New York Invaded!

Today, Jim Gilchrist and company brought the Minuteman Project to New York City, to the World Trade Center site. A crowd of fewer than 40 people mixed with almost as many members of the media in a fenced-in little corner at Liberty and Church, right next to Ground Zero. It was the first stop for the book tour of MINUTEMEN: The Battle to Secure America’s Borders, written by Gilchrist and Dr. Jerome Corsi. And the Minutemen used the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 as the central rallying point for clamping down on immigration, utilizing heavily bellicose rhetoric and dubious statistics.

Much of the talk was nasty. "This is not the first time I have faced Satan," said Gilchrist. "Yes, we have names for them, too....Satan will once again back down under the rule of law."

"Monsters" was a word used frequently. Gilchrist claimed that 28,000 people have been murdered by undocumented immigrants in the USA since 9/11 -- and 95 percent of the killers have been Mexican. Speakers consistently said that immigrants killed the thousands of people who died on 9/11.

(While some of the known 9/11 terrorists had violated immigration laws, that does not a cause-and-effect link make. Timothy McVeigh could not have bombed the Oklahoma City Federal Building if he didn't have the rental truck. So let's close all the rental businesses.)

One man, holding one end of a sign that read "STOP THE INVASION" barked at a Telemundo reporter: "You gonna broadcast this in English, so my family can hear it?" To which one of his comrades replied something about subtitling and Spanish-language TV causing his high cable bill.

Added another man, wearing a Border Patrol hat: "My mother came here legally.... She didn't bring any disease like half of these people."

All the while, a group of immigrants' rights protesters that surely outnumbered the Minutemen chanted and waved signs -- "MinuteKlan", etc. -- and chanted from their corral across Liberty Street.

Frankly, I didn't expect such harsh, violent, and paranoid language from a group that claims to be "not a call to arms, but a call to voices seeking a peaceful and respectable resolve", according their website. But they see this as a war against murderous hordes.

Minuteman speakers -- including a representative from a 9/11 families group who lost his son in the WTC -- constantly and fervently evoked the ghosts of the USA's founding fathers, all soldiers who have ever died for this country, and the victims of 9/11 to demand that politicians start "honoring their oaths of office" and enforce immigration laws -- or leave their posts. (That includes Pres. Bush.) And they bellowed often about law and order. (See my previous post.)

That ignores the facts that the Boston Tea Party was technically a terrorist act, but it was breaking of laws that served the interests of justice; many non-citizen immigrants have died in service to the USA; "Mexican" workers -- as MM supporters view all undocumented immigrants -- did not murder thousands on 9/11; and that many of those who died that day were foreign-born. Gilchrist also remarked that people in San Diego know that the USA is being colonized. That's an historically ignorant and hypocritical argument since the USA colonized that very same territory when it belonged to Mexico.

The Minutemen eventually hustled Gilchrist -- a former Marine -- out of the event when protesters left their corner and marched across the street towards (and past) the Minutemen. NYPD seemed to do a good job keeping the groups from clashing -- although at one point it looked like a small-in-stature Latino protester was about to go at it with a tall, muscular, union-brother Minuteman. The exchange went like this:

"Go back to Mexico!"
"I'm not from Mexico. I'm from [unintelligible]."
"Well go back there, then!"

Then they lunged towards each other from opposite sides of the metal barricade, and NYPD intervened.

Both sides called each other Nazis. And at least several aggressive, white men circled the MM group chanting things like "Racists go home" and "The Nazis lost in '45".

The small MM crowd had a variety of images, from button-up conservatives, to tourist-dressed middle-aged women, to biker-looking guys with do-rags and big mustaches, to a perky young woman in short shorts and a US-flag bandana (who cheerily referred to the protesters as "idiots and babies".)

As the crowds lessened somewhat and the microphone opened up to random MM speakers, the protesters chanted "Welcome to New York. Now learn Spanish."

Frankly, today revealed a culture of fear, scapegoating, and hatemongering that really disappointed me. (And a good bit of that goes for the protesters. How best to disprove the idea that immigrants are a wild, combative mob than to show up as a wild, combative mob?)

More on this later.


Anonymous claruxxx said...

wow, wish i could have been there. thanks for the "short" report, jeremias. can't wait to see photos. pinche minutemen. so there were only about 40 people there total?

2:48 PM, July 26, 2006  
Anonymous Ben said...

You nailed the scene of this big, dumb mess. The rhetorical strategy of these yahoos places them in a tidy line with the likes of Ann Coulter. Their committment to the following broken syllogism reduces a reasonable-enough political platform -- "let's tighten the borders" -- to a willfully mal-focused campaign fueled by raw fear.
a) People are getting into this country illegally
b Some people who entered illegally committed a terrorist act
c) We must stop Mexicans at the border or we'll see more 9/11's.

4:16 PM, July 26, 2006  
Anonymous Ben said...

Also, I loved an answer Gilchrest gave during the Q&A, to the (rough) question: "What do you say to detractors who say that immigrants aren't a problem?" Gilchrest's answer: "It's literal balderdash."

Man, that killed me. It's LITERALLY balderdash.

4:27 PM, July 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So while I’m not surprised to find out about these interactions today, it is still a bit jarring to hear what was said. It’s rather amazing to read about people expressing themselves through such racist, hypocritical words. And no, I’m not living under a rock, but it’s still incredibly disturbing. For the MM to claim they are “seeking peaceful and respectable resolve,” well we know nothing close to that was shown today.
And for the man who said “my mother came here legally- and didn’t bring any disease like half of these people:” I have yet to hear of the deadly smallpox epidemic spread by undocumented workers. I don’t know, maybe it hasn’t reached the East Coast yet.

5:49 PM, July 26, 2006  
Anonymous Mickey J. Ellis said...

It is such important work that you are doing. Hate is easily spread through fear mongering and misinformation. Which in turn sets up and justifies the 'bullying-might-makes-right' mind set which ends all civilized discussions through personal insults and a call to violence.

I was talking to a young woman recently regarding her choice to speak Spanish. She pointed out that in a "free America, you should be allowed to choose whatever language you want, not be forced to speak the language of the majority."

As a gay American, I suddenly related much more than I have in the past. To oppress one is to suppress all. The evolution of freedom moves to include, not exclude populations.

Good work, JG, to inform is to educate. I believe education is the power of freedom loving people.

9:24 PM, July 26, 2006  
Blogger Jeremy Goren said...

Ben brings up a very important point, that tightening the borders is a "reasonable-enough political platform". I may disagree with the platform, but stronger security is a somewhat-reasonable stance to take. But the MM have made clear that their position is unreasonable because of what fuels their approach to the platform. It seems to be an irrational fear, which lends itself easily to hate.

Ben also touches on the mysterious appeal of Ms. Coulter, who peddles hate and divisiveness wherever she goes: Her reasoning is often perfect. Each step leads to the next in a seemingly logical succession and arrives at a conclusion that appears to follow. The problem is that her first step is so often at least irrational and at most an outright lie. And without the knowledge that her first step comes from nowhere, it might prove easy -- and appealing -- to believe her. (Sometimes the step from one point to the next looks nice but isn't actually a causal relationship, as Ben points out for us.)

And "anonymous", oh masked wonder of the message board, your wit has not gone unappreciated. Good thing I got my shots when I saw them "Mexicans" in my neighborhood -- or, rather, when I moved into theirs.

The ever-honest Mr. Ellis reminds us of one of the principal boons of our democracy: It is not a dictatorship of the majority but, rather, a system through which all voices should have a say and a right to exist.

3:46 PM, July 27, 2006  

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