NM Civil Guard at protests to 'defend' citizens, property
Last updated 6/5/2020 at 3:09pm
They call themselves the New Mexico Civil Guard for Curry County.
Their mission: Defend citizens and their private property.
"We will not allow businesses in our community to be put through the pain we've seen nationwide," their Facebook page reads.
"The protests are necessary, we fully understand that, and to an extent the violence is necessary, but we will not allow that violence to be directed at our citizens and their property."
The group, headed up locally by painter O'Rion Petty, made itself known publicly for the first time Wednesday night on the perimeter of a "Clovis Vigil for George Floyd" gathering in Greene Acres Park.
Photos on social media show eight men, many of them heavily armed with what appear to be bullet-proof vests.
But Petty said he wants to be clear the group is here to protect peaceful people and property, not to start anything.
He said they plan to be more visible tonight when a second discussion about community racism is planned for 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Greene Acres.
"We're not against the protesters or whatever you want to call them," said Petty, who is the group's captain. "We're not there to intimidate the protesters or anything like that. We're not with antifa. We're there because of everything that's going on (around the country) and we're not going to watch our community be destroyed, if it comes to that."
Bryce Provance, one of the New Mexico Civil Guard leaders who lives in Albuquerque, said many members across the state are retired military and/or law enforcement personnel who are highly trained "in CPR and being prepared, tanning food, and arms training as well."
He also made it clear the NM Civil Guard is not associated with antifa, the anti-fascist protesters President Trump has blamed for inciting violence at vigils and rallies across the nation following Floyd's death in police custody late last month.
"We are not antifa ... They are actively targeting our members because we don't agree with the violence and thuggish tactics they are using," Provance said. "We're not for any organization that uses violence to silence anybody with dissenting opinions."
Clovis Mayor Mike Morris said that despite suggestions on social media there is no evidence that antifa members are in town or planning to attend the weekend events that run through Saturday night.
Kyle Brewer, who owns S&S Grocery and Hilltop Bottle Shop in Hilltop Plaza across from Greene Acres, said he was approached by the NM Civil Guard soon after organizers began planning the protests and vigils.
Brewer said Petty "got in contact with me. He told me what they were about."
Brewer said the group "educated a lot of people" about their purpose on Wednesday night.
"What was cool was people talking to them and getting to know what they're about," Brewer said.
Brewer said he did not ask for the Civil Guard's presence, but "I didn't have a problem with them showing up" because he is concerned protests in the community could lead to violence.
"I definitely feel that concern. You just see what's going on around the rest of country.
"And I'm not the only one concerned. My phone is blowing up with people concerned. It doesn't hurt to be prepared. I think businesses have been through enough (with the COVID-19 pandemic) without having to worry about this crap."
Downtown business owners appeared mostly to be operating as normal on Thursday, but some were taking precautions.
Bob Vilandry, who owns Bullet Bob Has It, said he plans to stay inside his store after hours so he can protect his property in case of riot or looting this weekend.
Range Movement, a gym at Fifth and Pile streets, had windows covered with plywood as a precaution. A representative from the gym told The News staff did not have any fears but as tenants respected the property owner's right to take such measures.
Morris, Clovis' mayor, said city police and New Mexico State Police have been in contact with the NM Civil Guard and Petty said his group is "following guidelines given to us by police."
Petty said police are "completely fine with us being around. They wanted to make sure we don't look like law enforcement or military and so we're staying in plain clothes for this."
Petty said the group will not venture onto city property with their weapons but "we will have some people close," to the park."
As for the use of weapons in protecting private property, Petty said the Civil Guard "will always go the non-lethal option when it's available.
"We do carry things like pepper spray ... but if we feel like someone's life is in imminent danger or our lives are in imminent danger, at that point we would have to go ahead and use lethal force if necessary."
But Petty said "someone running at us" or burning a building would not be met with gunfire."
Petty said anyone wanting more information about New Mexico Civil Guard Curry County can send him a message through the group's Facebook page.