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Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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Around 30 people gathered outside of the Republican Party Headquarters in Albuquerque on Tuesday afternoon to protest Republican State Senator Mark Moores’ remarks during a Congressional District 1 forum hosted by the New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau. During the forum, Moores said his ancestors “civilized the west” when answering a question about water resource management. The response has since sparked an uproar from the Native American communities and other leaders in New Mexico. Moores has since tried to downplay his remarks by calling the backlash “An exhausting, woke joke”.

Protestors organized by the New Mexico Native American Democratic Caucus gathered in front of the GOP headquarters with an array of signs denouncing Senator Moores. “Today’s protest is a culmination of various Indigenous and Native communities and allies sharing anger and frustration at Senator Moores’ inflammatory and racist comments.  We assumed the Senator would apologize for his statement, but he’s used the comments as a way to raise money and to claim that it was nothing more than a ‘woke joke’ “, organizer and activist Isaac Dakota Casados said.

Protestors in attendance were outraged that a candidate running for a seat that was vacated by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who is a member of the Laguna Pueblo, would use derogatory speech toward the Native community. Speeches were made by activists and allies during the rally. “Shame on Mr. Moores,” said Representative Roger Montoya (D-Rio Arriba, Mora, Colfax and San Miguel), which was immediately followed by a round of “shame, shame” from the attending crowd. Participants voiced their anger about persisting racist dialogue toward Native communities. 

Ahtza Chavez, an activist in attendance, reflected that Moores’ comments are part of a greater legacy of inflammatory remarks towards Indigenous communities in New Mexico. “We have just been recovering from an administration that was divisive and pushed racist rhetoric,” Chavez commented. Moores’ rhetoric also raised concerns about running for office representing New Mexico and the Indigenous communities and how he would manage vital federal resources for the communities that he currently serves. “When you have people erasing a whole culture, how are we going to get the funding that we need,” said Chavez. 

Moores has yet to issue an apology regarding his inflammatory remarks. Moores has instead claimed that the Democrats twisted his words. “The dialogue coming from our Native American communities is one of anger and frustration.  Many of our communities still suffer from generational trauma and comments like this only re-awakens those issues. As the senator continues to deflect and diminish the severity of his comments, frustration grew the protest we have today,” said Casado.

There was no official response from Moores or the Republican Party about the protest yesterday.

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