[Marxism] Minutemen to spread wings

Steven L. Robinson srobin21 at comcast.net
Fri Aug 19 19:24:50 MDT 2005

Bill Berkowitz

Minutemen to spread wings

<http://www.workingforchange.com/article.cfm?ItemID=19501 >

Anti-immigrant group pledges to bring 15,000 volunteers to both the Mexican
and Canadian borders for month-long vigils starting October 1

Several months after their self-proclaimed success reducing the flow of
immigrants across the Mexico-Arizona border, leaders of the Minutemen are
pledging that come Oct. 1, 15,000 volunteers will begin a month-long vigil
along both the U.S.-Mexican and U.S.-Canadian borders. Chris Simcox, the
head of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a network of groups and
individuals, many of them armed, said in mid-July that the volunteers are
signing up to "man observation posts and conduct foot and horseback

Devin Burghart, who monitors anti-immigrant movements with the
Illinois-based human rights group, the Center for New Community's Building
Democracy Initiative, is not surprised by the growth of the vigilante
movement -- or its potential for internal strife.

"We are seeing a similar trajectory today with the Minutemen movement that
we saw with the militia movement in the early 1990s," Burghart told me.

Burghart maintains, however, that the Minutemen are in a much better
position than the militias were because "they appear to be mostly relying on
a number of already established anti-immigrant networks and activists to
spread the word."

Twelve years ago, the Militia of Montana, the Michigan Militia and a number
of other like-minded groups appeared to spring up out of nowhere. In short
order, they captured the nation's attention as well as the media's

Militia leaders such as Montana's John Trochmann and Michigan's Norm Olsen
became oft-quoted spokespersons for what was at first portrayed as an
amorphous collection of anti-government activists.

"In the early 1990s, it didn't take long for new militia groups to start
springing up, many of which weren't even organized by the originators of the

concept," Burghart pointed out.

"The establishment of local militia groups took on a life of its own,
becoming somewhat of a mass movement. Even older and pre-existing Christian
Patriot groups started calling themselves militias. It sounds like we could
be on the verge of that happening with the Minutemen phenomenon."

Growth of the militia movement came to a sudden halt after the bombing of
the Joseph P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995 -- a blast that
killed 168 and injured hundreds of others.

The arrest, conviction and subsequent execution of Timothy McVeigh signaled
the beginning of the end for the militias; the ensuing media spotlight
caused membership to decline, interest to wane and the militias disappeared
from the headlines.

"The Minutemen of today and the militias of a decade ago have many
commonalities ideologically," Burghart said. "Despite all their
'law-and-order' rhetoric, they both rely on illegal paramilitary vigilantism
and intimidation to push public policy."

"They both appear to be expressions of Middle American Nationalism -- the
notion that 'middle Americans' are being squeezed from above by the economic
elites, and from below from the multicultural hordes that are sucking the
lifeblood from the productive middle."

"Both the militias and the Minutemen create a demonized 'other' based on
citizenship status: The militias had the 'sovereign citizen' concept, which
divided people into (white) state 'sovereign' citizens and so-called '14th
Amendment' citizens. The Minutemen do it on the basis of perceived
immigration status."

He noted that "both are rife with conspiracy theories. For example, the
militias were concerned about the New World Order, while the Minutemen have
La Reconquista, which contends that there is a secret plot to re-conquer the
American southwest for Mexico."

Moreover, both the militias and the Minutemen have something in common with
the Posse Comitatus, an anti-Semitic white supremacist group that sprung up
in the 1970s. Latin for "power of the county," the Posse Comitatus was
founded in 1971 by retired army lieutenant colonel William Potter Gale.

Gale "believed that all white, Christian men had an unconditional right to
take up arms to enforce the principles of a 'Constitutional Republic,' and
challenge various 'unlawful acts' of the federal government, including
integration, taxation and the federal reserve banking system," Daniel
Levitas, the author of "The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and
the Radical Right" (St Martin's Press, 2002), told me via email.

Devin Burghart pointed out that in their day, the militias received support
and cover from elected officials, including Idaho's Republican
Congresswoman, Helen Chenowith.

"These days, the Minuteman Project has received positive reviews from
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Colorado Congressman Tom
Tancredo, as well as the House immigration reform caucus," he noted. Even
New Mexico's Democratic Governor, Bill Richardson, has been reported to have
requested a meeting with Minetemen leader Chris Simcox.

In late July, just before Congress went off on its summer break, Texas
Republican Representative John Culberson, along with 47 other legislators,
introduced the Border Protection Patrol Act, H.R.3622.

The bill would create a Border Protection Corps empowered to "use any means
and any force authorized by state law to prevent individuals from unlawfully
entering the United States."

Burghart maintains that Minutemen activities have received rather benign
treatment by the mainstream media. "The media has helped create this
situation by turning a couple of bigoted anti-immigrant vigilantes into
superstars overnight," he said. "This is another similarity with what
happened in the 1990s with the militia movement."

Unfortunately, said Burghart, "Few reporters took the time to verify the
claims of the Minuteman Project -- about its leadership, about immigration
issues in general, and about their activities. They reported all of its
propaganda as fact."

"For example, they let it get away with saying there would be thousands of
supporters on the border, when in fact, only 140-160 people actually showed
up. The Minutemen were significantly outnumbered by reporters in Arizona."

The media has "virtually ignored the Minutemen's racism, the illegality of
their actions and the potential danger they could create, and instead have
treated them like they are latter day heroes."

In many of the press reports he has monitored, Burghart found that "there
were very few critical voices being heard." When there was criticism the
story "most often contained a quote from a lone -- generally Latino/a -- 
voice 'complaining' against this huge movement that draped itself in the
American flag."

Although there were not any significant violent incidents in April, when the
Minutemen assembled along a 32-kilometre stretch of the border separating
the U.S. and Mexican states of Arizona and Sonora, as the movement spreads
its wings and embraces thousands of unmonitored volunteers, violence seems

"Like other paramilitary misadventures, the Minutemen are inspired by the
wrong-headed notion that individual citizens have an unconditional right to
use weapons and intimidation to enforce their particular interpretations of
law and the Constitution," Levitas said.

Like the Posse Comitatus and the militias before it, the success of the
Minutemen "is derived from the ability to join racism and right-wing
militancy with more seemingly acceptable frustrations about immigration
policy. Its downfall will be in the criminality of its leaders and the
inevitable violence that follows in its wake."

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