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Armed “Vigilantes” Team Up With Police

“I’m here to protect their right to free speech,” said armed citizen Dan Carson, left, of Post Falls. “I just don’t want these businesses damaged,” he added as he shakes the hand of protester Joseph Riley Pleasant of Coeur d’Alene during a protest about the killing of George Floyd in Coeur d’Alene, on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review – Fair Use)

June 19 2020

The Intercept – A former Albuquerque City Council candidate who ran on a tough-on-crime platform shot a protester at an anti-police brutality demonstration on Monday and was arrested alongside members of a right-wing militia group.

The shooting is an extreme example of a trend that has played out across the country as armed vigilantes pledging to protect property have shown up at protests — in many cases with encouragement or even explicit collaboration from law enforcement.

The shooter, Steven Ray Baca, had been intimidating protesters planning to topple a statue of the murderous Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate outside the Albuquerque Museum.

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He was joined in this quest by members of the New Mexico Civil Guard, a militia group that emerged in the wake of coronavirus-related shutdowns.

Baca, who was recently named a board member of the Albuquerque Tea Party, claims to have family in law enforcement and has led pro-police activism in the past.

Amid protests over a police killing in 2014, he created a Facebook page in support of Albuquerque officers and told a reporter that he had an uncle with the department.

A profile of Baca from his 2019 run for city council notes that he is the son of a former Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputy.

In a tweet, the sheriff’s office said, “His father worked for the agency nearly twenty years ago, but was no longer an employee of BCSO as of 2001.”

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But Baca behaved as if his father still wielded influence, according to Nicholas Soto, a protester who witnessed the shooting. After firing his weapon, Soto said, Baca asked law enforcement to call his dad, whom he said was with the sheriff’s office.

Nearly 200 appearances by vigilantes and far-right extremists have been counted at protests over the past few weeks.

Before Baca opened fire, protesters were pulling a chain looped around Oñate’s neck, preparing to tear down a sculpture viewed as a symbol of genocide and racism.

Members of the New Mexico Civil Guard stood watch carrying assault weapons, ostensibly to protect the monument. Suddenly, the cheers gave way to shouts. Baca threw a woman to the ground, then strode away from the crowd. Read more. 

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Demonstrators and armed citizens coexist peacefully in downtown Coeur d’Alene

June 2, 2020

The Spokesman-Review – A group of around 25 protesters, mostly young people in their teens and 20s, gathered Tuesday night in the city’s downtown to protest police brutality.

Not far away, a dozen or so men and women in leather jackets and combat fatigues stood by, rifles strapped to their backs.

Despite what might seem like two extremes in opposition to each other, both protesters and armed spectators said they were on the same side.

“I think the armed guys are here to ensure there’s no looting tonight, mostly,” demonstrator Frances Smith said. “They’re guardians for Coeur d’Alene, ultimately. They’ve stood up for us a few times tonight.”

The demonstrators held signs with messages in memory of George Floyd and in support of Tyler Rambo, a young black man who lost both legs after being shot 10 times by Coeur d’Alene police last year. Chants rang out across the narrow street as families ate on restaurant patios and made their way through the crowd … Read more. 

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