The New Mexico Civil Guard is a heavily armed self-described militia group that showed up last year at several protests around Albuquerque, including a June 2020 protest of the Juan de Oñate statue in Old Town. Shortly after that protest, Second Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez filed a lawsuit against the Civil Guard trying to limit its activities.
On November 15, Bernalillo County District Attorney Torrez announced he has filed a petition in California Superior Court for the County of San Mateo, California, asking a California State Judge to enforce a New Mexico subpoena that would “compel Facebook to produce requested information and records.” Facebook took down the group’s page in August 2020 after the company determined that the Civil Guard had violated the company’s policy barring hate speech and dangerous organizations from the social media platform. A Facebook spokesman responded that the social media company cooperates with law enforcement requests as a matter of policy and remains in discussions with Torrez’s office. Torrez said he expects a hearing before the California judge by early 2022.
The lawsuit filed by Torrez against the New Mexico civil guard alleges that civilian militias can be activated only by the state’s governor. The Civil Guard was acting like law enforcement with no legal authority to do so, according to the suit, which remains pending.
On Monday, July 14, 2020, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez filed a civil lawsuit to stop the New Mexico Civil Guard private militia from usurping the state’s military and law enforcement authority. The lawsuit was filed against the New Mexico Civil Guard and 14 of its members who “include some individuals associated with white supremacist and neo-Confederate organizations,” according to the civil complaint.
The lawsuit argued that the New Mexico Constitution says civilian militias can only be activated by the governor and alleges the New Mexico Civil Guard is acting like law enforcement. According to the lawsuit, the New Mexico Civil Guard are acting like law enforcement by holding training sessions, outfitting themselves with military equipment and gear, and patrolling protests armed and in uniform without any legal authority to act in any kind of law enforcement capacity.
The lawsuit alleges that membership includes people associated with white supremacist and neo-Confederate ideology. According to the lawsuit:
“[NMCG has routinely used paramilitary tactics] at protests, demonstrations, and public gatherings throughout New Mexico, providing wholly unauthorized, heavily armed, and coordinated ‘protection’ from perceived threats.”
The federal civil complaint makes specific allegations that are alarming as to the actions of the New Mexico Civil Guard. Paragraphs 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8 of the complaint are succinct and outlines the <em>“New Mexico Civil Guard” activities and what they are all about:
“2. The so-called “New Mexico Civil Guard” (NMCG) is not an organized police force or an organized part of the military. Nor is it affiliated with or overseen by the Government. Yet this group formed for the claimed purpose of maintaining the peace and both fashions itself and pretends to function as a part of the state military. NMCG’s coordinated, armed, and uniformed presence at public events results in intimidation and creates a chilling effect on the exercise of First Amendment rights to address matters of public concern. NMCG’s attempt to operate as a private police or military unit in Bernalillo County is a per se public nuisance that must be abated to protect public safety, allow the free and open use of public forums, and minimize violent armed confrontations.
5. NMCG has unlawfully exercised and intends to continue to unlawfully exercise the power to maintain public peace reserved to peace officers. NMCG’s membership is not composed of peace officers, and New Mexico law clearly provides that NMCG and its members have no civil or military authority to maintain the public peace.”
“7. This is a case about paramilitary action that threatens public safety and intimidates the public’s exercise of First Amendment rights. It is not a case about gun ownership, gun possession, or self-protection. Importantly, NMCG’s paramilitary activity is not protected by the Second Amendment, and the relief that the State seeks does not run afoul of Defendants’ Second Amendment rights. … .
“8. Nor is this a case about political viewpoints. To the extent NMCG has certain white supremacist ties, their viewpoint heightens the risk of violence at certain public events because of the antipathy they hold for particular groups of protesters. But the threat posed to public safety by paramilitary actions at public demonstrations or gatherings exists regardless of the paramilitary organization’s underlying ideology. Put simply, there is no place in an ordered civil society for private armed groups that seek to impose their collective will on the people in place of the police or the military. … .”
The link to the civil complaint filed is here:
On September 9, 2021, 8 members of the citizens militia group known as the New Mexico Civil Guard (NMCG) filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Police Department (APD). The lawsuit claims the 8 were “targeted” by APD when they showed up on June 15, 2020 at the protest over the “La Jornada” (The Journey) sculpture in front of the Albuquerque Museum. The protest was for the removal of the figures of Juan de Onate de Salazar in the sculpture. A man was shot during the protest.
