The Minuteman Project Inc.

The Minuteman Project Inc., often confused with the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, was started in April 2005 by a group of American citizens to deter illegal crossings of the United States–Mexico border. Their stated mission is to stop the flow of illegal immigration by monitoring the border and alerting the United States Border Patrol to the presence of unauthorized crossers. In addition to physically holding vigil over the border, they engage in political protest and other forms of activism. President George W. Bush has referred to the Minutemen as vigilantes.

The Project has expanded to include the United States-Canada border as well. The name comes from the minutemen who fought in the American Revolution. The group's principal director is Jim Gilchrist, with Chris Simcox serving as spokesman. It describes itself as "a citizens' Neighborhood Watch on our border".

On April 2, 2005, Minuteman Project volunteers near Naco reported 18 people as illegal immigrants, resulting in the border crossers being arrested by authorities. As of April 6, 2005, 531 volunteers had been positioned in the patrolled region.

On April 20, 2006, Gilchrist and the Minuteman Project issued a public ultimatum to Bush to "declare a state of emergency and deploy the National Guard and military reserves (and begin building a border security fence) by the 25th of May." If the President refuses to do so, "on Memorial Day weekend, we're going to break ground and we're going to start helping landowners (along the US-Mexico border) to build a double layer security fence along their properties, because the federal government refuses to protect them".

Minutemen have started selling lemonade and baking cookies in Arizona, New Mexico, Wisconsin and Texas to raise revenue for the project. Elsewhere, a group is building a fence on private property along the United States-Mexico border in Palominas, Arizona with the permission of six landowners.

On April 28, 2005, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger praised the Minuteman Project during an interview on "The John and Ken Show" on Los Angeles radio station KFI, saying that the group had been doing "a terrific job". He reiterated his supportive comments the following day, noting that the Minutemen would be welcome to patrol the border between California and Mexico.

In an exchange during an interview on FOX News between host Alan Colmes and Minutemen member Ted Hayes, Colmes claims that "Critics of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps have often labeled their efforts to secure the U.S. border with Mexico as discriminatory against people of color." Hayes, an African-American, countered that illegal immigration harms all American citizens, particularly those of the lower end of the socio-economic scale, and claims many African-Americans support the Minutemen and that they have many African-American members.

The project has generated controversy and Mexican President Vicente Fox has criticized the group. President Bush, meanwhile, criticized them for "vigilante" border projects.

Supporters seek to assure the public that the group will only be reporting incidents to law enforcement, not directly confronting immigrants. The volunteers view themselves as calling attention to illegal immigration in the U.S. There is a strict Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that must be followed by Minutemen volunteers. Rules include not speaking to, approaching, gesturing towards or having physical contact in any way with any suspected border crossers they may see.

Hector Carreon of the anti-Semitic, seperatist Mexican Indio organization Nation of Aztlán, writes, "The Minutemen have proven to be nothing less than a gang of anti-Mexican racists and their actions have the potential of alienating Mexico, its government and the millions of Americans of Mexican background."

In December 2005, Gilchrist turned over leadership of the California Minutemen (CMM) & the Border Watch Federation (BWF) to his son, Mike Chase.

Recruits, operations and the influence of the California Minutemen expanded rapidly, and the N. County Times complained of Mike Chase's appointment to the political steering committee of California Senator Bill Morrow's campaign for the 50th District Congressional seat vacated by Randy "Duke" Cunningham.

Counterprotests against the Minutemen have included Anti-Racist Action, International ANSWER, the Revolutionary Communist Party, the Progressive Labor Party, the International Socialist Organization, Food Not Bombs, the AntiMinutemen Defendants, the Free People's Movement, the Bay Area Coalition to Fight the Minutemen, Coalicion Deporten a la Migra, the Brown Berets, the Zapatista Solidarity Coalition, the Philadelphia Revolutionary Marxist Collective, the Sacramento Mexican American Political Association, the Brown Syndicate, the Brass Liberation Orchestra, the Chicano Consortium, anarchists and other leftwing, immigrant rights, and antiborder activists.

On October 29, 2005, a number of Minuteman supporters held a rally outside the State Capitol in Sacramento. A coalition of groups opposed to the Minutemen's agenda held a counter-protest. Some of the counter-demonstrators attempted to break through the police lines to disrupt the rally, but they were unsuccessful. A few arrests were made during the protest. Anarchist groups involved in this incident have made allegations of police brutality. Former vice-presidential candidate Peter Camejo was also present.

Another notable counterprotest of the Minutemen occurred at the U. S. Capitol on February 8, 2006. With several lawmakers present including Tom Tancredo, an immigration reduction advocate and an outspoken critic of President Bush's guest worker program, three National Socialist Movement members showed up in brown shirts and swastika armbands to voice their displeasure with both the Minutemen and the pro-amnesty counterdemonstrators present. The Minutemen denounce white supremacist groups and activists and do not allow them into their ranks. NSM spokesman Bill White called the Minutemen "sellouts." This counterdemonstration received international media attention.

