That all changed in the week since, as subsequent news reports made clear that not only were they planning a lethal attack, the intended victims were Mexican immigrants:
- Five members of a self-styled militia were denied bail Tuesday after a federal agent testified they planned a machine gun attack on Mexicans, but a judge approved bail for a sixth man.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Armstrong said at a hearing in Birmingham federal court he could not grant bail to the five because of the agent's testimony and the amount of weapons - including about 200 homemade hand grenades - that were seized in raids Friday in DeKalb County.
"I'm going to be worried if I let these individuals go at this time," he said.
Adam Nesmith, an agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, testified that the five - Raymond Kirk Dillard, 46; Adam Lynn Cunningham, 41; Bonnell Hughes, 57; Randall Garrett Cole, 22; and James Ray McElroy, 20 - planned a machine-gun attack on Mexicans in Remlap, a town just north of Birmingham, and went there on a reconnaissance mission April 20. The agent provided no further details.
During the raids last week, agents recovered 130 homemade hand grenades, a grenade launcher, about 70 hand grenades rigged to be fired from a rifle, a machine gun, a short-barrel shotgun and 2,500 rounds of ammunition, authorities said.
According to at least one of their neighbors, they'd been feeding on a steady diet of immigrant-bashing that they readily regurgitated to everyone in sight:
- James Craig, 63, of Collinsville, said Dillard visited him and his wife, Shelia, a few weeks ago and talked to them about how the Hispanics were taking over the country.
"I told him I didn't want to hear it, and I asked to leave and not to come back," he said. "He just respected me and walked off. If I had known he had all those explosives around his house, I might have been nicer to him. You never know who your neighbors are."
For the time being, it's probably best to be circumspect about this case; it'll be necessary to assess the FBI's evidence at trial and see to what extent these men had proceeded in their plans, and what the likelihood of their actually having pulled it off would have been, and whether the evidence in fact substantiates the FBI's claims. However, from outward appearances, the likelihood appears high that the case is solid.
If it does all pan out, then this case could prove to be a significant warning sign that the agitation against immigrants of the past several years, particularly the emphasis on vigilante action embodied by the Minutemen, is metastasizing into actual brownshirt thuggery to which the label "fascist" fully applies.
As I noted awhile back:
- You see, vigilantism always claims to be about law and order and preserving "traditional values." And yet historically, real extremism has always expressed itself thus. This is because vigilantism is always, in the end, about the brutal imposition of mob rule without regard to the humanity of its targets. The proof, in the end, lies in the strange fruit it inevitably produces.
Fortunately, the authorities were able to nip this act of domestic terrorism in the bud, before anyone was harmed. The next time we may not be so lucky.