Santa Fe city councilors and other community people expressed dismay Tuesday about the actions of activists who brought down the obelisk on the Plaza during an Indigenous Peoples Day rally Monday afternoon.
Many also questioned the police response to the event, in which people used ropes and chains to take down the controversial war monument that is dedicated in part to “heroes” who died in battle with “savage Indians,” according to a plaque on one side of it.
Though Santa Fe police officers monitoring the scene Monday made at least two arrests, the vast majority of officers left before the protesters toppled the obelisk.
Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber and Santa Fe Police Chief Andrew Padilla plan to hold a virtual news conference at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday on YouTube (youtube.com/user/cityofsantafe) to provide an update on the event and answer questions from the media, spokeswoman Kristine Mihelcic said.
During an emergency City Council meeting held Monday evening following the demonstration, several councilors asked Webber why the city did not maintain a strong police presence on the Plaza during the protest. Webber told them he was not ready to answer that question, as he needed to gather more facts from the police department.
Other councilors asked the mayor why he did not move quicker to initiate a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as he promised earlier this year, to study concerns about controversial statues and monuments in public places in the city and how best to honor the history of the area while respecting residents’ cultures.
“It’s overdue — much too long overdue,” said Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler during the emergency meeting.
On Tuesday, several Hispanic residents decried the destruction of the obelisk.
“It was a sad, sad day for the city of Santa Fe yesterday,” said former city councilor Ron Trujillo. “Our city will never be the same.”
Long a Plaza centerpiece and sometimes called the Soldiers Monument after being erected in 1866 honor of Civil War Union soldiers, the monument has drawn criticism from Native Americans over the plaque bearing the words “savage Indians” that pays tribute to soldiers who killed Native people in military campaigns.
Decades ago, a man chiseled away the word “savage,” and in late June, part of the plaque was broken off during an act of vandalism.