[Ppnews] Think Twice Before You Oppose the Minutemen

Political Prisoner News PPnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Mar 28 08:58:49 EST 2006

March 27

The Anti-Minutemen Five

Think Twice Before You Oppose the Minutemen


There have been a number of massive protests 
across the United States for immigrant rights in 
recent weeks. The particular impetus for these 
protests is a bill authored by the anti-immigrant 
Congressmen Rep. Sensenbrenner and his allies 
that was passed by the House in late 2005 and is 
currently being considered in the Senate. The 
bill, numbered H.B. 4437, is a repressive piece 
of legislation authored by one of the most 
reactionary legislators in the Congress. Not only 
would it penalize undocumented workers, it would 
also criminalize any acts designed to help these 
members of US society. This bill is just the most 
obvious aspect of a growing wave of 
anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States.

Back in October, the anti-immigrant vigilante 
group The Minutemen held a conference in 
Arlington Heights, Illinois. People opposed to 
the Minutemen's agenda protested the event. Five 
were arrested by police in what many witnesses 
agreed were rather brutal arrests. The 
<http://antiminutemen5.tk/>Anti-Minutemen Five-as 
they are known in the Chicago area--are scheduled 
to stand trial on April 25, 2006 on a variety of 
charges. I recently contacted the arrestees 
through their defense organization. Some of them 
agreed to answer some questions I emailed to 
them. A transcript of our email conversation follows:

Ron:Hi. I want to start with an introduction. Can 
you tell me your name and what you do for a living?

My name is Cynthia "Linda" Gómez, and I make my living doing office work.

My name is Kara "Penny" Norlander. I recently 
graduated from Columbia College with a degree in 
film and video, then I was working as a waitress 
but I quit my job over the summer to organize 
more full time with the World Can't Wait- Drive Out the Bush Regime.

Hi Ron, my name is Eric W. Zenke, I'm a publicist 
for a Chicago author and volunteer for a local bookstore.

Hey there. My name is Sabah Khan and I'm a 
graduate of Univ of IL at Chicago, I'm not 
working at the moment, but my last job was with 
the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, which is a 
community organization and I worked with immigrants and youth.

Ron:Thanks. Let's go to the event you were 
protesting. What exactly was its purpose? Where 
was it being held? Who was attending?

Eric:The purpose of the Minutemen event, as far 
as I know, was to recruit people from the 
Chicago-land area for their border patrols. The 
purpose of the protest was to stop this from 
happening, and to let the neighborhood, and 
everyone else, know who these people really were. 
Both the Minutemen meeting and the rally were at 
the Christian Academy in Arlington Heights.

Penny: We were protesting a conference of the 
Illinois Chapter of the Minutemen Project in the 
Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights. The 
Minutemen are a national organization best known 
for their vigilante actions at the Mexican 
border, where they hunt and trap people trying to 
cross. They are spreading across the country in 
an attempt to put a terrible chill on immigrants' 
communities- protesting, threatening, and taking 
actions to deport people. This was what they were 
talking about at the conference, and this was 
what we were demonstrating against.
Sabah: The protest on Oct 15, as you know, was to 
oppose the Minutemen. There were two protests 
that were planned, all in the same spirit though 
of course. The first had the initial call out 
from the Students for Social Justice at College 
of Dupage to be at the site at 8 am, it wasn't 
really organized by them. In fact it wasn't much 
organized at all! There were a bunch of people 
basically publicizing for it and doing minimal 
planning. It was awesome though, because there 
was just a call out for it and many people came. 
There were about 100 people at the first part.

