October 5TH, 2023
Sabrina Chapa [email protected]
Anthony Diaz [email protected]
Statement From Community Supported Organizer, Jacob Johns
Shot Last Week at Peaceful Prayer Circle
A Call for Justice and Unity After Terrorist Attack
On Thursday, September 28, 2023, a harrowing and racially motivated incident occurred while members of the US Climate Action Network (USCAN), members of local Tewa tribes, various Pueblos, Indigenous and Hispano community at large and Española/Rio Arriba County citizens came together for a spiritual convening/ceremony to continue to pray for a favorable resolution against the reinstallation of the Don de Oñate monument in front of the Rio Arriba County Offices. Invoking prayers from the future to weave a bond of spiritual unity, Jacob Johns (Akimel O’otham and Hopi) a community supported organizer and member of USCAN was not just a participant, he was invited to deepen his spiritual involvement by partaking in an overnight prayer vigil on Wednesday evening, prior to a larger gathering the next morning. This vigil, which had begun on Tuesday, September 26th, culminated in a sunrise prayer ceremony on Thursday morning, heralding a new dawn of hope and unity. Throughout, Jacob stood in harmony with new relations of similar convictions, praying and singing with Indigenous matriarchs, elders, children, and allies/accomplices, nurturing a collective vision and shared dreams.
Prayer video 1 (Provided by Celina Garcia)
For generations, Pueblo people have experienced harm, loss, and systemic discrimination at the hands of Spanish, American and equally insidious nuclear colonialism, even as they've held steadfastly to the original instructions bestowed upon them at the beginning of this world. The deliberate act of violence last week, targeting a tranquil prayer camp at the planned location for the reinstallation of the Oñate statue, taken down by Rio Arriba County in 2020 is yet another painful reminder of the myriad injustices rooted in our collective Indigenous history. This tragic event underscores the long saga of dehumanizing systems and divisive ideologies that the Pueblo community, following their ancient instructions, have continually rallied against and resisted. The Pueblo people of New Mexico are credited with the only successful uprising against colonial occupation/power in the Americas, the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. We have long fought for our humanity in our own homelands.
I want to emphasize the importance of focusing on a narrative of unity rather than division. It's vital to give prominence to the experiences and perspectives of everyone present during the spiritual gathering and those affected by the pervasive culture of violence. The repercussions, both physical and emotional, that Jacob has endured will last a lifetime. However, Jacob I am not the sole victim. While I bore the physical wounds, the broader community, including women, children, and elders present that day, experienced and continue to experience deep emotional distress. Their stories deserve to be heard.
It is essential to underscore that this wasn't merely a “protest” or simple altercation. Myself, members of local Pueblos, Native New Mexicans and the larger community were deeply engrossed in a peaceful gathering when we were ambushed in what could have potentially been a mass murder. After I was shot point-blank in the chest, the refrain 'I can't breathe” echoed once again, this time in New Mexico, capturing the anguish many felt during the uprising across the country in 2020. The subsequent malfunction of the shooter's weapon miraculously spared the lives of others, including lifelong Rio Arriba resident, Malaya Peixinho. This is the power of our prayers at work. Yet, the startling fact remains, this heinous act of violence could have easily been prevented. By the police who let this agitator who had more weapons in his car back past the safety line and let him engage once again with the prayer circle and then left.
While police were present earlier in the day and had previously attempted to escort the shooter away for disruptive behavior, they later permitted the shooter to return citing his “civil liberties” and then vacated the premises, abandoning our peaceful demonstration despite the clear threat to our safety. LaVerne McGrath, my mother, asks that this tragedy lead to a re-orientation of the role of police, from one in which threats to Black, Indigenous and People of color are downplayed and intervention only occurs once those threats become violence, to one that upholds peace and safety.
Throughout the day, the shooter made the point to introduce himself to members of the media, requesting that he be photographed and filmed. This coverage proves the notoriety he sought and further exacerbates the harm he has perpetrated on myself and loved ones, the community impacted, and all Black, Indigenous and People of Color for whom racial violence creates ongoing trauma.
