The Black New Mexico Movement returned to Rio Rancho on Saturday, three weeks after their peaceful rally in the conservative suburban city was overrun with a couple hundred aggressive counter-protestors. This time, the pushback was much smaller and more subdued. This weekend’s Peace Talk was focused on getting out the vote as part of the struggle for racial justice.
On the steps of the Rio Rancho events center in the evening light, Black New Mexico Movement leaders gave speeches as the crowd of supporters grew to over 50.
Mason Graham, project coordinator with the New Mexico Black Voters Collaborative, spoke about the long history of racist voter suppression, including felon voter laws. He said finding out that his father wasn’t able to vote because of a conviction decades ago motivated him to learn more.
“Turns out, in 2016, 6.1 million Americans were denied the right to vote, for the same reason my dad was denied,” said Graham. “That’s about 2.5 percent of the population of voters.”
In a tight presidential race, the election can come down to fewer votes than that, Graham said, “so when you hear people say that every vote counts, it really counts.”
Another speaker, Erica Davis-Crump, urged people to think of politicians as employees of the public. “Our senators work for us,” she said. “Our sheriffs, they work for us. Our mayors, they work for us. Our superintendents of schools, they work for us.”
Davis-Crump asked people to get a sample ballot, read through the bond questions and research the candidates from the federal to local level.
“Who is gonna help you achieve your version of the American dream? And I’m going to tell you this again: Until everybody’s free, nobody’s free. So your American dream needs to be inclusive of all,” said Davis-Crump. “Like, you gotta make sure that from margin to center, your American dream is whole. And you take that to the polls.”
Black New Mexico Movement leader Te Barry spoke about his own journey to political organizing. “Before this, I was running the streets, doing what I wanted to do, hanging out, didn’t really care about Black Lives Matter or political views,” said Barry. “It wasn’t that I didn’t care. It’s just I wasn’t educated enough. So I had to take some time and realize that my brothers and sisters is hurting. What can I do to make change? So I got out, called up my friends, my brothers, my sisters, said, What can we do? How can we make this stronger? And that’s what you have now is Black New Mexico Movement that is strong today.”
A dozen or so counter-protestors showed up and most stood toward the back. Several carried firearms. One held a 'Blue Lives Matter' flag. Others showing support for Trump. Barry spoke directly to them.
“Anybody that’s standing outside the edge right now with a Trump flag or an American flag, you got hate in your heart. I’m not mad at you, I’m not,” he said. “I hope one day you can figure it out. But I don’t have time to spend hate toward you. But I do ask that you go home and reevaluate yourself, because if you didn’t have hate, you wouldn’t be here today.”
The counter-protestors were a much quieter and smaller group than the couple hundred who showed up to rally last month, most without masks, many carrying guns and shouting at demonstrators to leave.
Organizer Barbara Jordan, a Rio Rancho resident, says she since sat down for a two-hour meeting with Mayor Gregg Hull, a Republican. “He did express his apology and regret for the things that we went through when we were out doing protesting on September the 12.”
Jordan says the mayor was supportive of their right to gather and express themselves and also showed willingness to work on preventing police brutality against people of color. “The one thing we did talk about was doing citizens’ training with just the local Rio Rancho Police Department, just on racial bias and things of that nature,” Jordan said. “And I will work hard to get that done. I don’t mind. I will work from sunup to sundown. I take no days off. Because I cannot take off my black skin.”
Throughout the night, Rio Rancho police kept a perimeter around the event, and attendees left without incident.