We (the activists that I usually work with, and 
I) had heard of the kind of horrible racist 
vigilante group that the Minutemen were, and 
found it appalling that they were coming to 
Chicago. We basically thought that there was no 
way that we could sit by and watch this fascist 
group try to establish itself in our city to 
terrorize our large immigrant population. We did 
it for our friends, family, neighbors, and 
ourselves. The flyer that my friend made and we 
were passing out said "No Pasaran", that is "They 
shall Not pass" , as well as "Un Mundo Sin 
Fronteras" which means "One World Without 
Borders". We did not want the Minutemen to 
establish themselves here, that's why the flyer 
said 'they shall not pass', which is what 
inspired the human chain. But it is sad now that 
they are here and in other towns, spreading their 
anti-immigrant propaganda. But we're still here 
struggling against them and hopefully our case 
can help bring this issue to the forefront and 
that is why we think it is important that people 
understand our case to be a political one. 
Because it is. We opposed the racist vigilante 
Minutemen and now we're on trial?? No way, we're 
going to turn it around on them and put the 
Minutemen on trial well that's our plan at least.

The second protest was organized by CAAELI 
(Coalition of African Asian, European, and Latino 
Immigrants). Around 400 people arrived in buses 
to the school at around 11 am for this part. But 
everyone was there for the same reason and it 
just merged together with people hanging around all around the school.

Cynthia:The Minutemen held an inaugural meeting 
of the Illinois Minuteman Project at the 
Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, a 
suburb northwest of Chicago, last October 15. 
Their actions since that date have given a pretty 
good idea of what they were planning in there: 
They have held demonstrations at everywhere from 
churches that help immigrants fight for their 
rights, to Home Depot stores, where they come out 
in force to intimidate day laborers, who are 
already some of the most exploited immigrants. 
When two undocumented immigrants spoke out 
against their working conditions at the Oberweiss 
Dairy, the Minutemen called the INS on them--and 
even demanded that the Illinois Coalition for 
Immigrant and Refugee Rights be prosecuted for helping them!

Ron:Now the protest itself. Who called it? How 
many people were there? Were there counter-protestors? Lots of cops?

Cynthia:There were about 50 protesters in the 
morning, of the group that got there about 8 or 9 
AM, and two hours later a group of about 300 or 
so more people came. (I don't remember who called 
the earlier protest; I think it was a loose 
coalition of groups out of UIC and other places. 
One of the organizers of the later one was a 
group called CALI. ) I didn't see any official 
counter-protesters, but looking at the 
Minutemen's blogs shows that they bragged about 
having infiltrated the protesters. The scene 
initially did not involve a lot of cops--no more 
than 20 or so, from my guess. However, the police 
called in a NIPAS (Northern Illinois Police Alarm 
System) team, and an ILEAS (Illinois Law 
Enforcement Alarm System) team, which brought out 
at least 50 more cops, decked out in full riot 
gear and with police dogs and paddy wagons. One 
of the things that remains to be seen is whether 
they prepared that force well before the day of the protest itself.

Penny: The protest was held and attended by a 
number of different groups and individuals. I 
came out as a member of the World Can't Wait- 
Drive Out the Bush Regime, and we were there in 
solidarity with those standing up against the 
Minutemen, while we also were trying to connect 
up what these vigilantes represent to the whole 
way the Bush regime is remaking society in 
fascist direction, and for generations to come, 
and the need to change the whole political 
dynamics in this country, and force out the 
Administration. It started early in the morning, 
where there was a smaller crowd, but it grew by 
lunchtime to a few hundred people- activists, 
community organizations, students, and 
immigrants. The entire time, people attending the 
Minutemen conference were coming outside, 
scouting out the protestors, pointing, and taking 
pictures. And the police report says explicitly 
that it was at the request of people attending 
the conference that they moved in on a peaceful 
demonstration. There were not many police at 
first but later the Arlington Heights Police 
Department called in two regional task forces 
that are connected to the Department of Homeland 
Security and draw from 90 police departments in 
the area. They brought full riot gear, dogs, and two large armored vehicles.

Sabah: There were no counter protests, and there 
were a few cops, not too many, until afterwards 
when the riot cops came but I didn't see it, 
because I was already taken away by then.

Eric: I'm not sure who called for the protest... 
a bunch of friends (not including any of the 
codefendants) had a van heading up to Arlington 
Heights to protest fascists, so I jumped in at 7 
in the morning, half asleep. At first there were 
only about 30 people there, and 4 or 5 cops, by 
the time I was arrested there were probably 400, 
and at least 150 police in full riot gear. There were no counter-protesters.