Though the shooter remains in jail as of today, our work must continue to ensure that he accounts for his crimes through our legal system. The state of New Mexico has an opportunity to send a strong message that violence targeting Indigenous Peoples, Black people, and other historically and systematically oppressed peoples, the majority in this state, will not go without firm consequence. The state of New Mexico has a chance to ensure the safety of all residents’ right to celebrate, pray, mobilize for their well being and mourn by supporting systemic change that centers community safety and well-being.
For countless generations, Indigenous Peoples have been subjected to harm, death, and systemic oppression. The premeditated shooting last week is another marker of the systemic injustices in Pueblo and Indigenous history. The violence was targeted at a peaceful prayer camp situated at the proposed site for the reinstallation of the Oñate statue. It highlights the long history of injustices against Indigenous Peoples by dehumanizing systems and divisive ideologies that the community had gathered to spiritually count.
PRAYER VIDEO 2 (Provided by Celina Garcia)
This incident should not be misconstrued as a clash between protestors. Indigenous community members were engaged in a peaceful and spiritual gathering when they were ambushed in what could have been a mass murder.
Despite the police being present earlier and intervening due to the shooter's disruptive actions, their decision to let him return later compromised the security of the peaceful assembly. This unfortunate incident should not only prompt law enforcement to reexamine and redefine their approach to such events in the future but also act as a catalyst for redefining police roles to protect our communities.. The emphasis should shift towards proactively addressing threats to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, prioritizing their peace and safety above all.
In the swirling nexus of time and intention, we stand as the essential links between the present and an envisioned tomorrow. As intermediaries, our role is not just to relay the messages of today but also to channel the potent prayers from a future waiting to manifest. These aren’t simply ephemeral hopes but intentional summons that rise from the collective heartbeat of a world aspiring for health, justice, and sustainability.
This is a crucial moment, one where we can bear witness to the profound miracles of collective will and faith. When so many joined hands, hearts, and spirits in prayer for me, they crafted a luminous space, a sanctuary for my consciousness to evolve, to heal, and ultimately, to rejoin the shared tapestry of our existence. Amid the roaring blades of a helicopter, I crossed the fragile line between life and death multiple times. But in that otherworldly realm, the wisdom of our ancestors rekindled the reasons for my return, the significance of this journey we know as life. They bestowed upon me clearly defined paths, blueprints for navigating the future we so desperately seek.
Incremental steps, though significant, are no longer enough. They can feel like mere ripples against the vast tide of challenges we face. Thus, we must be more: we must embody the envisioned future — a future radiant with justice, harmony, and vibrancy.
The canvas of tomorrow, though unwritten, pulses with the potential of our shared dreams. Every intentional thought, every affirmative prayer, casts ripples into this vast expanse, crafting the world we yearn for. It's like tuning into a celestial song, harmonizing our aspirations with the rhythms of the universe.
Together, bound by shared purpose and unwavering belief, we have the power to co-create our world. Channeling these prayers from the future, they not only guide us but also remind us of the sanctity of our journey. Though the future is unwritten, with every combined prayerful intention, we inscribe our deepest desires onto its ever-evolving narrative, forging a destiny filled with miracles and hope.
Within the intricate dance of time and intent, we find ourselves as pivotal connectors between today's realities and a vision for tomorrow. As guardians of this temporal bridge, we don’t merely pass on current messages but also channel profound prayers from a future yet to be realized. These aren't fleeting wishes but deliberate calls emerging from the collective soul of a world longing for wellness, fairness, and continuity.
This pivotal juncture invites us to witness firsthand the miracles born of collective hope and faith. As numerous souls united in prayer for my well-being, they wove together a radiant haven where my consciousness found space to heal, evolve, and re-immerse into our communal journey. Even amidst the thundering resonance of helicopter blades, I teetered on the delicate threshold of life and the beyond. Yet, in that transcendent space, ancestral wisdom illuminated my path back, underscoring the profoundness of our shared earthly journey. They imparted to me a crystalline roadmap for traversing the desired future that beckons us.
While incremental progress holds its value, it can often seem dwarfed in the face of the immense challenges before us. Therefore, our call is to transcend and truly become embodiments of the luminous future we envision — a horizon aglow with justice, unity, and life.
