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Unite against the border vigilantes!

Given the makeup of the Minutemen, it might be easy to dismiss them as a bunch of fringe locos. But ignoring them would be a dangerous response — particularly given the mainstreaming of their ideas, reflected in a spate of anti-immigrant initiatives passed or underway in many states.
Unite against the border vigilantes!

by Eduardo Martínez Zapata

A nasty crew is gathering along the U.S.-Mexico border to try to stop undocumented immigration. These armed thugs, called the Minuteman Project, are determined to one-up the U.S. Border Patrol, which they consider is falling asleep on the job — despite a 60 percent boost in government forces since 1993. This has increased the numbers of immigrants dying as they attempt border crossings at more remote areas of the harsh desert.

The good news: a multitude of protesters have planted the seeds for a movement that can stop these bullies.

Scapegoating links Minutemen and fascists. In early April, Minuteman honchos Jim Gilchrist and Chris Simcox made a national appeal for bigots to come help patrol the Arizona-Mexico border. Fewer than expected showed up, but among those who did were members of the neo-Nazi National Alliance. Though the Minutemen claim they want no help from fascists, they did nothing to stop them from participating. And, according to a Southern Poverty Law Center report, the Minutemen have endorsed National Alliance border patrols. Other white supremacists supporting the Minutemen include the Klu Klux Klan and Aryan Nations.

Given the makeup of the Minutemen, it might be easy to dismiss them as a bunch of fringe locos. But ignoring them would be a dangerous response — particularly given the mainstreaming of their ideas, reflected in a spate of anti-immigrant initiatives passed or underway in many states.

The Minutemen have managed to spread into California. They encourage volunteers to use firearms as a means of “protection.? Not coincidentally, in August two Mexican immigrants were shot in an area of California heavily patrolled by the Minutemen. Deaths will surely increase if the Minutemen are left alone to expand.

Who benefits from immigrant-bashing? Wall Street, which welcomes misplaced anger against “illegals? instead of its own nasty greed and corruption.

Undocumented workers, hurricanes, hot weather, cold weather: you name it, they’ll blame it!

Out-organizing the Minutemen in California. On July 16, having traveled to Campo, California, from my home in Oregon, I joined a bold protest of the Minutemen by about 120 Chicano, immigrant rights, and left activists, including comrades of mine from Radical Women (RW) and the Freedom Socialist Party. We rallied and marched about 50 feet from the border, spotting only two Minutemen.

As the son of immigrant farm workers who faced years of racism, I was proud to raise my voice against these cabrones, these bastards. Los Angeles RW leader Yuisa Gimeno and I made solidarity statements. The emcee called us to the microphone despite obvious pressure not to do so from rally organizers with the International Socialist Organization (ISO). Yuisa was the only woman of color speaker!

Our message of the need to confront the Minutemen through united- front action was enthusiastically received. When I spoke, however, ISO members used a megaphone to interrupt me with instructions to the crowd. I finished what I had to say, but that kind of sectarian disrespect is disruptive and divisive.

Sectarianism and cultural nationalism must go! That example of sectarianism wasn’t the first problem in the anti-Minuteman organizing.

In California, the main initiative against these racists has been taken by the May 28th Coalition in Los Angeles. The coalition’s first order of business was planning to counter a demonstration by the anti-immigrant group and Minuteman ally Save Our State (SOS).

SOS had its sights set on a monument in Baldwin Park, a city east of Los Angeles, which honors past Mexican and Indian ownership of the land there. City residents had planned a cultural festival as a form of protest against SOS, but many in the M28 Coalition expressed the need to directly and militantly confront the group.

After heated debate over which type of protest to go with, most of the Chicano organizations, ones which favored the cultural celebration, walked out of the coalition. They charged the people who remained, primarily white group members and a smaller number of nonaffiliated Chicanos, with disrespect of cultural differences and thus racism.

Their position smacks of cultural nationalism — the idea that one’s own culture reigns supreme over all issues and that it’s impossible to work with those outside one’s own raza. Although it is a response to real racism past and present, cultural nationalism is a dead-end political mistake isolating an oppressed group from workingclass allies.

As it happened, the Baldwin Park residents who held the cultural festival were delighted that the M28 Coalition conducted a direct counter-protest as well. The two groups joined forces in solidarity at the end of the day.

Meanwhile, some coalition members, including RW representatives, believed that the coalition should reach out to the Chicano organizations who had left and attempt to regroup with them. But the ISO, which moved into leadership of the coalition once these organizations were gone, has so far not done so — another display of sectarianism.

United front is the way forward. Latino immigrants under Minuteman attack can’t afford preventable splits in the movement. The answer is a democratic united front that allows for different forms of protest by different groups within it while also launching actions in unison.

The united front should also promote leadership by those who have the most to gain, including migrant workers and las mujeres. Immigrant women can play a powerful role against the Minutemen. Their rebellious response to immigrant-haters and sexists should be at the forefront of the movement.

Groups and individuals in Portland, Oregon, used a united front to defeat the neo-Nazi Tualatin Valley Skins in January. Putting other political differences aside, a myriad of gente — socialists, anarchists, anti-racist activists, feminists, neighborhood organizers, Jews, and Muslims — ran the fascists out! This is the same approach that can successfully beat back the Minutemen crew.

Eduardo Martínez Zapata, who works as an educator with migrant students and their families, can be reached at eduardomz (at)

For more information or to get involved, call Radical Women at 323-732-6416 or email RadicalWomenLA (at) To contact the M28 Coalition, call 951-756-5712 or email impalaragtop64 (at)

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