Monday, August 08, 2005

Minutemen: A home for extremists

This is a recent Minutemen rally. And yes, that's a Nazi flag there, third from the right.

Well, I've been saying all along that the Minutemen's core demographic is constituted of right-wing extremists, including many outright racists.

At a recent anti-immigrant rally in Laguna Beach, the connection was made explicit.

The rally was held July 30. It apparently was a follow-up of sorts to a similar rally held in the same locale on July 16, in which a local anti-immigration activist decided to protest a local arts festival's financial support for a day labor center for undocument workers. This rally drew the participation of the Save Our State campaign (an ostensibly mainstream anti-immigration organization) and the Minutemen's Jim Gilchrist. It also drew a contingent of neo-Nazis.

A Live Journal account gives a quick overview of what occurred:
Save Our State and founder of the Minutman project Jim Gilchrist organized the protest at the Day Labor Center to oppose the hiring of day laborers by city residents two weeks after some members of SOS attended an unofficial rally at the Laguna Beach Arts Festival. There they protested the event's contribution through rental space sale to city coffers, which in turn pays out $21,000 to the group that operates the Center. That original anti-immigrant protest organizer, known as OCAngel, has publicly disassociated herself from the Minutman Project/S.O.S. after neo-Nazis stood with S.O.S. members threatened her due to her Jewish background.

Another account can be found in this Indymedia post, which also provided the above photo.

Interestingly, an account of what happened from the other side can be found at the neo-Nazi Stormfront forum, where one of the participants described how the neo-Nazi flags appeared:
The flags came out in the last few moments of the protest. The commies were chanting "Nazis Go Home" for hours on end non-stop, so I and everyone present on the street in the hot sun, facing hostile commies, browns, and who-knows-what greenlighted the flag idea. We will stand behind our decision.

If anyone wants to do it differently, come with us and tell us then and there.

Besides, this is America and if they can fly their commie flags, burn the US flag, fly their brown flag, we can fly anything we want.

Here's a shot of two of the flag bearers:

What's going on, of course, is that the Minutemen provide an ideal opportunity for white racists to "mainstream" their agenda, using the relatively benign "average citizens" that Lou Dobbs exclusively observes in their ranks as just so much cover. An online report from the July 16 rally discusses this in some detail:
By OCAngel's accounts, the rally she worked hard putting together was indeed a smashing success. More than sixty people showed up, while only five counterdemonstrators appeared to oppose them. Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist, an Aliso Viejo resident, dropped by for awhile to pay his respects. Barbara Coe, the venerable Chairwoman of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform (CCIR) and co-author of Proposition 187, was also there. And Don Silva (aka "OldPreach"), one of Joe Turner's close allies, was running around dressed in camouflage again, waving around an American flag (for matter of record, the rally itself was not officially endorsed by S.O.S.). {3}

But members of the National Alliance, an avowedly white supremacist organization, appeared to be out in full force that day. In fact, somebody who calls herself occutegirl, perhaps unbeknownst to her at the time, posted a photograph she took of two reputed members of that group on the "Save Our State" website. The photo shows a young woman (alleged to be "dixieland_delight" on the Stormfront White Nationalist Community website) and a man suspected of being her boyfriend holding up a blue banner reading, "DEPORT ILLEGAL ALIENS," with the words, "," emblazoned just underneath them in much smaller type. {4}

After realizing that a good number of "white nationalists" had attended her rally, OCAngel, to her credit, took some steps to distance herself from them. In one cryptic posting on the "Save Our State" website, she hinted publicly to a person who apparently had sent her a private message that they had "an agenda I do not agree with" and would "have preferred your group [possibly the National Alliance] to set up further and separate from us [on Saturday, July 16th], and not aligned yourselves with us in any way. I appreciated that you did not openly flaunt your views ..." {5}

But the truth is, despite OCAngel's apparent despair over all the National Alliance members who showed up to her Laguna Beach rally, evidence is rapidly mounting that white supremacists from across Southern California are trying to work hand and glove with "Save Our State" and its members in every protest and demonstration they organize; in fact, in some circumstances, it appears some white supremacists are active members of that group.

None of this should be terribly surprising. I've long held that immigration reform is an important issue that requires serious discussion, but I don't believe for a moment that scapegoating and harassing border crossers is going to provide any solutions. My experience has been that if you scratch beneath the surface of those who do, you quickly find that they are more likely to be concerned with Latino (or any nonwhite) immigration, not illegal immigration per se, though of course they pay lip service to the latter.

The Stormfront forum is especially enlightening, since it is a specifically neo-Nazi chatroom. Especially noteworthy were the many posts questioning the use of the Nazi symbology at the rally, since it would "turn off" many whites. It's worth remembering that most dedicated racists take care not to let it show publicly -- unlike these fellows. But the whole thread makes clear to what extent these extremists now move among allegedly "mainstream" right-wing operations and not infiltrate them, but fully hijack them.

And as much as they might disguise themselves in the process, the vicious nature of this contingent eventually manifests itself.

It appears to have done so recently near Tijuana, where two Mexican men were shot in separate incidents while attempting border crossings:
Carlos Alfonso Estrada Martinez, 38, was one of two Mexican citizens shot in separate incidents during the early hours of Saturday in the border region between Tecate and Campo.

In statements he made to officials, Estrada had said he was about 200 yards inside the U.S. when he was hit about 1 a.m. A second man who was shot about an hour later said he was assaulted just south of the border fence in Mexico.

... The second man, Jose Humberto Rivera Perez, a 32-year-old native of Guadalajara, was shot just below the left knee. Interviewed earlier this week as he recovered at the Centro de Salud hospital, he said he was shot by a man who had his face covered as Rivera and several others waited to cross the border roughly 20 yards south of the fence.

When they tried to flee, the man shouted at them in Spanish not to run and fired, hitting Rivera.

A statement released earlier that weekend by Mexican immigration officials blamed the shootings on bandits rather than on cazamigrantes, Spanish for "migrant hunters." Since mid-July, armed civilians have been watching the border in the area surrounding Campo, patrolling between Jacumba and Tecate.

The reporters also spoke to a Minuteman leader:
Jim Chase, the Oceanside resident who organized the three-week border watch, said none of his people have fired any weapons. But he added that while he turns away people he considers extremists, he has been running into people conducting their own patrols who are not with his group.

"It doesn't scare me, but it is scary from the standpoint of these are people who have not gone through me to pledge to be nonracist and nonviolent," Chase said earlier this week.

Somehow, getting that official Minuteman certification doesn't exactly seem like an ironclad guarantee against racism and violence, either.

But then, movements like these, borne of racial scapegoating in the first place, are always going to attract those kinds of supporters. It's in their nature.

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