A group of residents led by the president of a group that bills itself as Santa Fe’s oldest Hispanic cultural organization is exploring an effort to recall Mayor Alan Webber.

The mayor, who has been at odds with Union Protectíva de Santa Fé over his decision over the summer to remove a statue of Spanish conquistador Don Diego de Vargas from Cathedral Park, is facing fresh criticism — and a potential recall — over the city’s handling of a protest Monday that led to the toppling of the historic obelisk in the middle of the Santa Fe Plaza.

Amid a nationwide reckoning about racial injustice, Webber in June called for the removal of the controversial war monument in the center of the city, which was dedicated in part to the “heroes” who died in battle with “savage Indians.” But efforts to remove the obelisk stalled, prompting protesters to take matters into their own hands and tear the monument down with a rope and chains.

“This guy is incompetent,” said Union Protectíva de Santa Fé President Virgil Vigil. “A lot of people think he’s inept, but he’s definitely incompetent.”

Vigil, who got into a heated argument with the mayor last month over the removal of the de Vargas statue, accused Webber of trying to pass the blame and said the mayor should be held responsible for the destruction of the obelisk — one of the reasons he said the mayor should be ousted from office.

The Mayor’s Office did not respond to a request for comment or questions about the recall process.

“Thankfully, no one was shot, no one was killed,” Webber said during a Facebook Live address Thursday morning.

“Thankfully, no one was injured seriously,” he added. “Two officers were injured trying to stop the violence from happening on the Plaza. … Other officers on the ground decided in their command role that it was safer for the community, for the police, to withdraw and come back later than to stand in there and exchange blows and maybe see the escalation of a serious problem as we’ve seen in other communities.”

But a recall could prove challenging.

The city charter states “no elected official shall be subject to a recall election … within the last year of each term of office.” Webber’s term ends in November 2021, giving proponents of a recall little time to launch the effort.

In addition, a recall petition will be deemed sufficient only if it’s signed by at least 33.3 percent of the “actual voters” in the last mayoral election, including at least 15 percent of the “actual voters” for mayor from each council district.

Proponents of the proposed recall met Thursday with City Clerk Yolanda Vigil, who provided them a copy of the city charter, as well as the state statutes regarding recall elections. Yolanda Vigil, no relation to Virgil Vigil, told the handful of proponents that she was waiting for an opinion from the City Attorney’s Office to answer their questions, including how many signatures they would need to collect.

Terry Rivera, who also attended the meeting with the city clerk, said Webber has divided the city.

“We never had problems with our Native American brothers and sisters,” she said, adding the protesters who knocked over the obelisk didn’t appear to be locals.

“They’re outsiders coming to create problems and division, and the mayor has allowed it,” she said.

Melissa Mascareñas, past president of the Santa Fe Fiesta Council, accompanied the group to meet Yolanda Vigil outside City Hall and said she supported the recall. Mascareñas was part of the group that signed an agreement in 2018 to end the Entrada, a long-running but controversial Fiesta de Santa Fe dramatization that some viewed as revisionist history and a celebration of colonization.

“I honestly feel like we’ve been slapped in the face as a Hispanic people because we gave up a lot,” she said. “But what we gave up was not enough because here we stand with our city torn apart.”

Virgil Vigil, who also criticized recent vandalism of the Cross of the Martyrs, contends the mayor violated his oath of office by “ignoring” his duty to protect historic property from destruction.

“The people are very upset,” he told the city clerk. “There are a lot of messages on social media saying, ‘Replace the mayor.’ Well, social media doesn’t cut it. We have to do this officially, and that’s why we are here to officially ask for the procedures to remove this mayor because he is unfit to hold office.”

Santa Fe police, meanwhile, are seeking another suspect involved in the destruction of the obelisk on the Plaza Monday afternoon.

A man caught on video surveillance obtained by the police department is suspected of breaking down a rail barrier set up by city crews. Once the obstacle was broken, the man, who wore a yellow shirt and had long, dark hair, moved the barrier to be used as a ladder for others to access the monument.

Video footage shows the suspect spray-painting the monument and later pulling on the straps that brought down the 152-year-old obelisk.