Ron:How and why did you get arrested? Did the 
cops beat you? How long were you in jail? What are the charges?

Eric: I was arrested for supposed "Battery on a 
police officer" and "Resisting arrest," both 
misdemeanors. I was arrested at a park after 
leaving the area to meet back with my friends and 
go home. I was handcuffed and made to walk 2 
blocks next to a motorcycle cop to the squad car. 
I was in custody for around 4 hours that day. I 
was taken into custody and released without incident from the police.

Cynthia:The actual details of the day--the 
arrests, etc -- will be answered in court; our 
lawyer has asked us not to get into any of that 
with the press, but the trial will tell the story 
of how key people were singled out at the protest 
for having been identified by the police as being 
leaders on that day, and that the charges are 
completely baseless. As far as the actual 
charges, I was charged with one count of battery 
and one count of resisting arrest, both Class A 
misdemeanors which carry up to a year in jail 
each. Each defendant has at least one count of 
battery and one of resisting, and some have 
additional counts of battery. I understand that 
Rehana Sabah Khan was given four counts, which 
means up to four years in jail for her.

Sabah: So like is written above the CAAELI buses 
arrived at around 11 am. After that everyone was 
just hanging around. I was talking to people I 
knew who came on the buses, including a co-worker 
of mine and some youth from our center, when I 
saw a bunch of cops and people run towards an 
area. Over there, there was a lot of commotion 
which resulted in the police arresting 2 of the 
AMM5. I was arrested further away a short while 
after, and am accused of resisting arrest and 
battery against police officers, 3 to be exact. 
They are completely ridiculous charges. I had a 
lot of bruises after being arrested and my 
arresting officer totally violated my rights by 
removing my headscarf as she walked me back to 
the protest area and the police car. Although, it 
didn't stay off for long because I protested and 
told them they had a law suit coming!
I was in jail, or more like the Arlington Hts 
police station holding cell, for around 3-4 hrs.

Penny:We've been to court a number of times and 
the charges against us still are not clear. We 
know there are different counts for each of us, 
for resisting a peace officer and battery on a 
police officer(both misdemeanors). But the police 
and the state's attorney still have not really 
said what specifically we are supposed to have 
done and when. In the course of my arrest, I was 
flung about and shoved to the ground- but again, 
they have not made clear why I was put in this 
situation, why I spent the afternoon in jail, and 
why I'm now facing up to three years in Cook 
County. The same goes for the other defendants.

Ron:Let's get to some more political questions. 
To what do you attribute the increasingly higher 
profile of groups like the Minutemen? I myself 
place them in the same space as groups like the 
Klan and the Nazis--groups that seem to appear 
during times of economic difficulty in the United 
States. Indeed, various strains of the US Nazi 
movement have been the sponsors of at least two 
rallies in the US in recent months (one in Ohio 
and one in Florida) that erupted into violence 
when locals responded angrily to the Nazis 
presence. In both cases, police protected the 
Nazis and arrested members of the crowd 
protesting them. Do you see the Minutemen in this 
way or are they substantively different?

Penny: The Minutemen are a group of vigilantes 
who seek to hunt, trap, and put a terrible chill 
on immigrant communities across the country- and 
they're on the rise. They have gained praise 
numerous times from the governor of California as 
well as U.S. Congress people. They recently held 
a rally on Capitol Hill, with national media 
attention, and it seems like every day they're 
popping up in interviews on the radio, in print, 
or on television. I think there's a very strong 
connection between groups like the Minutemen and 
the whole onslaught of vicious attacks on 
immigrants we're seeing today- the round-ups and 
detentions in the dead of night without due 
process, and House Bill 4437 that would make it a 
felony to be an undocumented person in this 
country or to give any aid, including in an 
emergency to an undocumented person (we're 
talking about millions of people suddenly 
becoming felons.) It was also recently revealed 
that the U.S. government is granting nearly $400 
million to a subsidiary of Haliburton to build 
immigrant detention centers that could hold tens 
of thousands of people in case of an "immigration 
emergency" (pretty scary with House Bill 4437 
already having passed the House, and this being 
authorized and run by the same Administration 
that brings us Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.) In 
this climate come the Minutemen, who I think 
represent the semi-official shock troops of this 
anti-immigrant agenda. While people on high 
levels of government make ominous changes in the 
law, vigilante groups like this represent the 
more "radical face" that take supposedly "more 
extreme" actions on the ground to further 
legitimize the legislation and further the chill 
being put on immigrant communities, those who 
support them, and (as in the case of the 
persecution of the Anti-Minutemen 5)those who 
would oppose this whole direction.

