Santa Fe's leaders are calling for calm after a group of protesters toppled a controversial monument in the city's plaza Monday during an Indigenous Peoples' Day protest.
The protesters used chains and ropes to bring down the obelisk, which activists contend celebrates the killings of Native Americans. The defacing came at the end of a weekend-long protest by indigenous groups and other individuals who took over the plaza.
At one point during the demonstrations, two protesters chained themselves to the base of the monument, according to police.
Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber and Police Chief Andrew Padilla told reporters during a news conference Tuesday that a small group of protesters plotted the destruction.
"Not every protester had this in their mind," Padilla said.
The monument was erected in 1868, 43 years before New Mexico became a state, to honor Civil War Union soldiers. It has become a target of protesters for a plaque at its base that says the obelisk is dedicated to "the heroes" who fought "savage Indians."
Mayor Webber has supported removing the obelisk, and a state-contracted crew attempted to do so over the summer, but it was too heavy for the crews, according to officials.
The mayor nevertheless condemned Monday's vandalism.
"The violence and damage to a historical monument in the middle of our plaza will not help our community come together when we most need to do so," he said in a video message Monday.
Padilla said officers arrested two of the protesters and were looking for more individuals who were involved in the monument's removal. He said the protest broke up about 20 minutes after the monument came down, and ended peacefully without the officers using tear gas or excessive force.
"It was preservation of life over property. I stand by that decision," Padilla said.
Webber said the City Council will be holding meetings this week to address the concerns of the protesters and move forward with the situation.
"It's clear Santa Fe and New Mexico have more than hundreds of years of pain and suffering on many sides," he said during the news conference. "The events of yesterday give us the opportunity to come together and stand up."