The tapestry of the morrow, still in its weaving stages, resonates with the dreams we hold close. Each purpose-driven thought and heartfelt prayer sends waves through this vast continuum, shaping the world we ardently hope for. It's akin to aligning with a cosmic symphony, our dreams resonating in harmony with the universe's grand design.
United by a common vision and unshakeable faith, we harness the capacity to sculpt our shared destiny. As we draw forth these future-focused prayers, they serve as both beacons and reminders of our sacred journey's essence. We must remember that the future is unwritten and it is us who decides our fate.
Para publicación inmediata
3 de octubre de 2023
Sabrina Chap [email protected]
Anthony Diaz [email protected]
Pronunciamiento de la familia del activista indígena Jacob Johns, quien fue baleado la semana pasada en un círculo de paz y de rezo
Durante generaciones, los pueblos indígenas han enfrentado estragos, muerte y opresión sistémica. El de la semana pasada es un acontecimiento más en una serie de injusticias sistémicas en la historia indígena. Este acto de violencia premeditadae intencionadase perpetró contra un campamento de paz y de rezo que se colocóen el lugar propuesto para la reinstalación de la estatua de Oñate. Esto llama la atención sobre la larga larga historia de injusticias contra los pueblos indígenas por parte de los sistemas deshumanizantes y las ideologías polarizantes contra las que protestala comunidad.
La familia busca preservar la atención en una narrativa de unidad, y no en una de división. Es esencial poner en el centro las perspectivas de todos los que acudieron al evento espiritual y aquellos afectados por la violencia. El trauma físico, mental y emocional que esto ha causado a Jacob será para toda la vida. Jacob no es la única víctima aquí. El trauma físico lo sufrió Jacob, pero hay otros traumas emocionales que se infligieron a toda la comunidad, incluyendo mujeres, niños y ancianos que estaban presentes ese día, y cuyas historias deben ser contadas.
Ante todo, es esencial que este incidente no sea descrito como un enfrentamiento entre manifestantes. Los miembros de la comunidad indígenasestaban celebrando una asamblea pacífica y espiritual cuando fueron atacados y hechos víctimas en un intento de asesinato en masa. Sólo porque el arma del tirador se atascó Malaya Peixinho y otros no resultaron también heridos o incluso peor. (Para una descripción más detallada del incidente, véase el comunicado de prensa de la Nación Roja, The Red Nation).
Segundo: Aunque la policía se encontraba presente desde la primera hora del día y que previamente había retirado al atacante debido a su comportamiento perturbador, más tarde le permitió que regresara y procedieron a marcharse, abandonando a los manifestantes pacíficos a pesar de la clara amenaza.LaVerne McGrath, madre de Jacob, espera que esta tragedia pueda conducir a cambios sistémicos que impidan
restarle importancia a las amenazas contra los pueblos indígenas y otros grupos sociales históricamente oprimidos. Tercero: El atacante se presentó con los miembros de los medios de comunicación y pidió que se le fotografiara yse lefilmara. La cobertura le proporcionaríala notoriedad que claramente buscabayexacerba el daño que ha causado a Jacob y a sus seres queridos, así comola comunidad Tewa y a todas las personas negras, indígenas y de color para quienes la violencia racial crea un trauma permanente.
Aunque el atacante siga en la cárcel, nuestro trabajo debe continuar para garantizar que rinda cuentas de sus crímenes ante el sistema de justicia. El sistema de justicia de Nuevo México tiene ahora la oportunidad de enviar el mensaje de quela violencia contra las personas negras, indígenas y de colorno quedará impune y sin serias consecuencias. El estado de Nuevo México puede utilizar este momento para garantizar la seguridad de todos los residentes y su derecho a celebrar, a rezar, a protestar y a guardar luto, apoyando un cambio sistémico que se enfoqueen la seguridad y el bienestarcomunitarios. La familia está pidiendo la plena rendición de cuentas para sentar un precedente respecto de este aberrante acto y para asegurar un alto a la supremacía blanca en todas sus formas y consolidar la seguridad de la comunidad.
