When Weekly Alibi found out that Red Nation, a local indigenous activist group, had planned a gathering to protest the assassination Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by the Trump administration—and the war that such an awful act portended—they sent ace reporter August March to cover the protest rally that happened on Saturday, Jan. 4 on the edge of downtown Albuquerque.
It was a bright sunny day. After the cold but un-snowy December holidays, the weather had yielded a bit to a slightly warmer clime. So the center of town was busy, even a few blocks away from the protest. The City of of Albuquerque requires paid parking at many public-adjacent areas Downtown, so after swiping and setting the alarm, our one-man reporting team trooped toward the corner of First Street and Central Avenue.
There was a small and respectfully distant contingent of Albuquerque Police Department officers hanging out and talking at the southern edge of the Alvarado Transportation Complex, where the Amtrak trains are. They projected an aura of youth and education and strength and waved back with seriously earnest smiles.
Closer to the rally, the shadows of the big new buildings on the block took over, rendering an otherwise relatively warm day as somewhat shaded and cold. Despite the challenging environment, about 100 people were present, holding signs denouncing Trump and American foreign policy, chanting and speaking amongst themselves about what was bound to happen next.
A youngish, no older than 25, ginger-haired man was addressing the crowd. Interestingly he was wearing a hoodie that prominently displayed the symbol of the Juggalos, a running man with a hatchet. He told the crowd, “It doesn’t matter how you are different, everyone is different. But Trump is a hypocrite. They are preaching hate, preaching to make America great again, but they are taking steps, huge steps backwards. We all need to get together for the right reasons to get this guy the hell out of office and we need to vote against Armageddon.” After a brief discourse on economics—
Hope Alvarado, an organizer at the local chapter of Red Nation told Weekly Alibi that her organization put on the event “to specifically address some of the violence that’s happening out of the country, internationally. Specifically, the US occupation and war with countries that have been historically—not only marginalized—but targeted for their resources.”
Jennifer Marley, another Red Nation organizer who spoke extensively at the event and also led the crowd in enthusiastic anti-war chants, added that she thought that the assassination of the Iranian general was “an act of war. It’s something we condemn. We condemn US imperialism as a whole. This is something that’s going to cause a lot of strife.”
Walking through the crowd, it was clear that a wide swath of the local community was represented. Different groups of multi-generational subcultures, some an entire family’s worth, were listening and clapping and finding solidarity in the words of the speakers who passed the megaphone from one to another on that crisp yet shadowy day.
Among the crowd, the faces of several longtime Albuquerque community leaders and peace advocates seemed to be beaming beatific vibes to the rest of the restless audience. Enrique Cardiel, a longtime advocate for community health concerns, Chicano rights and global peace in our time told Weekly Alibi that he was at the protest rally “because war, in general, is a stupid direction to go. We should honor people, we should work together. We jump into wars all of the time and at the end of the day, it’s rich people sending working-class kids to shoot each other. We need to disengage from that, move beyond it. We can start by doing that here. By building community here, we have a stronger voice.”
Barbara Grothus, present and carrying a sign reflecting her disdain for the Trump administration—whose recent curation of an anti-nuclear art show at Sanitary Tortilla Factory speaks to her lengthy involvement in the statewide anti-war movement—also had some choice words for readers, telling our reporter, “It is so overwhelming. How can people live after we’ve finished with them? This has been going on and on and on. We all have to be here. We all have to be present now to stay stop it now. But we have so many battles. We can’t even find places for people to sleep out of the cold in our own city. It’s maddening. These people aren’t doing anything to us. We’ve been doing this since the ’90s. I’ve been listening to this my whole life. I am sick of it.”
The reporter wandered clumsily through the crowd for about another half an hour. During that time at least one protester kept asking him why he was so interested in interviewing the Juggalo—while reminding him who the organizers of the event were, should he care for an introduction.
March was polite, declined the invite because he had already talked to the organizers. As he left, he mumbled that the whole Juggalo angle was so ironic that he had to include it. After all, if everyone from Red Nation to youthful gay hippie families to aging hipsters to community stalwarts and even a college-educated cop or two were hep to what was going on, having a Juggalo on the bandwagon just cemented the whole deal in his mind.
Our reporter left the protest then, passing a packed Central Avenue restaurant as he did. The joint was filled with families, out on the slightly warm weekend to enjoy the city that they loved. He wondered how many of them were wondering about war as they feasted on the fresh produce of Western civilization on that midwinter day.