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FRI: Peaceful Protest Over Floyd Death Followed By Police Confrontation, + More

Nash Jones
Protestors at Black Lives Matter rally

Hundreds Gather  In Albuquerque To Protest Floyd DeathKUNM

Hundreds of people in Albuquerque participated in a Black Lives Matter car rally Thursday night, grieving the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis and calling for an end to racist police violence.

Near the end of the rally, the Albuquerque Police Department deployed riot teams, with military-style equipment, and took into custody three teenagers of color after gunshots were fired nearby. The young men were not charged and were later released. Their detainment sparked a police altercation with demonstrators. APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said Friday officers used tear gas in order to leave the area and avoid further confrontation.

One adult was also taken into custody and released without being charged. There were no reports of injuries from the gunshots, and it wasn’t clear whether that incident was related to the protest.

The escalated police response to unarmed Black Lives Matter protesters stands in contrast to the lack of visible police presence at an anti-shutdown demonstration that included armed white protesters on Civic Plaza last month.

Primary May Shake Up State Senate Leadership In New Mexico - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

New Mexico's primary election is testing the political fortitude of several influential Democratic legislators who have resisted progressive initiatives ranging from recreational cannabis legalization to shoring up abortion rights and greater spending from a state education trust.

Candidates backed by a coalition of liberal advocacy groups are challenging Democrats in key Senate leaderships posts, including chamber President Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces and Senate finance committee leader John Arthur Smith of Deming.

Liberal groups say Senate leaders are neglecting social safety-net services. One senator is shifting course about state savings and spending in response to the coronavirus.

Some New Mexico Counties Feel Pinch As Police Issue WarningsAssociated Press

Some New Mexico counties have seen visitor spending collapse while others have seen revenues in the construction and agriculture industries grow in recent months.

The state Economic Development Department released data Friday for the third quarter of the fiscal year. That period between January and March includes the first weeks of the coronavirus health emergency when businesses were ordered to close or curtail operations.

State police say they have issued a total of 175 cease-and-desist orders to violators of the order. New Mexico is now preparing to ease some of the restrictions beginning next week as the number of infections tops 7,360.

Dem Super Pac Pushes 'Weak' Gop Us House Primary Candidate - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

A Democratic-leaning super PAC is jumping into a New Mexico contested GOP U.S. House primary and running commercials in support of a President Donald Trump ally that Democrats believe they can defeat in November.

Patriot Majority PAC began airing television commercials Saturday attacking oil executive Claire Chase for previous critical social media posts about Trump while praising former state lawmaker Yvette Herrell for supporting Trump's border wall.

The ad urges Republican voters to "make a better choice." Democrats have expressed fears that Chase would be a tougher candidate for Democratic U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small to face.

Herrell lost to Torres Small in 2018 by 3,722 votes.

Republican Lawmaker Calls On Governor To Ease Church RestrictionsAssociated Press

Despite Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's announcement that restaurants and gyms would be allowed to operate at 50% of capacity starting June 1, critics are raising questions about the stricter limits on houses of worship.

House Republican Whip Rod Montoya of Farmington said the Democratic governor was marginalizing the importance of faith to New Mexicans. Montoya said it was a sign of how little the governor thinks of people’s rights to practice their religions.

A message seeking comment from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, one of the oldest Catholic dioceses in the nation and the largest in New Mexico, was not immediately returned.

New Mexico has 7,493 confirmed cases, with more than half of those in McKinley and San Juan counties. The death toll stands at 344, while about 193 people remain hospitalized. State health officials say more than 188,261 tests have been done.

New Mexico Will Lift Many Business Restrictions On June 1 - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

New Mexico will allow dine-in restaurants, shopping malls and salons to reopen at limited capacity starting on Monday, June 1, as state health regulators relax restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus. 

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the changes under a new 30-day public health order, speaking Thursday at an online news conference from the Statehouse. 

The changes apply to the entire state, including the northwest part of the state that accounts for the majority of infections statewide. 

Restaurants and gyms can open at 50% of maximum capacity, while a 25% limit will be applied to shopping malls, hair salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors, massage services and nail salons as they return to business for the first time since March. Loitering is prohibited, and food courts will remain closed.

State health officials reported 108 new confirmed COVID-19 infections and six related deaths. That brings total confirmed infections to 7,364 and 335 known coronavirus deaths. There were 196 hospitalized patients.

More than 183,000 tests have been conducted across a state of 2.1 million residents.

Navajo Nation Reports 102 New COVID-19 Cases, 1 More DeathAssociated Press

The Navajo Department of Health reports 102 new cases of coronavirus on the Navajo Nation and one more known death.

That pushes the numbers to 4,944 positive COVID-19 cases and 159 known deaths as of Wednesday night. Tribal officials also say preliminary reports from eight health care facilities indicate about 1,620 people have recovered from the virus with more reports still pending.  

The tribe will have another weekend lockdown from Friday night until early Monday. It will be the eighth weekend lockdown that also requires the closure of all businesses on the Navajo Nation that stretches into northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico and southeastern Utah.

