The January 6 Insurrection and New Mexico: One Year Later

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ProgressNow NM
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It’s been a year since the insurrectionist attempt on the US Capitol and while there are likely to be a million think pieces out there, we are taking some time to reflect on how that event and the following events in the last year here in New Mexico were, and are, connected as we continue to try and move forward here at home.

In the wake of *all the things* that occurred in the year 2021, January 6th, that terrifying day last year, sits somewhere near the top of our collective consciousness as an “oh yeah, that was just a year ago huh?” for many of us. But it really cannot be overstated the heavy and somber reality that American citizens attempted to use violence to threaten and overturn our legally seated Congress and potentially our whole governmental structure. These things happen to governments of course, but seeing it here at home is a radical escalation in the separation that continues to divide the far-right factions of much of the Republican Party from everyone else. Those divides have and continue to show up across the country and unfortunately right here in New Mexico.

The NM Connections

When it started to become more clear that the folx at the Capitol on J6 were from the Trump supporting world, it wasn’t surprising to learn that some of the worst characters from New Mexico’s own political landscape were there and directly involved.

Couy Griffin

Cuoy Griffin Capitol Insurrection on January 6 2021
Couy Griffin, Cowboys for Trump huckster, broadcasts from the US Capitol Building after breaching the gates with other January 6, 2021 far-right Trump supporters and insurrectionists.

Probably the most significant name was the founder and leader of Cowboys For Trump, Couy Griffin. Griffin’s exploits have been well documented by us here at PNNM; everything from calling for the death of Democrats to a racist mountain-top screed where he vocally told Black people to “go back to Africa.” Oh and lest we forget, the whole time he’s been an elected member of the Otero County Commission, using the seat and office (physically) to further his far-right propaganda.

Griffin of course was sought by the FBI after video evidence surfaced that he actively led parts of the crowd into moving through barricades at the Capitol on J6. He spent some time in jail and has, at the time of this report, not accepted a plea deal to lowly misdemeanor charges based on his assertion of innocence.. which, you know, that tracks. The latest on Couy is that he survived a recall attempt and has now apparently denounced Trump for not “locking her [Hilary Clinton] up” when he had the chance as president, once again demonstrating his further-than-far right bona fides, joining other J6 conspirators, like Alex Jones, in breaking from Trump the man while still holding up much of the worst popularisms exemplified by Trump supporters.

John Block

Another New Mexican who has somehow skated by with far too little scrutiny is the propagandist John Block, who openly shared posts from, during and after the J6 riots in support of Trump and the myth of the “stolen election.”

John Block, New Mexico Jan 6, 2021 Insurrectionist's Facebook Post
John Block’s Facebook Post – Heading to the Capitol Insurrection on January 6, 2021

He was recently given a whole spread in one of the state’s supposed premier news outlets. We think it’s a shame when violent insurrectionists are given “equal time” as if their views were worth being weighed alongside the actual policy level comparisons of reasonable folks, but what are you going to do?

John Block, Far Right New Mexico Blogger at the January 6, 2021 Capitol Insurrection for Trump
John Block, who has so far escaped accountability for his presence at the January 6, 2021 Capitol Insurrection, showing his blind allegiance Trump and The Big Lie.

Block of course continues to use extremely divisive language (let’s not dance around it, he uses racist and jingoist language routinely, not to mention rampant misogyny in his headlines and blogs) in attempts to further his far-right agenda in NM. Block published a most-read article from his blog this year, and we all had to laugh that his top story was about a disgraced NMSU professor who traded his job teaching business law for becoming a far-right “influencer” on Telegram, Gab, and Parler, but that’s not the angle Block even took, no his story focuses on how David Clements was once a so-called “never Trump” Republican. Block’s brand of Trump-before-party Republicanism is frankly terrifying, but it’s also hilarious in its political ineptitude. Keep beating your head against that wall kid, we’re here for it.