Eric: Funny you should ask ... Many of the 
supporters and allies of Save Our State and the 
Minutemen are US Neo Nazi organizations such as 
National Vanguard, and the National Alliance. 
Also, there is a strange connection between what 
David Duke and his lackeys were doing in the late 
1970's called "Klan Border Watch" it was a 
complete KKK sponsored border watch, not unlike 
what the minutemen are doing today. California 
Border Watch said in 2005 that they no longer 
support the Minutemen Project, along with 
numerous other projects, simply because many of 
their members and allies were of racist or 
fascist origin. The original Minutemen of the San 
Diego KKK n the 1930's had similar ideas and ethics of todays Minutemen.

Sabah: Well many of the people that oppose the 
minutemen definitely put them in the same groups 
as the Klan and Nazis, but I think they can get 
away with a much higher profile because they 
operate on a façade. They adamantly proclaim that 
they are not a racist group and that their views 
have nothing to do with race and all to do with 
the law and 'securing our country'. Now a group 
like this, can in fact, be much more dangerous. 
They're basically doing the same thing as the 
Bush administration when it says they want to 
bring freedom and democracy to Iraq, whilst 
bombing the crap out of the place. So the 
Minutemen are taken much more lightly than Nazis 
and are featured in news segments, and features 
like the recent huge article about it in the 
(Chicago) Reader. One of their favorite lines is 
about the head of the Illinois Minutemen being a 
Mexican woman as if that automatically negates 
any racist accusation. That's like saying that 
Condaleeza Rice will do wonderful things for 
women and African Americans just because she's a 
black woman. She can be as racist and sexist as 
anyone else. And being a person who is of color I 
definitely know there is something called 
internalized racism. People have to look at what 
the Minutemen are doing, first of all, and that's 
where we get the racist and fascist conclusion. 
Also if you look at their websites and forums 
they are way worse at being pc, and openly make 
racist and ignorant comments, as well as talk 
very hatefully towards immigrants and 'socialists' i.e. protesters like us.

But it tells something about the political and 
social climate we're in with these Minutemen 
getting by so easily. And it definitely should be 
seen in light of these Nazi rallies, the horrible 
anti- immigrant bill, the renewal of the patriot 
act, the unending 'war on terror', and more.

Cynthia:I would describe the Minutemen's role in 
this way: they are the shock troops and 
brownshirts of these Nazi-like anti-immigrant 
programs we're seeing. As you alluded to in your 
question, there is one key similarity they have 
with groups like the KKK and Neo-Nazi party, as 
was very clearly illustrated the weekend of 
October 15: that same weekend, our protest 
against the Minutemen in Arlington Heights was 
attacked, again on the orders of the Minutemen 
(they admit as much in the police report), and 
the police called a high-level attack squad with 
two different alarm systems, bringing in forces 
of police drawn from three counties and more than 
90 towns, complete with attack dogs and riot 
gear--to a peaceful protest. That same weekend, 
masses of people who came out to oppose the 
Neo-Nazi Party in Toledo were attacked by the 
police, while the Neo-Nazis were allowed to 
march. At a recent anti-Minutemen protest in 
Garden Grove, California, a Minuteman supporter 
drove his car into the crowd and the police 
standing right there did nothing to arrest him, 
until about a half hour later and massive outcry from the crowd.