On October 4, 2006 Jim Gilchrist spoke at Columbia University's Alfred Lerner Hall. Five minutes into his speech, a few Columbia students and demonstrators from outside the University rushed the stage with banners and posters, effectively kicking Gilchrist offstage. The protestors then gathered outside the Columbia University gates and continued chanting. The event was captured by several media organizations.

On April 6, 2005, three Minuteman Project members took a picture and video of a 25-year-old alleged illegal immigrant posing with a T-shirt with one of them. The T-shirt, which was also worn by volunteer Bryan Barton, read "Bryan Barton caught me crossing the border and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."

Barton claims to have encountered a man named Jose who had been near a main highway while Barton was off duty from patrolling the border. The man said he had been walking for two days in the Mexican desert. Believing the man to be in distress from exposure and lack of fluids and food, Barton gave him a bowl of Wheaties and milk. He then contacted the U.S. Border Patrol. Barton shook Jose's hand several times, translated Jose's Spanish for the camera, held up a lettered T-shirt which he made to commemorate the event, and gave him 20 US dollars as the Border Patrol arrived and took Jose into custody. Critics of the MMP raised questions about the incident, but an investigation by the Cochise County Sheriff's office cleared Barton of any wrongdoing.

However, Jose claimed that he had been detained against his will by Barton and other Minutemen Project members. Although Jose did not press criminal charges, Barton's actions were declaimed in the press at best as "mocking", and by some as a hate crime. The MMP activists videotaped their actions and posted them on Barton's national congressional campaign website.

Project organizers, however, said they have a more restrictive policy that no contact at all can be made with suspects. Project volunteers are only allowed to observe suspected aliens and then report those observations to the Border Patrol. Minutemen volunteer and MCDC leader, Chris Simcox, said, "The volunteer's actions were admirable, justified and undeniably humane, but unfortunately they jeopardized our established procedures and overall purpose of passively monitoring the border. It's unfortunate, but we had to dismiss him from further participation". The ACLU issued a press release concerning this incident. Barton since has launched a political campaign for a San Diego congressional district, and video of the actual incident can be viewed and downloaded at his campaign site. This was the only incident of this kind reported.

Various media representatives and ACLU observers are also in the patrol zone attempting to observe Minutemen volunteers at work. In California, the state with the largest Mexican indio immigrant population, the Human Rights Coalition of California (HRCC) announced its establishment and campaign against the Minuteman Project and the Friends of the Border Patrol. President Ed Hererra of the Human Rights Coalition of California stated: "We do not believe that we must put human right and human worth aside simply because they are undocumented immigrants; First and foremost they are human beings... The Minuteman Project is not simply about national security and terrorism it is about a deep-rooted concern for an evershifting ethnocultural shift in the American population." The HRCC has been present along the U.S./CaliforniaMexico border since the arrival of the California Minutemen (A division of Friends of the Border Patrol). The Southern Poverty Law Center has also issued reports which suggest that the group is attracting many individuals with ties to neo-nazi and other white supremacist organizations. Minuteman President Chris Simcox states that they run background checks on all individuals who apply to patrol the border. However, even he acknowledged in a television interview that background checks may not reveal every aspect of an applicant (i.e. if they belong to a racist or hate group). He stated, "sometimes even law enforcement doesn't have that information."

On May 25, 2005, Gilchrist spoke in Garden Grove, California to the California Coalition for Immigration Reform at the Garden Grove Women's Club. According to reports approximately 300 protesters attended to protest Gilchrist's appearance. Hal Netkin, a Minuteman supporter who was leaving the speech, drove through a crowd of protesters who had surrounded his van. Protesters alleged that Netkin drove through the crowd unprovoked and struck two people. Minuteman supporters and the Garden Grove Police said that protesters rocked and banged the vehicle, and that the two protesters fell as the van approached them. The two attended local hospitals for minor injuries, while Netkin was temporarily held and released without being cited. After reviewing videotape of the incident, the Garden Grove Police said that Netkin's actions were justified. According to Garden Grove police Lt. Mike Hanfield, "It was reasonable for him to be afraid." Critics have accused the police of partiality and of not carrying out justice for releasing Netkin so quickly. Supporters have said that Netkin had no other choice due to the violent and threatening actions of the protesters. Five protesters were arrested.

Of the five protesters who were arrested, two were released with no charges filed. The remaining three were charged with numerous misdemeanors, ranging from resisting arrest to abusing police horses. The remaining three were also charged with felonies of assaulting police officers with deadly weapons, other than firearms; the alleged weapons being soda cans. Several months later, one of the three defendants accepted a plea bargain. The remaining two defendants have yet to resolve their cases.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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