Activists interrupt New Mexico State of the State address

Protesters call for ‘courageous leadership’ on climate change and legislative support for a ceasefire in Gaza

By: - January 17, 2024 3:09 am

Protesters cause a disruption during State of the State address on Jan 16. 2024 during the opening day of the legislative session. (Photo by Anna Padilla for Source NM)

Protesters disrupted Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s State of the State address on Tuesday calling on her and lawmakers to demand a transition away from fossil fuels and a ceasefire in Gaza.

Three separate times, protesters stood up from their seats in the gallery above the House of Representatives where state, local, tribal and federal officials or their representatives had gathered for the governor’s speech to kick off the 30-day New Mexico legislative session.

“Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, legislative leadership, you were elected to represent us. You work for us, not industry,” the first group said from the House Gallery. “We need your courageous leadership. There is a genocide in Palestine. We do not want New Mexico to arm war. We do not want New Mexico to fuel the climate crisis. The people want peace and justice everywhere. Stand up for Palestine. Stand up for a ceasefire now.”

As the first group was speaking out, Lt. Gov Howie Morales banged his gavel and called on the sergeant at arms to intervene, and the governor strayed from her prepared remarks to respond to them: “I hope they’re going to be happy later when we talk about all the climate change and renewable energy that we’re bringing,” she said.

Two more groups then added to the disruption, beginning a chant that continued outside the Roundhouse.

“Global warming is a war of the rich on the poor,” the second and third groups chanted. “End the bombing, end the siege. Palestine will be free.”

“I want you to do a round of applause, even though it’s a disruption, the world is complicated,” Lujan Grisham said after the second group. “Far too many young people find themselves locked into a situation where it’s very hard to have clarity about the right steps forward. And rather wouldn’t we all want a situation where we embrace differences of opinion, some discord, maybe a disruption or an interruption?”

A security guard in a formal suit grabs a protester by the arm to pull them out of the New Mexico House of Representatives. The protester is wearing a t-shirt that reads: 'DEFEND THE SACRED'
Legislative security on Jan. 16 forcibly removed protesters from the gallery above the House of Representatives. (Photo by Austin Fisher / Source NM)

After each protest, New Mexico State Police and legislative security forcibly removed the protesters from the building, and prevented any of them from returning inside.

“This is a state and this is a country that protects people who don’t share your exact opinion, and I’m very proud of that,” Lujan Grisham said.

In all, more than 100 people traveled from across the state to protest the governor’s speech in Santa Fe, according to a news release published by the activists after the demonstration.

A coalition of progressive groups disrupted Lujan Grisham’s speech. The groups involved include, Youth United for Climate Crisis Action (YUCCA), Southwest Coalition for Palestine, New Mexico Jews for a Free Palestine, Santa Feans for Justice in Palestine, the Santa Fe Ad Hoc Committee on Palestine, ABQ4Ceasefire Collective, and Northern NM Showing Up for Racial Justice.

“New Mexicans want a just transition to real, proven sustainable energy technologies, we want polluters to be held accountable and to clean up their messes, we want green jobs, we want investment in our future, not plutonium pit production, we want a ceasefire, we want an end to colonization and occupation everywhere,” said YUCCA spokesperson Zephyr Jaramillo.

Jaramillo said protesters are opposed to nuclear weapon productions and fossil fuel extraction.

“We will not stand by and allow those we elected to exclude our voices on the issues that directly impact us,” Jaramillo said. “We demand accountability. We demand true leadership.”

Lujan Grisham said state officials are “not going to have all the answers to the world’s problems, certainly not in today’s speech, maybe not even in tomorrow’s actions.”

Correction 12:52 p.m. Jan. 17:

This story has been updated to correctly reflect who was presiding over the joint session of the House and Senate.

A security guard in a formal suit grabs a protester by the neck and forcibly removes him from a seat in the gallery overlooking the New Mexico House of Representatives. The protester is wearing a black t-shirt that reads in large white font: 'REAL CLIMATE ACTION NOW!'
A legislative security guard could be seen in the House Gallery on Jan. 16 grabbing this protester by the neck and pulling him from his seat. (Photo by Austin Fisher / Source NM)

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Austin Fisher
Austin Fisher

Austin Fisher is a journalist based in Santa Fe. He has worked for newspapers in New Mexico and his home state of Kansas, including the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Garden City Telegram, the Rio Grande SUN and the Santa Fe Reporter. Since starting a full-time career in reporting in 2015, he’s aimed to use journalism to lift up voices that typically go unheard in public debates around economic inequality, policing and environmental racism.