¡NO MAS! A Day of Anti-Minuteman ProtestSan Diego 09 Jan 2006 17:08 GMT
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, January 7, 2006--In a massive outburst of anger and frustration at the minutemen, activists across Southern California found their local day labor hiring center and joined with day laborers to shut down the minutemen's "Stop the Invasion" national day of protest against immigration.
Fifteen groups and hundreds of activists, mostly young and of Indigenous or Mexican descent, teamed up with migrant workers at six locations across the San Diego, Orange, and Los Angeles Counties, where the minutemen had determined to hold "secret" protests. As in the rest of the U.S., the activists handily outnumbered the minutemen.
During warmer months the minutemen undertake armed surveillance to intercept border crossers, but, unwilling to suffer winter in the desert, the minutemen have shifted their focus to day laborers for the season. Brought together by the specter of the minutemen inflicting further outrage on Mexican laborers, an ideological mix of anti-racist, anti-colonization, and pro-labor groups coordinated to expose the minutemen's plans and organize a united counterprotest.
With messages like "No Human Is Illegal" and "Racists Go Home," day laborers and their allies yelled and jeered at the minutemen, waved their signs at passing motorists, and succeeded in protecting the jornaleros from the predominantly white, middle-aged, and middle-class onslaught on workers' livelihoods.
Participants included the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, the Pico Youth and Family Center, the Pomona Day Labor Center, La Comité pro democracia de Mexico, Mothers for Justice, Colectivo Tonatzin, La Tierra es de Todos, Southern California Human Rights Network, Answer-LA, Latinos Unidos, the International Socialist Organization, CARECEN, Red de vigilancia contra cazamigrantes, gente unida, and fed up individuals from across southern California.
El Cahon Home Depot
The nine members of San Diego Minutemen and USA Border Alert had lost the battle in El Cahon before it began. When they arrived at 7:00 a.m., they were met by forty migrant supporters, led by gente unida, already positioned in front of the store.
One of the cazamigrantes had brought his two German shepherds, who turned out to be friendly enough to the anti-racists. However, the dogs showed less warmth then they barked at a police officer, who demanded the owner take them home. Otherwise, the large turnout of police had little to do except watch business as usual.
The Mexican,African-American, and Anglo day laborers relocated to the side of the protest to conduct their business with employers, unimpeded by the protestors' commotion.
The outnumbered and outflanked minutemen were at the mercy of the counterprotestors, who had some fun at the minutemen's expense. Two counterprotestors engaged one minuteman in conversation, leading him across the street, only to run back to claim the abandoned corner for the counterprotestors. Another migrant supporter dogged the minutemen with a sign that read "Racist" and an arrow pointing to her target.
By 10:00 a.m., the minutemen had given up on their first foray into El Cajon, with nothing but failure to show for their effort.
Santa Monica Bourget Brothers Hardware
See "Don’t Teach Your Children Hate" by Ixachilanka for a moving and detailed report.
Glendale Home Depot
In a fierce confrontation, a hundred and twenty anti-racists stood toe-to-toe with twenty Save Our State members. As they did a month ago, counterprotestors lined up at 7:30 a.m. on San Fernando Rd., with Home Depot on the north side and the Glendale Temporary Skilled Labor Center on the south, to oppose Save Our State. Counterprotestors from Mexica Movement, the International Socialist Organization (ISO), CARECEN, Answer-LA, Latinos Unidos, and the National Day Laborers Organizing Network easily surrounded the twenty members of Save Our State.
A dozen police stood by, refusing to separate the two sides in spite of requests from leaders in both camps, as the counterprotestors and SOS hurled demands and insults at each other. The tension in the groups increased palpably with the arrival of the leader of SOS at 9:15 a.m. He no sooner arrived than he rushed through the crowd, ignoring his supporters, and crossed the street, avoiding the more vocal protestors. There he goaded Mexica Movement, who, as last time, stood on the south side of the road in a determinedly disciplined line, holding signs denouncing white colonization and genocide of the Anahuac nation. While most SOS members seemed content with waving U.S. flags above signs demanding "Racists Go Home," the SOS leader repeatedly crossed the street to confront Mexica Movement and was repeatedly rebuffed and sent back to the northeast corner. By 10:15, the repeated provocations resulted in a scuffle, and one Indigenous counterprotestor was arrested on a misdemeanor battery charge. He was later released on his own recognizance.
The day laborers looked on from the center with a mixture of anger and concern, as their very existence was fought out on the street in front of them. SOS has been making monthly unannounced forays to the center to discourage employers from hiring the jornaleros.
Save Our State had attempted to derail the counterprotest indicating that their "secret" protest would be in Alhambra, but the counterprotestors weren't fooled.
Lake Forest Ganahl Lumber
Seventy jornaleros and six members of gente unida and Tonantzin Colectivo faced off against eleven members of Minutemen Making a Difference on the southeast and southwest corners of El Toro Road and Jeronimo Road.
Lake Forest has been the most recent point of attack by minutemen. Two weeks ago, minutemen convinced the manager of a local shopping center to file trespassing charges and have the police remove the trabajadores from the property, with sporadic enforcement since. Last week, minuteman leader Jim Gilchrist of Aliso Viejo traveled to Lake Forest and begged the city council to to crack down on day laborers in their city.