Demandas de la familia de Jacob Johns
- Al Juez del Tribunal de Distrito: Aprobar la moción para evitar la liberación del atacante y en su lugar mantenerlo en custodia preventiva, ya que representa un riesgo significativo para nuestra comunidad y todas las comunidades.
- Al Fiscal del Condado de Arriba y al Fiscal del Primer Distrito Judicial: Añadir el delito federal de odio a la lista de cargos, y buscar la sentencia máxima. Este fue un crimen de odio, racial y culturalmente motivado y debe ser tratado como tal.
- Al público en general: Continuar apoyando a la familia y sus necesidades monetarias: o Gofundme para gastos médicos
o Gofundme para gastos inmediatos
- A los Oficiales del Condado de Rio Arriba y al Estado de Nuevo Mexico: Asegurar que la estatua de Oñate no sea reinstalada, y que todos los monumentos y estatuas que glorifican o celebran el genocidio sean retirados.
- A los medios de comunicación: Dejen de mostrar las fotos y videos del atacanate, que pueden alentarviolencia similar y, en su lugar, muestren imágenes y vídeos de la realidad del daño causado a Jacob John y a su familia. (Enlace a las fotos facilitadas por la familia)
October 3rd, 2023
Sabrina Chapa [email protected]
Anthony Diaz [email protected]
Statement from Family of Indigenous Activist, Jacob Johns, Shot Last Week at Peaceful Prayer Circle
For generations, Indigenous Peoples have faced harm, death, and systemic oppression. Last week’s premeditated shooting is just another historical event in a series of systemic injustices in Indigenous history. This intentional premeditated act of violence was perpetrated against a peaceful prayer camp located at the proposed site for the reinstallation of the Oñate statue. This draws attention to the lengthy history of injustices against Indigenous Peoples by dehumanizing systems and divisive ideologies the community was protesting.
The family wishes to keep attention on a narrative of unity, not instead of division. It is essential to center the perspectives of all those involved in the spiritual event and those impacted from the violence. The physical, mental, and emotional trauma this has caused to Jacob will be lifelong. Jacob is not the only victim here. The physical trauma was with Jacob but there are other emotional traumas that were inflicted on the full community including the women, children and elders that were present that day and their stories must be told.
At the foremost, it is essential that this incident is not described as a clash between protestors. Indigenous community members were conducting a peaceful and spiritual assembly when they were attacked and made victims of an attempted mass murder. It is only because the shooter’s gun jammed that Malaya Peixinho and others were not also injured or worse. (For a more detailed account of the incident, please see this press release from The Red Nation.)
Second: While police were present earlier in the day and had previously escorted the shooter away for disruptive behavior, they later permitted the shooter to return and then left, abandoning peaceful demonstrators despite the clear threat. LaVerne McGrath, Jacob’s mother, hopes that this tragedy can lead to systemic changes in which threats to Indigenous Peoples and other historically oppressed peoples are not downplayed.
Third: The shooter made the point to introduce himself to members of the media and requested that he was photographed and filmed. Coverage that provides the notoriety he clearly sought exacerbates the harm he has perpetrated on Jacob and his loved ones, the Tewa community and all Black, Indigenous and People of Color for whom racial violence creates ongoing trauma.
Though he remains in jail today, our work must continue to ensure that the shooter accounts for his crimes in the justice system. New Mexico’s justice system has an opportunity to send a message now that violence targeting BIPOC people will not go without firm consequence. The state of New Mexico has a chance to ensure the safety of all residents’ right to celebrate, pray, protest, and mourn by supporting systemic change that centers community safety and well-being. The family is asking for full accountability to set precedence on this evil act to ensure that we stop white supremacy in all its forms and ensure community safety.
Jacob Johns’ Family’s Demands
- To the District Court Judge: Approve the motion to prevent the shooter’s release and instead keep him in pre-trial custody, as he poses a significant risk to our community and all communities.
- To the Arriba County Prosecutor and First Judicial District Attorney: Add federal hate crime to the list of charges, and to seek the maximum sentence. This was a racially and culturally motivated hate crime and must be treated as such.
