During a protest against the reinstallation of a statue of Juan de Oñate, a controversial Spanish conquistador, a man was shot in northern New Mexico. The protest took place in the city of Española, where officials had planned to reinstall the statue but canceled the event due to safety concerns. Ryan Martinez, 23, is believed to have shot the man during an altercation that broke out at the protest. Martinez has been taken into custody, and the victim was airlifted to a hospital in Albuquerque. The shooting is being investigated by the New Mexico State Police.
Juan de Oñate is known for leading a massacre of indigenous people and was convicted of using excessive force, resulting in his banishment from New Mexico. The statue of Oñate was initially removed in 2020 following protests demanding its removal, as part of a wave of demonstrations across the country against monuments of controversial historical figures. However, Rio Arriba County commissioners decided to reinstall the statue in a new location in front of a county building. Despite the postponement of the rededication event, some protesters showed up and scuffles broke out, leading to the shooting.
Rio Arriba County Sheriff Billy Merrifield had advised against moving the statue, expressing concerns about safety issues. He stated that he was grateful for the two commissioners who decided to halt the installation of the statue on the scheduled day. The shooting incident highlights the ongoing controversy surrounding statues and monuments honoring figures with problematic histories, as well as the tensions and conflicts that can arise during protests and demonstrations.