George Floyd protests: Man shot in clash over Albuquerque statue

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People help a man who was shot amid clashes in Albuquerque (15/06/20)Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The man was shot after vigilantes and protesters clashed

A man has been shot and wounded in the US state of New Mexico after violence erupted over a statue of a 16th-Century Spanish colonist.

It happened when a second man opened fire after being turned upon by protesters outside Albuquerque Museum, local reports say.

The protesters had been confronted by a group of armed men as they tried to pull the statue down.

It comes amid heightened sensitivities over monuments linked to colonialism.

A number have been pulled down in the US and other countries in the wake of the death in police custody of George Floyd last month.

The unarmed African American's killing by a white police officer who knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has spurred global protests led by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Stun grenades

According to the Albuquerque Journal, clashes broke out when protesters took a pick-axe to the statue of Juan de Oñate - part of a monument depicting Oñate leading settlers into what was then a province of New Spain - after a peaceful demonstration on Monday night.

The paper says a man was pushed to the ground and started shooting when protesters moved towards him, "some threatening him".

Media caption,

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It says the person who was shot appeared to have been one of those attempting to get to the man. The shooting sent people running for cover.

Albuquerque police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said officers at the scene fired tear gas and stun grenades as they detained a number of people.

Police later said in a statement that one man arrested in connection with the shooting, 31-year-old Stephen Ray Baca, had been detained on suspicion of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

The wounded man was taken to hospital and was later said to be in a critical but stable condition.

Mr Baca is a former candidate for the Albuquerque City Council and the son of a former Bernalillo County sheriff, according to the Associated Press news agency.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, he ran for office in 2019 on the platform that local officials were "complete wimps when it comes to fighting crime".

Image source, Police handout

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller described the shooting as "a tragic, outrageous and unacceptable act of violence", adding that the sculpture had become an "urgent matter of public safety".

"In order to contain the public safety risk, the City will be removing the statue until the appropriate civic institutions can determine next steps," the mayor also tweeted.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said that all those involved in violence would be investigated and held accountable "to the fullest extent of the law".

In recent days, statues of Confederate leaders - from the slaveholding southern states that fought in the American Civil War of 1861-65 - and the explorer Christopher Columbus have been torn down in the US, as pressure grows on authorities to remove controversial monuments.

Oñate led a group of Spanish settlers - historically known as conquistadors - in 1598. He became the local governor and is known for the massacre of a pueblo - or Native American - tribe.

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