May 27, 2006

Provoking Violence: The Minutemen Confront Migrants and Supporters in Downtown LA

by Leslie Radford
May 21
In spite of the obvious provocation, protest organizers agreed in advance that non-violence was the order of the day in confronting the minutemen's march against migrant rights along the now-historic Gran Marcha route. And so it was, but the protestors' hard-bitten contempt was palpable, and the the shoppers and shopkeepers along Broadway were clear in their resentment.

About ten students had primed the Broadway pedestrians. At 10:30 a.m., they walked through the Sunday shopping crowds of migrants warning them that the minutemen would soon try to take over their street.

The "American Civil Rights March," scheduled for noon, had really begun by 11:15. At Olympic and Broadway, fifty minutemen from the Minuteman Project, Save Our State, and the Crispus Attucks Brigade were already facing 150 seething, yelling protestors from ISO, Students for Amnesty, the People's Liberation Party, Radical Women, and the RCP, and just plain pissed off anarchists and community members. The seventy or so visible cops solidified the protestors when, a few moments later, they hauled off a leading pro-migrant activist who had ventured too close to the minutemen.

The minutemen hid behind a line of cop bikes along the south side of Olympic, waving immense US flags and literally wrapped themselves in red, white, and blue stripes. One sported a classic Torino spoiled with a red, white, and blue flag motif paint job. Protestors stretched around the north and west around corner. ANSWER-LA showed up with their banners and signs, and a car battery-powered PA system, complete with speakers on poles, all packed in a shopping cart. The protestors now numbered two hundred, and the march was ready to begin. An infamous Mexican minutewoman crossed the parking lot behind the protestors as they shouted, "¡Asesina!"

One hundred and thirteen minutemen crossed Olympic Boulevard at noon.

The march had been billed as a civil rights march, but the only sign that called for civil rights was the lead banner that read, "Civil Rights in Mexico." Ted Hayes, chief march organizer and leader of the African-American unit of the minutemen, had managed to pull together about eighteen African-Americans to join him. Their civil rights issues were notably missing from the march. Instead of uniting behind African-American rights or jobs, the overwhelmingly European-American minutemen carried signs calling for locking down the borders, no amnesty, and deporting migrants.

By 7th Street the cops had donned their hardhats, visors up. The cops spaced themselves about five feet apart, facing the protestors on the west sidewalk, who shouted to the marchers "La lucha obrera no tiene fronteras" and, to the cops, "La migra, la policía--la misa porquería!" through their bullhorns.

PLP had gone ahead, handing out flyers denouncing the march, and all along Broadway on both sides of the street people stopped their Sunday shopping to come out on the sidewalk to glare with arms crossed at the minutemen, or to join protestors. Undoubtedly, many of these same people had carried their own U.S. flags up this same street two months ago. Today, they saw that flag in a different light. Overhead, the sky was sullen and gloomy, threatening but not delivering rain. The sidewalks were jammed, the din was throbbing. Then at 4th Street, a pause. The minutemen could be heard chanting, "U-S-A! U-S-A!" But the protestors quickly countered with "Working people have not nations--Smash racist deportations!"

One demonstrator said of Ted Hayes leading the minutemen, "Imagine a Chicano Republican leading the Klan in a march down Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard."

At 1:00 p.m. the march had reached City Hall. The protestors, now up to 250, were forced by the cops onto the west side of Spring Street north of 1st Street, while the minutemen paraded to the City Hall lawn for their rally. But wait! First one minutewoman, then another, then several more minutepeople came back to the east side of Spring St. and chatted with the cops. It seemed they wanted to use their porta-potties across the street, in the middle of the protestors. The minutepeople stepped into the street. More consultation with the police, then some fussing. Then the minutepeople turned back, defeated. No porta-potties for them.

The protestors chanted for an hour longer until shortly after 2:00 p.m. The police had called for reinforcements and, recognizing the the danger to the migrants' rights movement, most of the protestors marched out 1st Street toward Broadway.

Meanwhile, the Minutemen were listlessly shuffling around as three hours of speakers took their turns on the City Hall steps. A string of political wannabes skirted the question of immigration, only touching on matricular consular identification cards and denouncing international trade agreements. A Republican Presidential candidate was stumping for rights for non-custodial parents. An African-American minister called out, "Where are our Black leaders?" and answered himself: "They're conspicuously absent today."

Then a march organizer, who had carried what appeared to be a Celtic cross in the march, came to the microphone. "The police are on our side," she told the group at the steps. "When I was marching, I got emotional. I started crying." Then, intoning Martin Luther King, Jr., she went on, "It's a dream to secure our border. It's a dream to remove all illegals without rewarding them. It's a dream that our children will have the same patriotic future we had." After denouncing migrants as the source of crime, homelessness, and hospital closures, she urged the crowd to vote, to call their congressional representatives, and to join the minutemen to "stop the illegal invasion." "Congress is considering allowing illegals to vote," she claimed.

"You need to pray," she continued. "I'm amazed that the Christian churches are not here. In the Bible, it says, 'Thou shall not steal, thou shall not covet.' In Nehemiah, God built a wall. God bless America!"

Finally, Jim Gilchrist, organizer of the Minuteman Project, took the stairs and the microphone. First, he denounced "Mayor Villareconquista" and the Los Angeles City Council. He claimed that for the past forty years, political correctness had advanced diversity and multiculturalism "at any cost." "Assimilation and Americanism have been lost," he proclaimed. "The Senate will ram down your throats and your children's throats amnesty for the 30 million illegal aliens. . . . By the year 2050 there will be 150 million illegal aliens, more illegal aliens than the number of registered voters." "Anarchists have no relation to our nation," he pronounced. "They're part of foreign enclaves. They have no respect for English or U.S. history. They're not interested in assimilating, they're interested in taking our our country." He referred to a protestor across the street: "That loudmouth over there has the aggregate IQ of a dead housewife."

The protestor on the bullhorn was arrested a few minutes later. When the minutemen returned from watching the arrest, Gilchrist announced, "One down, 29,999 left. Sí se puede. U-S-A! U-S-A!"

On their way out, the police escorted the minutemen to the porta-potties, past the handful of remaining counterprotestors.


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