Yvette Herrell

Then of course there’s Representative Yvette Herrell, a real-life member of the United States House of Representatives who was in the Capitol on J6 and despite the clear intent of her and Trump’s supporters to disrupt democracy, STILL voted to overturn the election results on January 6, effectively legitimizing every insurrectionist in DC that day. Herrell has doubled down on her nonsense by voting against the bipartisan investigation into J6 and of course continues to tout Trump’s “America First” rhetoric when it comes to anything relating to immigration, energy, or healthcare.

Fallout 

One of the scariest parts of the fallout from J6 has been the increased vitriol from the disaffected far-right contingent still riled up about the 2020 election. Fueled by four years of Trump’s unabashed depravity, groups across the country have continued to raise hell in any space they think they might be heard. One of those spaces are the myriad school boards around the country who’ve seen shocking displays of hatred and misinformation from Pennsylvania to Oregon and even right here at home in New Mexico.

As national, and even international sources have reported, school boards have become targets of a growing “local-control” movement with its roots set firmly in the original intent of the Tea Party from a political generation ago. With that test run under their belts, this latest local-control movement has far more sinister outcomes in many ways, targeting issues like LGBTQ+ inclusion, common sense health policies, and even demanding basic reading curriculum removed under the banner of far-right conspiracy theory.

Las Cruces wasn’t immune to this as a November meeting of the Las Cruces Public School board was ostensibly hijacked for hours by anti-mask, anti-science, and anti-inclusion members of the public. This LCPS school board hijacking took place during a week that saw one local middle school host to a disgusting display of hatred by some students coming to school wearing the confederate “stars and bars” battle flag, harkening back to images from J6.

The lesson here is democracy doesn’t begin and end with elections but must be tended to by attending meetings, staying engaged, and shutting down those who try and spread disinformation with real, active, in-person confrontations.

A handfull of Trans Pride flags distributed at LCPS board meeting in December 2021
A local LGBTQIA+ advocacy organization handed out Trans Pride flags to proponents of the Trans Inclusion Policy at the Las Cruces School Board meeting in December 2021.

The community in Las Cruces rallied in the intervening month. Thanks to an outstanding organizing effort from folks in the LGBTQ+ space especially, the subsequent meeting in December was full of support for a gender inclusion provision before the school board. The public comment noticeably lacked in conspiracy theories as many of the aforementioned far-right crowd appeared to have lost their appetite to speak openly about their “other ideas” when confronted with a room full of beautiful queer activists and other supporters. This week the board took a vote and passed the resolution but not without a crowd of bigoted jerks showing up once again on marching orders from far-right media and astroturf organizations.

Impact & Reverb

It’s as though violence and the GOP become synonymous— from attacks on abortion clinics, death threats to school board members and countless examples of obstructions in elections, violence is all too significant and common that is shifting right-wing politics. Whereas 4 in 10 Republicans condone violence, it is alarming yet expected to see more violence.

The lesson here is democracy doesn’t begin and end with elections but must be tended to by attending meetings, staying engaged, and shutting down those who try and spread disinformation with real, active, in-person confrontations.

New Mexico will have two elections this year, primaries in June and a general election in November. These midterm elections will decide the shape of New Mexico’s executive branch moving forward, either continuing the progress we’ve seen in the last four years under basically this current administration, or who knows what the alternatives look like. We frankly don’t want to think about it. But, we must. The phrase “most important election of our lifetime” gets thrown around like so much dust in a New Mexico spring wind, so we won’t even go there. Our perspective is that EVERY election, starting from the bottom of every ballot, has the potential to impact our lives in real and meaningful ways and should be taken very seriously.

We’ve already started to see what the insurrectionists have in mind if they get their way in small elections and branch out to other parts of our lives. Let’s not let New Mexico slip back to the dark days of some pretend “great again” America and instead continue to grow and progress toward a future more reflective of the ideas we think it could be.

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