Officials and media reports said a man was shot dead on Monday as a heavily armed military group attempting to protect a statue from American protesters in New Mexico.
Monuments associated with colonialism and slavery are being removed globally and continue as racism protests around the world, even after the death of an unarmed black man George Floyd in US police custody.
Protesters in the city of Albuquerque were demanding the removal of a statue of the Spanish conquistador Juan de Onet, a 16th-century governor of the state, according to local media.
As they tried to pull the sculpture down, a small group of right-wing militia members tried to save it and clashes ensued, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
The victim is believed to be in critical and stable condition.
The city’s police chief, Michael Geer, said in a Twitter statement, “police were investigating reports that could possibly incite the violence” about vigilante groups.
“If this is true, they will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law, including federal hate group designation and prosecution,” he said.
Images in the US media showed police holding several men, some wearing camouflage gear with guns.
New Mexico Governor Michel Poojan Grisham said, “The heavily armed individuals protested at the protest calling themselves ‘civil guards’ who were there for a reason: for a protest:”. The statement was posted on Twitter.
He said, “Make me (clear) clear: New Mexico has no place for any violent ‘militia’ to spread terror in New Mexico.”
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said on Twitter that the statue was temporarily removed to put public safety at risk.
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