causes you claim to support are supposed to be benefiting the common man and woman.

People that can’t afford to spend $2000 per person on a fundraiser for Alan Webber.

Whatever idealism you started your political lives out with, it’s gone.

Both of you are now corporate sellouts. You’re both trying to tell the masses how to think. How to vote.

Basically, you are saying you know what’s best for everybody. You really don’t.

Quite frankly, you both remind me of the tea bag party of a decade ago. You may not be far right, but you are simply misinforming people and trying to manipulate the public opinion and vote.

That is a dog gone shame.

If you can’t see how the city of Santa Fe has gone sideways under Alan Webber, you are both lost.

A Ortega

Bravo Dennis, well said.

Andrew Lucero

AMEN.... Dennis, I couldn't agree more! [thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

MP Paul


Jan Johnson

I have seen an increase crazy drivers, excessive speeding, running lights, wacky U-turns, driving on St. Francis in the wrong direction of traffic, and yet non-existent police presence. How many tickets are SF police issuing? Whatever the number, it's not enough!

Lupe Molina

Agreed but lobby city council for cameras and speed vans. They're to yeller to do it because the odd nut in a mustang gets in their faces at fundraisers.

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