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The Minuteman's 15 Minutes of Fame (Minute 14.5) 

At the Arizona border, Infiltrator checks in with Americans who help the government look for illegal aliens

Wednesday, Jun 22 2005
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Page 6 of 8

President Bush, it seems, has referred to the Minutemen as vigilantes.

Big applause.

"We are asking the president to meet with us and give a personal apology!"

Bigger applause.

Then, with major bitterness built up from a month of presidential unappreciation, Gilchrist adds, "I don't think we're going to get it."

The bible college cafeteria grows silent.

"If we stop now, we'll be seen as a 30-day dog-and-pony show. We have to continue," he says, his voice rising and his metaphors mixing madly. "We have just lit the fuse to keep this bomb rolling!"

The Minutemen eat this up. A large, steely-eyed man with a bowie knife on his hip moves next to me and looks over my shoulder, intentionally trying to intimidate, eyeballing me as I scribble in my notebook.

"Anyone here with military background?" Gilchrist asks.

A sea of hardened elderly hands rises up in the bible college cafeteria.

"This was a battalion-sized operation. In October, this has to be an army-sized operation!" Gilchrist cries.

"Let's hope we don't have reveille!" an old guy quips. Big laughs. (Ah, Minuteman humor.)

Yes, the Minuteman Project hopes to patrol four Mexican-border states, with further plans to cover the northern borders (fucking Canadians sneaking over, taking our jobs!), plus the grand, overall Minuteman master plan of citizens patrolling in 12 border states.

"This is going from a 1,000-person operation to 12,000," Gilchrist says.

More night-vision goggles will be needed. More infrared. Plans are made to sweep the entire Huachuca mountain range for illegal aliens.

"I'd do that 20 years ago," a large, mustachioed man who has a baby-fat face and is wearing green Army clothes leans over to tell me. "Now I have to bring my blood pressure medicine."

In seeming conclusion, Gilchrist says, "The media is not your enemy." Then, in sincere disgust that trumps the false ending, Gilchrist curses the members of the press who have criticized the Minutemen. "It's dirty journalism!" he says. "They will get theirs from their peers, who will shun them!"

"You're our Patrick Henry!" spontaneously exclaims a patriotic grandmotherly woman to a round of applause. "A 21st-century Minuteman!"

"How about Paul Revere?" suggests an old codger to significantly less applause.

The patriotic woman, taking his lead, puts her hands in the air, riffing, "The Mexicans are coming! The Mexicans are coming!"

The baby-fat-faced man leans in again: "If Bill Clinton were president, he'd have Janet Reno send the FBI to shoot us out!"

Afterward, the steely-eyed hard-ass with a bowie knife on his hip approaches. "I don't think I met you guys," he says, offering a hand and continuing the strong eye contact that is supposed, somehow, to be intimidating.

"I'm part of the media that isn't your enemy!" I crack with my ice-breaking wit. His leathery hands remain in a death hold around mine, gripping a little longer than one should.

Is it dirty journalism to say such a thing?

What Mexico Thinks of the Minutemen

On the Mexican side of the United States Border Station, three vividly angry Hispanic youths and one older woman in a brown beret scream at the cars going into the United States.

"Fuck the Minuteman Project!"

"Chicano Power!"

"Down with the Minuteman Project!"

"Can we help you guys?" asks a worked-up, shirtless protester, gripping the metal border fence, noting our video camera.

I've changed my look, uncovering my dreadlocks. I approach to get their take.

"The Minutemen try to say, 'We're nice, we're peaceful.' But when the media goes away, and the cameras are off, and nobody is watching them, it's a way different story," the shirtless protester says. "Basically, it's kind of messed up."

"We're here to push them away," interjects the older woman, who's a member of the Brown Berets, an organization founded in the late 1960s and one of the most militant groups in the Chicano liberation movement. She thinks the government shouldn't allow the Minutemen to come to the border. "They don't get paid. The government has special people to do that. That's why we've come here," she adds. "If the Minutemen are allowed to be out there, then we should be allowed to be out there. If that's what's going to keep on doing, then that's what's going to happen."

"We're just here to protect our people by any means necessary. With no weapons, with no guns. We come unarmed," the shirtless guy passionately retorts. "We're not here to start no violence. They're the ones who want violence. Not us."

I nod with intense, journalistic professionalism, taking all this in with absolute impartiality -- and suddenly we're overcome by a huge swarm of bees. I take off like a little girl, screaming, "Ah, bees!"

When I regain my composure, the shirtless kid tells me, "We found this guy taking pictures of one of my people with a shirt saying 'I'm not from here. I was captured by the Minutemen by force.'"

The Jokester!

"He made him wear the shirt," the kid says. "That's messed up."

We're told of a peace rally going on in the town square on the Mexican side of the border. We go take a look; the rally's composed overwhelmingly of white ACLU members. Onstage, a waifish guy recites poetry to the crowd about his solution to the border problem. "The graceful way to jump the border is to fly over with golden wings ...."

A smiling, laid-back Hispanic guy with a goatee and a black hipster T-shirt tells me that a Guatemalan gang is also observing the Minutemen. If there's an incident in which a Minuteman happens to kill an illegal alien, the Guatemalan gang will avenge, with three Minutemen paying the price.

"If they call themselves Minutemen, maybe they should be more concerned about their wives," he suggests. "They should put more effort into their personal lives and stop fucking around with people they shouldn't be messing around with."

About The Author

Harmon Leon

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