The parking lot of the Taos County Administrative Complex drew a crowd of several hundred people for a rally in support of President Donald Trump and other local Republican leaders on Saturday (Oct. 10), as members of Bikers for Trump and Cowboys for Trump – both groups based outside of Taos County – spoke in favor of the president and other Republican candidates.
The several hourslong event in the courthouse parking lot off Paseo del Pueblo Sur also drew political views from counterprotestors who lined the streets or tried to enter the pro-Trump motorcade.
Signs for “Trump Pence 2020,” “Linda Calhoun” and "Back the Blue” – an organization that “focuses on building community support for our local police officers” – surrounded the event. Many participants were happy to see a rally for a Republican president in a historically Democratic town, though there were many who disagreed with the positions posed by the rally.
Speakers included Coy Griffin of Cowboys for Trump, a group based out of Antelope Wells, New Mexico; Karen Bedonie with the Navajo Conservative Patriot, a publication run by Navajo conservatives; and April Melissa Fryzel, a Republican running for New Mexico Senate District 8 against Pete Campos, among others.
As the parade of cars and bikes headed north along Paseo del Pueblo, the demonstration for Trump attracted an anti-protest as the Republican parade moved forward. Several cars representing Joe Biden supporters entered the parade, and there were about a dozen protestors in the street with signs in front of the courthouse.
After the caravan drove farther north, the cars parked near the Taos County Republican Party Building (307-B Paseo del Pueblo Sur) then amassed in front of the courthouse in the parking lot by the street.
There was much praise for the president among attendees, as speakers referred to issues such as high taxes, the lack of high school sports and human sex trafficking. It was also clear that many Republican Taoseños are wary of Michelle Lujan Grisham's course of action regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, and many speakers publicly announced their disapproval of the governor.
Among the local supporters of the rally was Elias R. Cisneros. As a citizen born and raised in Taos, Cisneros said that he “wanted to show support for my president,” and also noted his support for the Back the Blue Movement, noting that he has many family members in local law enforcement. “I just wanted to show support and be there for them,” said Cisneros of his public service family members.
As a counterprotest developed before the rally, Cisneros said that the Republican community he knows is welcome to its protests. “They have every right to,” said Cisneros.
Among the counterprotesters were several local Taoseños who said they showed up to prove that Taos wasn’t in line with Trump's agenda. Although the protestors carried anti-Trump signs, many of them made it clear that they were not necessarily Joe Biden supporters, and were there to stand up against fundamental Republican beliefs.
“I didn’t serve in Iraq to bring down a dictator only to come home to one,” said Jeff Englehart, one of the counterprotestors. Carrying a homemade sign, he said he and several others showed up to protest the Trump rally, which he said goes against the ideals of not only himself, but those of Taos County.
Laura Anderson, another counterprotestor, said that she sees Trump and his supporters as dividers of the American people. She said she was driven to protest because staying complacent would show “that hate wins, and I’m not going to let that happen.” She also said that she believes in “compassion, love and empathy,” while the other side believes in “apathy, looking away and only worrying about themselves.”
When rallygoers were asked if they thought the traditionally Democratic-leaning New Mexico would turn Republican, attendee Dutch Shultis said that “there’s a good possibility that New Mexico could turn red. People are tired of burning down towns, they’re tired of all the silliness on the other side. People are waking up. They’re right here,” he said as he pointed to his right, toward the booth with petitions to recall Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
As the speakers continued, two young women representing the Navajo Conservative Patriot, a pamphlet that backs Trump and other conservative representatives across the Navajo Nation, presented their case for the president. Loara Antone Bedonie and Abbyann Bedonie, daughters of NCP’s founder Karen Bedonie, said that they were there to “to make people aware of what’s going on inside the Navajo Nation.”
Loara Bedonie – a 16-year-old business owner – said that she supports Trump. “Biden supporters want socialism, they want equal rights,” she said. “But the base of all human interaction is capitalism, so if you even out the playing field people are going to want to do what they are doing. To do that you have to have capitalism,” she added.
The Bedonie sisters said that they believe the impact of “socialism” has disrupted the Navajo Nation. Loara Bedone said she urges people to “do more research," and said that “people aren't aware of the corruption, and damage that's happening within the Navajo tribe.”
Although this event may have been the first of its kind in Taos, it’s clear that a concerted effort to reelect Trump and put more conservative lawmakers in local politics is alive across the Southwest. Whether or not traditionally blue Taos will vote Republican this year remains to be seen.