Police on Monday arrested two men at the scene. One was charged with a felony count of battery on a peace officer and a misdemeanor count of resisting an officer, and the other was charged with two misdemeanors: resisting an officer and criminal trespass.

The two men, identified as Dylan Wrobel, 27, and Sean Sunderland, 24, were arraigned Tuesday before Santa Fe County Magistrate Judge Donita Sena. Both were released from jail on $2,500 bonds.

On Wednesday, police used video surveillance to identify another man suspected of initiating damage to the obelisk. Police say the man, who was sporting a mop of orange hair, a pink scarf or bandanna and a blue mask, climbed on the obelisk just before 1 p.m. Monday, removed a chain and tow strap from his backpack and then attached them to the monument.

Those tools were later used to topple the obelisk, police said.

Anyone who has information on the identity of any of these suspects is asked to call Capt. Anthony Tapia of the police department at 505-955-5286 or email him at matapia@santafenm.gov.

Additionally, Santa Fe Crime Stoppers is offering up to a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of those involved.

The case remains under investigation.

Staff writer Robert Nott contributed to this report.

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

(66) comments

Carlos Vasquez

Do you remember the trees along Cerrillos Rd. where the Indian School is? Do you know why the Native people chose to cut down all those trees and remove all the old buildings? Because they finally had accrued enough political and economic sovereignty to do it their way - which was to try to erase the memories of brutal colonialism and forced assimilation that had taken place in the past. A past they now had the power to begin reconciling for themselves. The new generation of these Native people are very much like new generations of educated Black people who are now able to make a reasoned and informed choice based on the fact that history is happening.

Frederick Jones

It's time to vote them all out! Picando lo! Politics in the land of getting done later! Then things happen and it's not their fault! That's what happens when you buy elections.

Kirk Allison

I was saddened when the statue of Don Diego de Vargas was removed from Cathedral Park in the early hours when few were around to object. I was outraged vandals (which is not the blocked term I'd rather use) tore down the Plaza Obelisk. Make no mistake, the Mayor allowed this to happen, because it was hardly unpredictable this would happen on the day it did. The Mayor couldn't actively remove the Obelisk, so he passively permitted its destruction.

A multi-generational native Californian, I moved from my home to escape these elitist idiots. Though I realized I would never be a true local, I came to Santa Fe to become a New Mexican, and to respect and embrace the New Mexican culture, not to bring California here. And I felt welcomed by my native New Mexican neighbors.

Lately, I avoid saying where I'm from. I avoid it because of those who do come to change this state into the disastrous places they came from. I didn't vote for Webber, because I recognized his type from my past, but I never guessed he would so egregiously allow this city to be broken apart piece by historical piece. Don't let Santa Fe become a Portland or a San Francisco.

In short, where do I sign?

Kiki Martinez

I agree the mayor and several city councilors (those that are in the Webber circle, and they know who they are) all need to be removed from our city government. As a Spanish American native New Mexican it angers and saddens me how so many who have come from other states are now here disrespecting our culture and city. For too long now there has been a misconception that us local Hispanics are beneath other cultures and I can't understand how our land, our "historic" neighborhoods and designs, our New Mexican cuisine, etc., are something so many outsiders can hardly wait to get their hands on and copy, yet they think nothing of looking down on us. Santa Fe used to be such a nice city and it's true, the Hispanics, Indigenous and Anglos who have been here for a long time used to live for the most part in harmony, but it's not like that anymore. If you're here from another state please show us the respect we deserve and stop polluting our city with your attitudes of entitlement because you now consider yourself "a local".

Richard Reinders

I agree with you Kiki, I married into the culture here and moved here because of the live and let live attitude and the deep rich culture of the "locals" I have only been around for a short time 34 years but have seen a dramatic change in my time here, I consider it home but never considered changing a thing. The left say they are saving the Native population and that's why this is happening, but I have never heard of one conversation between the city and the immediate Pueblos like Tesuque, Pojoaque, Nambe, Ohkay Owinghe and San I to ask them what they feel or want. I have read in this paper that the Okhay Owinghe Governor was not happy about taking down Onate Statue , he said that was also his history. So when they say they are doing all the culture cancelling for the Native population it is a lie, they are following an agenda to Homogenize the population so it is easier to push there Socialist agenda. The Democrat party has been hijacked and is now a wolf in sheep's clothing and will do literally anything to cancel history and culture. They are not the party of your father or grandparents , the Republicans values are closer to the old Conservatives Democrats, don't vote for Trump but vote Republican when it comes to local politicians, they are the ones that will protect your local values.

