Minuteman opposition organizes resistance - California could be ‘battleground’ over border vigils, activists say

By Brock N. Meeks, Chief Washington correspondent, MSNBC, June 15, 2005

The Minuteman Project, and other volunteer border patrol groups, are expected to face their toughest opposition yet when they move to California this summer for a series of events along the Mexican border.

A growing resistance movement made up largely of Hispanic activists, some of whom accuse the Minutemen of practicing vigilante-style justice, say they will hold a series of protests to coincide with the border patrol operations.

The rising opposition comes at a time when the anti-illegal immigrant passions, fueled by the Minuteman Project movement, are gaining momentum across the country. The Minuteman Project came to prominence in April when it organized a month-long patrol along the Arizona-Mexico border.

Law enforcement officials, members of Latino activist groups and the Minutemen themselves fear that a kind of perfect storm is brewing in California that could spill over into violent confrontation.

Texas and New Mexico have several official and unofficial Minuteman style groups slated to hold border watch events this summer as well. Both states have already seen activist groups and political leaders publicly oppose the coming of the Minutemen. But no state has seen the opposition rise as fast as in California, which is targeted by at least three different Minuteman-style border watch groups this summer....

Groups of activists from up and down California are answering the call to organize, said Armando Navarro, a University of California-Riverside political science professor and coordinator of the National Alliance for Human Rights. Navarro, a veteran organizer and activist, led a group of about 40 to Arizona in April to oppose the Minuteman Project’s month long border watch.

Bad moon rising

...In May, two people were hurt and six arrested when violence broke out during a speech in California by Minuteman founder James Gilchrist. A man rolled his car into a group of protestors, injuring two of them. No charges were pressed; the police said it was “reasonable for [the driver] to be afraid,” when protestors surrounded his car and pounded on it and that’s why he didn’t stop his car.

“All hell broke loose,” after the man drove his car into the protestors, Eric Garcia, 22, of Anaheim, told the Associated Press. “People started throwing rocks and bricks and stuff.”...

“It’s heating up. I’ve got a feeling you’re going to see some violent civil unrest,” said Chris Simcox, founder of the Arizona-based Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.

Currency of non-confrontation

The Minuteman Project is dedicated to a policy of “observe and report” when on the border. Members are instructed to follow a strict non-confrontation policy, those found violating or attempting to violate that policy are dismissed, Simcox said....

Simcox acknowledges the opposition and says his group will “demand protection" from law enforcement authorities. “We adhere to restraint and retreat but then that will not last long if our rights are not being protected,” he said. “We will defend our rights and our country from the enemy within. Bloodshed will be the responsibility of President Bush, Congress and all elitist government officials who have ignored this problem far too long.”

The government would rather everyone just stay home. The Minutemen probably aren’t prepared for the political climate of California, said George McCubbin, a Border Patrol agent and southwest vice president of the National Border Patrol Council.

“We have a bunch of, well, in plain English, ‘loony tunes’ out here [in California] waiting for the Minutemen to show up,” he said....

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