Hispanic fraternal order sues Santa Fe mayor over decision to remove obelisk

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On June 17, the Union Protectíva de Santa Fé announced its intention to sue the city of Santa Fe and Mayor Alan Webber for the decision to remove the monument to the soldiers, the obelisk in the center of Santa Fe plaza.

The lawsuit comes after Webber’s call to remove the obelisk in June 2020, and after a group of the demonstrators shot down part of the obelisk during a demonstration on the occasion of the Day of the Indigenous Peoples last October. There is no timeline for the withdrawal yet.

“What our lawsuit is asking for is an injunction preventing the mayor from replacing this historic obelisk with anything other than repairing and restoring it,” lawyer Ken Stalter said at a June 17 press conference. . Stalter represents the Union Protectíva de Santa Fé, one of America’s oldest Hispanic fraternal organizations, in their lawsuit against the mayor.

The Union trial is based on the 1989 New Mexico Prehistoric and Historic Sites Preservation Act, which “prohibits the government from spending public funds to change or alter a historic site unless there is no workable alternative, and the government has engaged in all possible planning to protect the site,” according to the official complaint.

The Union argues that the obelisk is protected by state law because it is part of a historic site and that any modification made to the obelisk with public funds “undermines the historic character of the place” , according to the complaint. The Union asks the mayor to follow the guidelines of the law and, in turn, to restore and rebuild the obelisk.

“We really want to set a statewide precedent,” Stalter said. “Civil servants must obey the law. It is that simple. This is the rule of law. “

At this time, there is no clear timeline for when the trial will actually move forward. The mayor’s office has yet to respond to the complaint.

The Union itself seeks to seize a preliminary injunction, which would prohibit any further action on any possible alternative to the obelisk during the course of the trial. An ordinary injunction is usually offered after a trial, while a preliminary injunction aims to maintain the status quo before or during a trial.

“We don’t control the hearing dates,” Stalter said. “We are going to ask the court for a preliminary and permanent injunction, but we cannot predict when that is going to happen.”

The obelisk was erected in 1868, according to a chronology created by the Santa Fe Reporter. The timeline shows that the purpose behind the monument’s construction was to honor soldiers who died in the Civil War, especially those who died in Velarde and Apache Canyon, according to the city of Santa Fe. website.

“The reason it was erected was to honor the soldiers who fought in New Mexico during the Civil War and we honor those soldiers,” said Virgil Vigil, president of Union Protectíva de Santa Fé.

The monument originally included a plaque that read: “To the heroes who fell in the various battles with the Indian savages of the territory of New Mexico,” as written in the original Laws of the territory of New Mexico. TThe word “savage” was chiseled from the slab in 1974. The plaque has never been repaired.

In 1974, members of the American Indian Movement urged city officials to change or remove the plaque, according to the Albuquerque Journal. However, the city considered that “any modification could endanger the status of the square as a national historic monument”, an argument almost identical to that used by the Union Protectíva de Santa Fé.

When asked if the plaque containing the word “wild” would be restored to its original state after the requested restoration and reconstruction, Vigil said the Union would be open to the possibility of changing the plaque if the obelisk was restored.

“All we are asking is to restore the obelisk and if (the mayor’s office) wants to change the plaques, we encourage them to change that plaque,” ​​Vigil said.

Asked about the likelihood that the obelisk could be rebuilt despite the faulty state it is currently in, Stalter said if it could not be repaired, it should be “as close as possible” to its original form. origin.

“By law, the city government must explore the best reasonable alternatives that honor the historical and cultural integrity of the site,” Stalter said.

John Scott is the photo editor at Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at photo [email protected] or on Twitter @ JScott050901

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