Carlos Vasquez

..how does it "Homeginize"? truly just trying to learn(:

Khal Spencer

First off, I don't blame the Mayor for the destruction of the Obelisk. I blame the vandals who did the deed. One can fault the Mayor and Chief for not having enough cops on the scene but that was not the deciding factor. The deciding factor was vandals taking matters into their own hands. Sure, we could have had a full scale riot evicting the S-O-B's as they started tearing it down or for that matter, completely cordoned off the Plaza before the SHTF but that is all 20-20 hindsight.

Where I fault the city administration is in agreeing that the Obelisk should have been removed even before we had a civic conversation. It seems the Mayor gave away his strong suit early on by opining that the Obelisk and other monuments should be removed, thus painting himself into a corner. Shouldn't we have had that conversation first, with or without a Truth and Reconciliation Committee? By not having that conversation first, we gave away the moral high ground, i.e., that this should be done by public consensus, not by a judge and jury of arrogant vandals. Also, for those who complain the process was too slow, I answer that this was not any ordinary year. If I were the Mayor, my first duties are to the living who depend on city services during a pandemic, not to trying to deal with hundreds of years of history in the arguments over a monument.

If I have a dog in the fight it is over the process, not the particulars. This should not have been decided by force or by a tiny minority of highly opinionated people imposing their will on the public.

Well, now we literally get to pick up the pieces and move on. I doubt the proponents of recall will muster the signatures to get their agenda on a ballot but I have a sneaking suspicion that this issue will play large in the next set of mayoral and council elections.

Finally, its not that I don't care about a soldier's monument or soldiers. My natural father served in Korea, two uncles and a good friend in WW II. Many of the parents in the neighborhood where I grew up were WW II or Korea veterans. Have friends who came back from Vietnam. Smashing a soldier's monument rather than rectifying the racist wording on one side is throwing the civic baby out with the bathwater. Shame on us.

Andrew Lucero

Make no mistake, once this “Official Petition” is circulated, they will get more than enough signatures to remove Webber… If Webber was a smart and honorable man who truly cared about the citizens of Santa Fe, he would realize that he has lost the confidence of the people and resign today. Perhaps he could even manage to salvage some small semblance of dignity instead of forcing us to take such draconian measures to remove him. But he is none of those things. Being the arrogant (insert expletive) that he is, he will force us to waste our precious time, effort and money to remove him… But remove him we will. Santa Fe cannot begin to heal until this man is gone! Just tell us where the “Official Petition” is and my family and I will go sign it!

Mike Johnson

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Monica Vialpando

I agree with you Andrew Lucero. Where's the "Official Petition"??!!

Lupe Molina

The Union Protectíva de Santa Fé is not a registered nonprofit or official organization of any kind. Like the Neighborhood Network, they have no accountability, don't pay taxes, and are not required to have open meetings. With all the recent talk of shadowy anarchist groups changing our city, do we care at all about these unregistered orgs suggesting policy and threatening to remove elected leaders?

Richard Reinders

That organization has been around forever, my wife's grandfather was part of their group years and years ago. Who else is standing up for the people.

Patricia Ortiz

Lupe Molina, It may not be registered but it is a community organization in existence for decades comprised of old family Santa Feans here for four centuries. And have a say so in preservation of the Spanish culture. If Webber is biased and not in support of Santa Fe's culture, the organization as a body has every right to take the steps to recall him.

Richard Reinders

Well stated Patricia. La Union Protectíva de Santa Fé and Santa Fe Councilor Joanne Vigil Coppler have shown the courage to stand for the people and against Webber’s disregard for the Santa Fe Hispanic history. Now is the time stand together as a community.