- To the public: Continue to support the family and their monetary needs:
- To Rio Arriba County Officials and the State of New Mexico: Assure the Oñate statue is not reinstalled, and that all monuments and statues that glorify or celebrate genocide are taken down.
- To the media: Stop showing the pictures and videos of the shooter which can encourage similar violence and instead show the pictures and videos of the reality of the harm that was done to Jacob John’s and his family. (Link to photos provided by the family)
USCAN Statement 1
We were heartbroken to learn that one of our beloved members and climate warrior Jacob Johns was the victim of a violent, white supremacist shooting during a peaceful protest in Tewa Territory (Española, NM) against resurrection of a statue of conquistador Juan de Oñate. Jacob was flown to a hospital in Albuquerque, where he is in stable condition. Our hearts are with Jacob, his family, and the Indigenous Peoples of New Mexico who endure ongoing assaults on their bodies and lands. USCAN is staying close to the situation and will issue a formal statement, and ways to stand in solidarity, when we have more information. In the meantime, please keep Jacob and his family in your best thoughts and prayers. You may reach out to [email protected] with any questions.
USCAN Statement 2
On September 28, during a peaceful prayer ceremony to oppose the resurrection of a statue of conquistador Juan de Oñate on Tewa Territory, Española, New Mexico, one of our beloved climate warriors , Jacob Johns (Backbone Campaign) became the victim of a violent, racist shooting. Prior to the shooting, the gunman was among a group of MAGA hat-wearing folks that opposed the peaceful prayer rally and began disrupting the ceremonies underway. According to witnesses, he was asked by police to leave the area, but was then permitted to return under the guise of protecting free speech. He continued to disrupt. As a couple of participants stepped in to deescalate the situation, the gunman shot Jacob in the torso. The gunman was apprehended and witnesses were interviewed by local police and members of the FBI.
Today, we sit in the aftermath of this racist act of violence against a Hopi and Akimel O'odham father, artist, and community builder who showed up to the prayer rally in solidarity with kin from The Red Nations and the Three Sisters Collective. Though stable, Jacob is not completely out of the woods and family and supporters continue prayers for his healing and full recovery. Friends have been with him through his surgeries, and his family just arrived to see him.
More fundamentally, this is a hate crime. This agitator didn’t merely target Jacob, but sought to disrupt a gathering in which dozens of Indigenous Peoples of New Mexico gathered together to offer prayers that a symbol of colonial genocide wouldn’t be permitted to be installed. This was an attack on Indigenous People’s rights to gather peacefully; an attack on the right to not have a brutalizer of their ancestors canonized in such a public way; and an effort to silence the voices of many Indigenous Peoples across time and space to advocate for their lives.
USCAN staff and members were convening nearby in New Mexico and a few USCAN members accompanied Jacob to the action to learn more and display solidarity.
- Donate and share this Go Fund Me to support Jacob and his family
- Use this share pack to amplify on social media
Stay tuned for opportunities to gather with USCAN members and more ways to support Jacob, his family, and our partners in New Mexico to make sure that this injustice is not ignored by local authorities.
Also, please let us know if you have any experience or contacts with experience countering racist and white supremacist violence. We are using the Backfire Basics as a framework for responding publicly and making sure Jacob has all the support he needs. Although this is not violence from the state, it is violence that was fomented by the state and we do not know yet if local authorities will take this crime seriously without our intervention.
Also, we ask that you…
- Help cover medical bills of Jacob by donating to Go Fund Me and sharing it with with others
- If you have connections to government leaders in the US, outside the US, or at the UN please ask them to post on social media with the hashtags #SolidarityWithJacob
- Donate to Red Media to nourish, sustain and support Indigenous Peoples Movements
And demand that…
- Federal hate crime charges be filed against the shooter
- Local government officials refrain from installing a symbol of historical violence
- Government officials in New Mexico and federally commit to not resurrecting the statue of conquistador Juan de Oñate
Links to Resources
- Lead organizations on the ground
- Albuquerque Journal article
- Red Nation posts: Instagram, Twitter, Twitter (CONTENT WARNING – gun violence, racism, colonialism)
- NDN Collective posts: Instagram, Twitter, Twitter (CONTENT WARNING – gun violence, racism, colonialism)