The day laborers in Lake Forest reported that people posing as employers had been inviting them to work, transporting them some distance from the day labor sites, asking for green cards, and, when the workers didn't provide them, abandoning the workers on the side of the road to make their way back to town.
In response to the attacks, the workers joined in the counterprotest, raising signs against the minutemen and shouting them down. An activist brought a 2' x 4' sign that read "Heil Gilchrist" and signs for the laborers. She stood on the corner with her message and a Nazi salute for passing motorists.
Although the minutemen managed to frighten off a few employers with their protest, most ignored the extremists and found the labor they needed. Some employers went so far as to ask the minutemen to work for them, but the minutemen consistently declined.
By the end of the rally, about fifty day laborers had been hired. The minutemen tried to explain to some of those remaining that the workers were being "exploited."
Lake Forest is a favorite location for long-term day laborers, many of whom have left the Laguna Beach Day Labor Center, where the rotation schedule prevents them from establishing ongoing work relationships with employers.
Laguna Beach Day Labor Center
Gilchrist seen but not heard
With Minuteman Project leader and failed Congressional candidate Jim Gilchrist firmly in the rear, twenty-five minutemen faced thirty-five sharp-witted and sharp-tongued counterprotestors across Laguna Canyon Road, in front of the Laguna Beach day labor center. One counterprotestor challenged Gilchrist, but he refused to engage, instead pulling out his cell phone to make a call.
The day before the protest Gilchrist had posted a diversionary email indicating that he would be at the Mexican consulates in Los Angeles and Santa Ana during the nationwide protests, but spotters at the consulates and in Laguna Beach made sure counterprotestors weren't distracted.
Red de vigilancia contra cazamigrantes, the Tonantzin Colectivo, and straight-edge anarchists traded barbs with the minutemen from South Orange County Citizens for Immigration Reform, stopping traffic along the busy Laguna Beach busy throughway. The minutemen resorted to personal attacks on the counterprotestors' appearance, and the mostly under-30 counterprotestors retorted by mocking the minutemen's age and asking why their children weren't with them. The minutemen tried to beguile the white anarchists, but the young people steadfastly held their anti-racist ground with sharp rebuttals.
Once a Save Our State stronghold, it appears that the Minuteman Project has claimed the Laguna Beach turf for themselves, since Gilchrist's Congressional defeat in December.
The day laborers, unhappy at seeing a well-known Mexican-descent woman on the minutemen's side, tried to explain to the woman that she was betraying her ethnicity, but she was unmoved, responding only with diatribes and anti-Mexican sentiments. The woman had brought her two young daughters, whose parting gestures to counterprotestors suggested they were learning their mother's hate-filled lesson.
The laborers told activists they were grateful for the support, adding that they would be happy to have green cards if they were available. Currently, the U.S. limits green card permissions to work in the United States to 140,000 applicants, forcing 300,000 or more migrants to enter the country each year without hope of documentation.
Rancho Cucamonga Arrow and Grove Market
The Pomona Day Labor Center joined up with the Southern California Human Rights Network and the Rancho Cucamonga Day Labor Center to offer up a combined force of seventy counterprotestors, day laborers and anti-racist activists, to the thirty-five members of the FIRE Coalition and Minutemen Patriots of Southern California in Rancho Cucamonga.
In a "celebrity" event, the Rancho Cucamonga minutemen brought along Italian immigrant Luca Zanna, composer of the "Minutemen Song," and talk show host Terry Anderson, to shore up their meager attendance.
The minutemen's signs had a fiercer tone than at a protest at the same location earlier this year. This time, the minutemen demanded the migrants, "Go home" and proclaimed "Viva la migra." Counterprotestors held up "Working is a human right!" and "Resist white supremacy." At the earlier protest, amplified sound had been prohibited, but the minutemen had brought along a microphone and amplifier, so the pro-immigrant protestors rushed to grab their bullhorn.
The minutemen were unprepared when the day laborers joined forces with the activists.
One laborer mounted a small bicycle and rode past the minutemen, using the bullhorn to yell at the invaders, to the cheers of his compadres. When he rode back, again blaring at the minutemen, a police officer ticketed the man for riding against traffic. One counterprotestor walked over to observe the citation and asked what the ticket was for. When the cop refused to tell him, he declared, "I have a right to know." The cop responded, "You don't have a right" and added "Do you want a ticket? Do you want to be part of my investigation?"
The minutemen shouted that the day laborers should "learn English," while the laborers taunted the minutemen with "gringo" and "puerco." Trabajadores and counterprotestors hollered and made noise to drown out the minutemen's PA-amplified taunts.
In sum, across the southland, the people shouted to the minutemen, "¡No mas!" People angry and tired of the minutemen's incessant denigration of poverty-level workers, of their racist diatribes against those indigenous to this country, and of their unrelenting scapegoating of all people of Mexican descent, joined forces to crush their "national day of protest." With the increasing participation of the jornaleros themselves, in brave defiance of their vulnerability to persecution and prosecution, the minuteman's day in the sun is ending.
It remains to be seen if the damage they've done to current and future migrants can be undone.
With assistance from Vicente, Rocio, Enrique, Daniel, Juan, Mike, and Olin. Top photo courtesy of Glendale Resident.