Patricia Ortiz

There's a problem with Hispanic as New Mexico has two Spanish speaking cultures. The folks up north have been in Northern NM for over four centuries and are Spanish cultured having preserved this culture to date. The Mexican culture migrated to the NM southern border areas in the late 1800s. And are a mestiso culture and historically not NM nortenos. And sometimes do not support the Spanish culture from the north. Thus the last twenty years we have experienced an influx and presently we have two diverse Hispanic (a US Census Bureau term implemented by the 1970s Nixon Administration term) cultures. Hispanic is not nessessarily Spanish. Prior to about 2000, not that long ago, we here in the north typically were Spanish American, this is our heritage. And in agreement with you, we need to stand up as a community.

Lupe Molina

What is "Santa Fe's culture" as defined by you?

Patricia Ortiz

In a nutshell, the culture is from Socorro to Taos which is inclusive of the Pueblo Indians mainly along the Rio Grande valley where most Pueblo Indians villages were and still are, whose history is intertwined with the Spanish since 1598 European settlements starting in San Gabriel then moved a few miles south to Santa Fe. During the Spanish Colonial Period, the Spanish and Pueblo Indians lived separately, each culture preserved their own heritage--language and religion while existing together in an isolated northern NM. Not to become a mestizo culture as they did not merge cultures to one. While they had their differences and even a revolt they came together, allied against the Navajo, Apache and Ute, the Pueblo adopting many Spanish traditions. The historical culture for four centuries is Pueblo Indian and Spanish, the Spanish preserving the heritage brought from Spain, many considering Spain the motherland. We celebrate our Spanish founder Onate; and DeVargas for the resettlement of north/central NM. La Conquistadora is the patron saint. Spain/Spanish is deeply ingrained in most NNMs.

Benjamin Martinez

Simple civics lesson for you Lupe. Anyone can start a recall petition. It doesn't have to be a 'registered' organization. It would be scary if only 'registered' organization could do so. Individual citizens have that power and should not be limited.

Lupe Molina

Is that the argument I made? No. Any person or loose association of individuals can start a petition for anything. My point is that the Union Protectiva does not have public membership or a publicly available mission or charter. Their antiquated website says their main program is funding Christian burials. How does that jive with making policy recommendations? Do they have historians among their ranks? Do they have a formal relationship to the Spanish Crown with access to its historical records? The group has every right to take whatever position it wants, but without knowing the expertise of it's members, should anyone listen? None of that information is available, can you provide it?

Rick Martinez

The Neighborhood Network is a registered New Mexico nonprofit and has

been for over 20 years.

Additionally, the Network is scrupulous about never endorsing any

candidate and certainly is not participating in any recall attempt

against any elected official.

Carlos Vasquez

!Ay que Lupita!

Nicoletta Munroe

The irony in this discussion is that the mayor wanted the obelisk to be removed and now the people want to remove the mayor. The obelisk was the subject of George Soros paid protestors, some of whom removed statues of Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt in our cities. The mayor publicly called for the removal of the obelisk this year, which is not appropriate because it does not belong to him. There is a federal suit regarding the mayor's attempted removal of the obelisk in June. That suit may determine that the obelisk, now toppled, is a federal landmark and removal not the province of the city. There is evidence that the mayor tried to reason with the protesters on Saturday and Sunday before the Monday Indigenous Peoples day event, asking them to join him for a discussion about monuments. The protestors were not capable of discussion because they were there to tear down a monument, and are not rational. Is removing the mayor going to bring back our obelisk? It is not appropriate to ask for a three-centuries old monument to be removed when we do not have all the facts, it does not belong to the mayor, and it is irreplaceable. Yet, is our mayor the issue? Our obelisk was stolen possibly by people whom do not even live in our state. The obelisk is all of us. The plaque may have offended people, yet the words may be mis-interpreted. The words "savage monarchs" appear in a 1765 legal textbook describing early British kings. The mayor accused the obelisk, now the mayor stands accused.

Stefanie Beninato

My comment was removed. The conspiracy theory that George Soros is funding people to go to protests and turn them violent is an alt right theory that has no support in reality. Posters who suggest that Soros funded those who tore the obelisk down IMHO lessens that person's credibility. We have enough to deal with concerning this event/destruction without divinding the community over a fake theory.

