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Report: New Mexico at risk for militia activity during election

2008 voting line in Brooklyn (April Sikorski/WikiCommons)

A new report by a nonprofit data research organization says New Mexico is among 10 states most at risk for militia groups threatening the safety of voters as Election Day approaches.

The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project’s report on militia groups and the U.S. election, released earlier this month, indicates the state is at moderate risk of heightened militia activity before, during and after the Nov. 3 election.

New Mexico joins Texas, North Carolina, Virginia and California in that group, while Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Oregon are considered at the highest risk.

The New Mexico report highlights the June shooting of a man by a “right-wing activist” during a protest demanding the removal of a public statue of Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate in front of the Albuquerque Museum. It also cites a September incident of competing protests in Rio Rancho that led to verbal confrontations between members of the Black New Mexico Movement and members of the Three Percenters, the New Mexico Civil Guard and Cowboys for Trump.

The report also cites a rise in activity by Boogaloo Bois, a loosely connected national anti-government group, and the Three Percenters, another national organization. People claiming to have ties to both groups have been suspected of violence in other states.

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Several state government and local law enforcement officials in New Mexico said they did not previously know about the report and were not aware of any specific credible threats on Election Day.

But the findings did not catch all authorities guard. They have been working with the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Mexico on election law training and preparations.

Nora Meyers Sackett, a spokeswoman for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, said the governor has been aware of militia activities.

“Although the governor doesn’t have a role in overseeing the state’s elections,” Sackett said in an email, “she does want to assure New Mexicans that the Secretary of State’s Office and county clerks across the state have taken precautions to make voting this year as safe and convenient as it can be.”

An effort to safeguard the election has been underway for more than a year, said Frank Fisher, a spokesman with the FBI in Albuquerque. “The FBI will have a command post at our Albuquerque office operating 24/7 to respond to any reports of election crimes and share real-time intelligence with our partners,” he said.

Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Juan Ríos said the agency has doubled the number of deputies assigned to polling sites, and Greg Gurulé, a spokesman for the Santa Fe Police Department, said city police “will be conducting proactive operations leading up to and including Election Day.”

“It is a priority for SFPD to ensure that our elections are free from harassment or intimidation, and to make sure that we can all participate freely in the election process,” Gurulé said in an email.

He said anyone who sees activity that hinders voting should call 911 or the agency’s nonemergency number, 505-428-3710.

“Voter intimidation and suppression are always a concern,” said Alex Curtas, a spokesman for the Secretary of State Office. But, he added, “Voters shouldn’t be scared to go to the polls.”

Militia group activities across the nation came under more scrutiny in early October when the FBI and Michigan state authorities charged 13 men in an alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ahead of the presidential election. Seven men were a part of the Wolverine Watchmen militia group.

The ACLED report said many militias in the U.S. tend to threaten more violence than they commit, but several organizations have embraced an ideology of extreme violence toward communities or groups opposed to them.

Charles Marino, a former adviser for the Department of Homeland Security, told CBS News this week that militia groups, often aligned with the Republican Party and white supremacy, are becoming more assertive. He noted the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security released a recent statement saying such groups pose “the number one threat” to the nation.

“That is giving a certain level of enticement to these groups, a perception of acceptability and support, and it is causing bigger problems for law-enforcement agencies across the country,” Marino said.

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(c) 2020 The Santa Fe New Mexican

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.