Robert Knott, Santa Fe New Mexican
Some in the crowd held back tears as Darlene Peshlakai spoke.
Peshracai lost two teenage daughters, Deshauna and Del Lynn, in a car accident in Santa Fe on March 5, 2010.
The driver of the truck that collided with their car was intoxicated. Peshlakai told a rally gathered for his MADD New Mexico event at the Roundhouse that a man previously arrested on multiple DUI charges was killed at the wheel of a truck. I asked why I was allowed to
Friday’s event, held in the state capitol’s rotunda, served as a demonstration of the determination of about 100 people who gathered to put pressure on the state to curb drunk driving.
The timing was good and the location perfect. As the 60-day legislative session begins, the Capitol is filled with the human energy of lawmakers, lobbyists, and ordinary citizens. The MADD event epitomized the near-daily activist energy that enveloped the building during the annual legislative session.
Katrina Latka, Affiliate Executive Director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in New Mexico, says there’s no better place to gather to send your message.
“It’s amazing to be in front of so many people at once.” [in conveying a message],” she said. “When people come together and share stories, those stories have power.”
There are many such gatherings in the State Capitol. Some even address controversial and controversial topics like abortion and gun control. There are also calls for help and calls for action when it comes to tackling climate change, civil rights and public education reform.
Nonetheless, political science experts and those in the trenches say the power of protests can make a difference, whether they are held on college campuses, in public squares, on the streets leading to the US Capitol, or here in Santa Fe. They say it can be produced.
“It’s an important part of political participation. It’s been going on for a long time,” said Neil Harvey, professor of political science and head of the government department at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.
He said public demonstrations “put the issue firmly in the public light and put it on the public agenda”. They warn officials. ”
Large gatherings like this, which can give off a circus aura designed to attract attention, are “an important way to try to bring about policy change,” he said.
Gabriel Sanchez, a professor of political science at the University of New Mexico, agrees. He said that even in this age of social media, online entertainment and rapid technological progress, decades and centuries of public protests in the country have not weakened the message. .
“We think of them as old-fashioned tactics, but we still see large numbers of people coming to the Roundhouse. [to protest],” He said.
And lawmakers, whether they support the cause or not, are very sensitive to such events, he said.
“A legislator, like anyone else, sees a lot of people assembled and says, ‘I want to stand in front of this because many of them could be my voters.’ Say,” Sanchez said.
“Size does matter,” Sanchez said — the bigger the crowd, the more attention is deemed necessary.
Recent civil and political The event prompted more people to take to the streets to support it. – or against – a range of civil, social and political issues.
Pre-COVID movements like Black Lives Matter and the National Women’s March have energized thousands of demonstrators demanding change. Harvey and Sanchez said the coronavirus pandemic may have dampened that energy a bit, but an issue that never seems to go away, like the mass shooting, can reinvigorate tenacious activists. they said.
“Every day we get very tragic news of shootings … in the country we have had over 30 in the first few weeks of this year,” Harvey said. “There will be pressure to change regulations on different types of guns in this country.”
With several gun control bills under consideration at the Santa Fe Congress, you can expect supporters on both sides of the issue to show up in the Capitol once these bills begin to be debated.
The same is likely to be true when a bill codifying abortion rights goes to its first public hearings.
Changes can take time
Harvey and Sanchez said supporters who demonstrate without seeking support must realize that it may take years or longer to achieve their goals.
No one knows that better than Allen Sanchez, president of CHI St. Joseph’s Children. Over his ten years, he led the charge to raise more money from one of the state’s Permanent Funds and support more early childhood education and care programs.
Each year, he and other advocates have spoken before lawmakers to persuade them to move forward with constitutional amendments so voters can decide the issue. The gathering of dozens or even hundreds of supporters outside the Roundhouse during past legislative sessions has helped keep the pressure on, he said.
A rally like this can do more than just put the issue in front of the public and legislators, Sanchez said. You can slowly bring in more defenders who decide to
“Advocates must be educated,” he said. “So putting them together gives us an opportunity to educate the masses.”
He said that while it might be easy to think of his childhood struggles as having gone on for years without success, each demonstration yielded a small victory.
“Every time we went there, they gave us something,” he said with a laugh. “It wasn’t what we asked for, but…”
He said his band of advocates had acquired over the years, from additional funding for public and early childhood education, to developing an Early Childhood Education Trust Fund, to creating a state Early Childhood Education and Care Division. rattled concessions.
In November, voters overwhelmingly approved the amendment, giving the OK to increased annual withdrawals from the state’s Land Grants Permanent Fund (valued over $26 billion in November), We donated about $150 million a year to education and $100 million to education. state public schools.
“It’s because of this movement,” Sanchez said. “We’ve had it on our radar over the years.”