Maxwell Vertical

Webber is a sanctimonious elitist who moved here to lecture multigenerational New Mexicans on the way it should be done. There are many transplants, and retirees who do the same. I moved here 15 years ago and I'll never consider myself a local. What attracted me to Santa Fe was the unique and deep culture. I've never considered it my place anything but to embrace it.

Mindy Paul

Well said, and I feel the same. I have a responsibility to protect and support what brought me to call Santa Fe my home nearly 3 decades ago. I am outraged at the lack of respect shown to the people of Santa Fe who where born here. Even more outrageous is the racism displayed by our mayor and a few of the councilors, while professing to be "progressive". I doubt that few residents will every forget Councilor Lindell"s racist rant caught on tape calling the people on the plaza during Fiesta, "stinking". The mayor's response to this racist rant and his selection of Lindell as his pro tem, "not my problem". Rather than continue to divide our community further and force a recall, the mayor and a few of these councilors need to do the right thing and resign.

Patricia Ortiz

The old time Anglo citizens had respect for the culture and all, Indian, Spanish and Anglo were part of the community in unison. No Red Nation, no history revisionists, no White supremacists, no left wing radicals who felt they were morally superior and had to come to town to do right by the Indian, of which, the local history they are in total ignorance of.

Anita McGinnis

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Mary Jane

Why don't these elitists just stay put and run for office in the big cities they came from? They think Santa Fe will be easier to run than DC, Chicago or LA? Smells of a new sort of colonialism to me.

John Martinez

Thank you Daniel for putting this story out there. we will no longer be ok with the divide in our community and let outsiders come in and take our culture away from us! We will be happy to sign the petition also.

NOSOTROS SONOMOS LA MAYORIA!!!

Donato Velasco

the ballot box is your answer, so vote them out and you can change all those rules they implemented to control the ballot box and their special interest

Richard Reinders

Look how much damage Webber has done in the past removal of the Entrada, removal of DeVargas, toppling of the monument in the plaza, vandalism to the Cross of the Martyrs do you really think you can wait a year. Get rid of Webber now and then all the council during the election except Garcia and Coppler. Webber and his NY backing can annihilate the rest of the culture in one year

Monica Vialpando

Well said Richard Reinders !👍

Martin Perea

While I was growing up in Santa Fe it was inhabited mainly by Native Americans, Hispanics, and Anglos. We were neighbors, friends, and family. We loved and respected each other. We played together, dated, married, and broke bread together. It was not eutopia, but it was a wonderful place to live. That was before it became hip for left wing radicals, anarchists, and social justice warriors to hate our culture. We were all proud of our city and its historic landmarks. For the most part, our elected officials stood for law and order. We would never have allowed criminals to destroy our beautiful city. Something has changed. We have given liberals too much power. We have allowed them to rob us of our culture. It is time for a change. We must become a unified force in stopping this invasion. New Mexicans of Native and European heritage must unite to defend our shared culture. While we welcome visitors of all walks of life, we must demand that they respect our culture. I stand with all the citizens who wish to remove Alan Webber from office.

Maxwell Vertical

Truth.

Monica Vialpando

Yes !!

Andrew Lucero

Amen Brother! [thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Miguel Perez

Amen to that Brother 👍👍👍👍👍

Patricia Ortiz

👍

Carlos Vasquez

Do you remember the trees along Cerrillos Rd. where the Indian School is? Do you know why the Native people chose to cut down all those trees and remove all the old buildings? Because they finally had accrued enough political and economic sovereignty to do it their way - which was to try to erase the memories of brutal colonialism and forced assimilation that had taken place in the past. A past they now had the power to begin reconciling for themselves. The new generation of these Native people are very much like new generations of educated Black people who are now able to make a reasoned and informed choice based on the fact that history is happening.

Mindy Paul

I am completely fed up with Alan Webber and the destruction he is causing in Santa Fe. Writing letters, sending emails, commenting on social media, is not enough, Webber and some of our councilors are simply not listening to the people in our community. Carol Romero Wirth used the Covid emergency as an excuse for not responding to the plaza obelisk crisis sooner, yet she was on the front lines of reorganizing our city during the covid crisis. The lack of accountability and excuses for failing Santa Fe is very disturbing. Webber and a few of our councilors need to do the right thing and simply resign.