According to a federal lawsuit, the citizens militia group claim city officials targeted them for no reason. The lawsuit alleges that the city was aware the militia group was going to be there and APD positioned officers near the protest waiting until a Civil Guard member “committed a crime and planned to then arrest them.” The plaintiffs alleged they did nothing wrong and were detained anyway by APD.
The Civil Guard members allege one of them was attacked at the protest and at that point all the civil guard left the crowd. According to the complaint, after they had moved away, 31-year-old Steven Baca pulled a concealed handgun and started shooting, hitting one man. When the shooting began, the guard members returned and ran toward Baca and upon encountering him, one militia member stepped on the gun or “kicked his gun away”.
The lawsuit alleges that even though police knew the group wasn’t associated with Baca, they “arrested” the plaintiffs anyway, held them for hours for questioning, not allowing them to talk to lawyers or even use the restroom . They were eventually released after interviews.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The allegation that they were arrested is false. No militia member was arrested but they were held for questioning and then released.
At the time of the incident, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez said that the militia members had a right to be at the protest and bear arms. However, the DA made it clear they did not have the right to intervene as “enforcers of the law”. The DA later filed an injunction to prohibit the Civil Guard from acting in any police or military capacity and to declare the group a “nuisance” posing an immediate threat.
A link to the complete news report is here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The filing of a single law suit against one citizen militia is not going to go far in resolving such activity by others. Further, going against FACEBOOK in California will only get you so far. Torrez himself says Facebook took down the New Mexico Civil Guard’s page, but he says they will not turn over any other information. Even if the lower court grants the relief Torrez requested, it is more likely than not the social media giant will drag it out as long as possible and appeal any adverse decision against them.
District Attorney Raul Torrez has a good track record when it comes to lobbying the New Mexico legislature in Santa Fe for what he wants. It is known that Torrez is already lobbying for changes in the bail bond system and for “rebuttable presumption against release” pending trial of defendants charged with certain violent crime. Instead of pursuing windmills against a mega social media giant, Torrez could better use his time and efforts to lobby to outlaw all citizens militias not government sanctioned or enactment of a comprehensive civilian militia registration act.
OUTLAW OR REGULATE CITIZENS MILITIAS
Citizen Militias are not regulated in the State of New Mexico. As part of a “crime fighting package”, District Attorney Raul Torrez should as the Governor and the legislature to include the outlawing or regulating citizens militias in the stat, There is no comprehensive federal law that regulates them under the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.
As things escalate with mass murders and protests, the State of New Mexico and the United State Congress need to enact legislation that defines with more particularity what a “citizen miltia” is and either ban them entirely or regulate all citizens militias.
If the United States Congress, and for that matter New Mexico, does not ban citizen militia’s, a Citizen’s Militia Registration Act needs to be enacted. Citizen militias need to be defined along similar lines of how “gangs” are defined under federal criminal law.
A “citizens militia” needs to be defined as:
“An association of three or more individuals, whose members collectively identify themselves by adopting a group identity employing one or more of the following: a common name, slogan, identifying sign, symbol, flag, uniforms or military apparel or other physical identifying marking, style or color of clothing, whose purpose in part is to engage in the protection of private property and other people. A registered citizens militia may employ rules for joining and operating within the militia and members may meet on a recurring basis.”
A Citizen Militia Registration Act would require citizen militias to:
Allow only American Citizens to be members of a citizen militia.
Register with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATFE) within the United States Department of Justice or in New Mexico with the New Mexico Homeland Security Office.
Require members to register their firearms with the ATFE or State.
Pay yearly regulation fees and firearm certification fees and carry liability insurance.
Identify all their members by name, address and contact information.
Prohibit felons from joining.
Limit their authority and powers so as to prevent militias to engage in law enforcement activities.
Require members to pass criminal background checks and psychological testing.
Mandate training and instructions on firearm use and safety.
Require all militias and its members to agree to follow all local, state and federal laws and apply for permits to attend functions sponsored by others.
Failure to register as mandated would be a felony.
Those who take it upon themselves to associate and bear arms calling themselves “citizen militias” take it to the extreme when they attend protests fully armed in military attire proclaiming they are there to assume the responsibility law enforcement to protect people and property. Such attendance amounts to nothing less than vigilantism.
New Mexico needs to outlaw or regulate citizens militias before someone gets killed.