Most of the demonstrations calling for justice and an end to racist police violence in New Mexico over the last two weeks have been in Albuquerque. On Saturday morning, the more conservative, western suburb of Rio Rancho held its own demonstration with about 100 people gathering on the steps of City Hall.
Activist Arthur Bell spoke to the relatively small turnout compared with protests in Albuquerque. “Looking at these numbers, we have a lot of work to do in Rio Rancho, correct?” Bell asked the crowd. “So, when we leave here, tell your friends, because each one teaches one.”
Unlike Albuquerque, all members of Rio Rancho’s Governing Body, including the mayor and six-seat City Council, are Republican. And nearly all are white, though just under half of city residents are, according to the U.S. Census. After Gary Tripp, former principal of Rio Rancho high school and candidate for state representative, encouraged greater representation of people of color in local government, one demonstrator who spoke pointed out the barriers racism creates to holding elected office. “How can we, if you don’t let us in?” she asked. “I’m not part of the – I’m not part of the club.”
Rachel Matson criticized the absence of the city’s Republican leadership at the event. “Where is our mayor?” she questioned into the mic, looking around. “Where are our city councilmen?”
As she spoke, Rio Rancho Police Department cruisers remained far back in the parking lot, about 150 yards. Matson noticed their absence too. “Them sitting in their cars. They didn’t get out once,” she told KUNM after the event. “Just one person just to say ‘we stand with you’ and we would have said, ‘we stand with you.’ Unity: that’s what we need.”
The event concluded with hopes for continued racial justice organizing in Rio Rancho as attendees chanted “we won’t stop,” led by two Black youth in “I can’t breathe” shirts, fists raised.
Organizer Efrain Colinderes says the goal is to educate Rio Rancho residents on how they can make a difference in their community.