Martin Perea

Thank you for posting this. I stand with you in our effort to remove Webber from office.

Stefanie Beninato

Thank you for speaking out about Carol Romero-Wirth. Initially she was an independent thinker but has become a cheerleader for Webber--often shutting down discussion at council. Certainly she does not seem to respond to constituents--although maybe that depends on who you are. Recently she voted on an H Board matter to deny sending back an appeal to the H Board because the driveway on Alameda was near a curve. She allowed in hearsay information at the hearing without objection and she herself has a driveway at a blind curve but has never had an accident leaving the driveway. A couple of days ago she made the motion to reject an H Board appeal because the 3 day deadline was mandatory--who cares that the owner took the appeal knowing it was late. And now we have aging in place as a hardship for an exception to the H Board. The council might as well dismantle the board and say loud and clear--open to developers no matter what.

Monica Vialpando

👍

Benjamin Martinez

As bad as the mayor is, our city council could have picked up this issue. They could have moved it to the front, but chose to let it smolder. For any of them to say otherwise shows their lack of integrity. ANY one of them could have taken the initiative to address this, they are all complicit.

Mary Jane

Useful idiots running the show.

James D....

First, why do a select few get to make a decision for the many citizens of Santa Fe? I think if you talk to the majority of people in Santa Fe our monuments are viewed as part of our history. It angers me a small majority takes action defects our history. What compounds our frustration is that if the mayor cannot stop if you rebels and anarchist from toppling a Monument what would he really do in a true crisis? It astounds me that he cannot control this crowd. Further surprises me that he still holds office given his record. He should go down in history is our worst mayor and it’s evident he is not someone who cares. He collapsed under pressure!

Stefanie Beninato

I think it would be a close contest with Debbie Jaramillo although at least she did achieve some goals on affordable housing and living wages.

Mike Johnson

Time for all NM patriots, who love our state and all its history and cultures, to join together to oust this carpet-bagging socialist from any form of government responsibility. It is in our hands to act now.

Miguel Perez

Right on Brother!

Richard Reinders

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Patricia Ortiz

👍

Monica Vialpando

Here, here ✊

William Craig

The petition is here:

www.change.org/p/constituents-of-santa-fe-calling-for-the-removal-of-santa-fe-mayor-alan-webber

Stefanie Beninato

Your online petition is a big NOTHING. You have to follow the recall provisions.

Kathy Fish

Actually, it's something. Every effort to oust Webber matters. This might not be a legal document, but it's a gesture, and the more signatures, the better. If you don't want to sign it, you don't have to, but don't undermine other folks' efforts towards constructive activism. After all, what have YOU done today to help your city?

Richard Reinders

If you know tell them how to proceed,

Stephanie Konda

Our mayor is inept at best. It’s about time that he goes! Texas seems like a good retirement state for him...

Donato Velasco

its a start but start building a future by getting people involved in the political system that wants to build santa fe for all not special interest , get the those office filed with people that represent the community..

Miguel Perez

We have had enough of Mayor Webber. My family will sign the petition.

Richard Reinders

Union Protectíva de Santa Fé there is time to get petitions , I have seen an online petition already being circulated on FB by Tiffany Thomas on change .org she has over 2100 signature's. If someone knows Virgil Vigil please forward this, and contact all your family's to sign.

Katherine Martinez

Thank you for the information, I will sign up.

David Martinez

Change dot org petitions have never changed anyone's mind. Use the recall process that is found on the city's website.

Miguel Perez

Let’s do it!

Tiffany Thomas

its my petition and I would love to help Union Protectiva in any way I can! My dad is a member, but unfortunately I am having a hard time getting ahold of someone there. If anyone has info, please let me know!

Edie Gonzales

Please those of us who signed the online petition about how we can take real action to oust Webber.

Edie Gonzales

Please keep us (we who signed the online petition) regarding how we can take real action to oust Webber.

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