New Mexico's Courts System To Resume Jury Trials Associated Press

New Mexico's state court system plans in mid-June to resume jury trials that had been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

An order issued Thursday by the state Supreme Court's chief justice lifts the suspension that has been in place since March.

The order says the 13 judicial districts must first submit plans detailing operating procedures and precautions to protect public health and safety.

It also says courts will be reopened "in a safe and gradual manner that is based on the local circumstances and available resources in each judicial district."

New Mexico Horse Track Eases Into Racing Amid Restrictions - By Susan Montoya Bryan,  Associated Press

New Mexico horse racing regulators and horse owners are excited that live racing has resumed. No spectators are allowed, but the races are being streamed by Ruidoso Downs and wagers can be made online.

Still, officials are concerned that the bets represent only a fraction of the revenue that usually makes up the handle, and that's putting pressure on track owners.

State Racing Commissioner Billy Smith said during a meeting Thursday that the forced closures due to the coronavirus pandemic have been financially painful for the entire industry.

Commissioners and others are awaiting word on whether the state will allow casinos and tracks to reopen to the public soon.

Open Space Patrols Begin Around Albuquerque Amid Fire Danger - Associated Press

Firefighters have started patrolling open space areas around New Mexico's largest metropolitan area as dry conditions intensify and fire danger increases. 

The patrols by crews with Albuquerque Fire Rescue cover more than 53 square miles that span parts of the mesa west of the city, the foothills on the east side and the Rio Grande Valley. 

Officials say the patrols will increase later this summer. 

Officials say Albuquerque sees many days in which the fire danger reaches "extreme" throughout the year. With this in mind, an operational plan has been developed to provide additional public awareness to wildfire danger and enhanced protection from catastrophic wildfires.

The latest drought map shows close to 70% of the state is dealing with some form of drought, from abnormally dry conditions throughout the eastern plains to extreme drought along the New Mexico-Colorado border.

Leader Of Cowboys For Trump Says Some Democratic Leaders Should Be Executed Santa Fe New Mexican, Daily Beast

The Otero County commissioner who drew fire for stating the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat told The Daily Beast this week that some Democratic governors could be guilty of treason and thus subject to the death penalty.

Couy Griffin, who leads Cowboys for Trump, singled out Democratic governors Ralph Northam of Virginia and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, who have imposed coronavirus lockdowns, as possibly treasonous.

“You get to pick your poison: you either go before a firing squad, or you get the end of the rope,” Griffin said. 

He also said anti-lockdown protestors would not rule out using violence.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairwoman Marg Elliston said the New Mexico Republican Party needs to condemn Griffin’s comments and called their silence “deafening.”

New Mexico Republican Party spokesman Mike Curtis said the party had nothing more to add to its statement last week about Griffin’s earlier remarks. The party said that any statements about harming another individual are wrong, regardless if they are in jest.

Survey: 26% Of Navajo Tech Students Lack Internet, Computers - Gallup Independent, Associated Press

A survey conducted by Navajo Technical University found that around 26% of its students lack access to either the Internet or a computer. 

The Gallup Independent reports the survey comes as the Crownpoint, New Mexico, school works on expanding its broadband infrastructure. 

The Federal Communications Commission recently granted temporary access and use of "an unassigned spectrum" to provide more broadband service on the Navajo Nation. 

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez granted Navajo Technical University special temporary authority on April 17, to test and provide Internet connectivity for 60 days.

The university is working to provide resources, establishing hot spots at 3 of its locations and implementing a computer device check out system.

The university also announced that it will distribute federal funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to assist students with resources needed to complete the semester, such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care.

Wildlife Managers Use Pup Fostering To Boost Wolf Genetics - Associated Press

A record number of captive-born wolf pups has been placed into the wild as part of an effort by federal and state wildlife managers to boost the genetic diversity among Mexican gray wolves in the Southwestern U.S. 

The interagency team announced the results of this season's cross-fostering program Thursday. 

They say the work of integrating the 20 pups into wild wolf packs took place in April and May. 

Eight pups were spread among three packs in New Mexico. A dozen were fostered into four packs in eastern Arizona. 

The most recent survey shows there are more than 160 wolves in the wild in the two states.

Cross-fostering involves placing pups less than 14 days old from captive breeding populations into wild dens with similarly aged pups to be raised as wild wolves. The wolf recovery team says cross-fostered pups have the same survival rate as wild-born pups in their first year of life and survival rates using the technique are generally higher than other wolf release methods.


Snake Interrupts New Mexico Elementary School Zoom Lesson - Las Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

A New Mexico elementary school teacher on Zoom with students had a lesson interrupted thanks to an uninvited guest: a bullsnake. 

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports the desert animal surprised Sunrise Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Annette Otero Nuñez during a class May 12 via Zoom from her backyard in Las Cruces, New Mexico. 

The students – at home on their computers or mobile devices – saw Nuñez getting rattled. Nuñez called Las Cruces Animal Control and an officer responded while class was still in session. 

Animal control officer Juan Valles then gave students a quick lesson on identifying desert snakes. 

The bullsnake, prevalent in the American Southwest, is not venomous.


CORRECTION, 6/1: The original headline to this post showed George Floyd's last name spelled incorrectly. We apologize for this serious error and welcome feedback always on our coverage.