But a key difference is this Brownshirt point: 
the Minutemen are playing the role of carrying 
out and enforcing this anti-immigrant agenda, and 
whipping up other people to do the same, while 
attacking and threatening anyone from churches to 
the Mexican Consulate that opposes those 
measures. And so they are actually given much 
more open legitimacy than the KKK is, and not 
just in the form of open police protection: bills 
have been proposed to give them funding for their 
armed patrols, co-founder Chris Simcox almost won 
a Congressional seat from California, Arnold 
Schwarzenegger has praised their work. The media 
swarmed all over their "debut" patrols last 
April, and when Chris Simcox accused his 
opposition of being "terrorists", the Associated 
Press picked it up and ran it, giving credence 
and legitimacy to his claim, and almost 
definitely getting Homeland Security on the tail 
of those groups--which is the entire point. And 
something like that would definitely not happen if the tables were turned.

Ron:I've been following House Bill 4437 that is 
currently being considered in the Senate. Can you 
explain the major pieces of this bill and why you oppose it?

Cynthia: Legislation like this is being compared 
to Nazi Germany, and it should be: it's creating 
whole categories of people who have no rights, 
and threatening the armed force of the state on 
anyone who helps them. It would turn immigrants 
into felons--it would make crossing into this 
country without permission into a felony, which 
would in turn have two effects: it would forever 
bar immigrants from getting legal permission to 
enter this country ever again, once they've been 
caught. And Halliburton recently got awarded a 
$385 million contract to build detention centers 
for immigrants in the U.S. So you have the 
country that runs notorious torture camps like 
Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay, and Baghram Air Force 
Base, now running detention centers for people 
who have been legally cast as people with no 
rights, as invading hordes who represent a threat 
to the economic and cultural survival of this 
country, if not a major security threat. So just 
what kinds of horrors will happen to people who 
have been demonized and legally disenfranchised in this way?

(The second effect would be that) It would also 
make it a felony for anyone to aid or assist 
undocumented immigrants--words that don't even 
begin to capture the monstrous nature of a law 
like this. It would legally require their death 
and suffering, by making it illegal for anyone to 
help them in any way. Giving medical care--or a 
ride to the hospital in an emergency--would make 
you a felon. So would renting an apartment or 
teaching English or leaving out water to keep 
someone from dying in the desert.

Penny: House Bill 4437 (the Sensenbrenner law) 
would make it a federal offense to be an 
undocumented person in this country or to give 
any aid (a job, housing, medical care, education, 
or even water or anything in an emergency 
situation) to an undocumented person. It would 
also further extend, fortify, and militarize the 
wall at the border to Mexico. Any person with a 
conscience should oppose this bill.

Sabah: I oppose the bill because it would make 
any undocumented person an automatic felon, which 
is a heavy criminal charge, and bar them from 
ever getting good status. Furthermore it would 
make a felon out of anyone who helps them. That 
includes teachers, churches, medical assistance, 
even giving someone a ride. It is utterly 
ridiculous. We're talking about people here, 
human beings. It is an incredibly fascist bill. 
Furthermore it is completely missing the fact 
that all these 'illegals' as they are termed are 
for the most part good hard-working people, who 
are very much a vital part of our economy. What 
we have is a complete creation of the global 
capitalism that the U.S promotes. I think people 
don't get the story straight for the 
undocumented. America messes up the economy in 
Mexico with things like NAFTA, people over there 
have trouble getting by, there are jobs and 
'hope' for them here, they risk everything to 
cross the border, and then when they are here 
they're given menial wages, long hours, and have 
their labor abused. This gives companies the 
ability to get away with cheap labor, and the 
'undocumented' have to sneak around, unable to 
get any papers, any security, treated like 
basically the lowest class, because they are 
'illegal'--this strange invention by people that 
proclaims that someone, because of where they 
were born, or because of their skin color, or 
because of their situation that they couldn't 
help, that they are wrong and deserve no rights. 
And then in the midst of this, the Minutemen are 
complaining that they're coming to invade our 
economy and use up our health services its 
completely absurd. And then the bill that wants 
to make them and anybody who helps them into 
felons.. what is this, Nazi Germany?? Oh yes and 
in the bill it also calls for the building of a 
wall on the border. Need I say more?

Ron: Although I disagree with the terminology 
that calls immigrants "aliens" and their presence 
the "immigration problem," how does one address 
this issue when talking to other US residents?

Eric: I just don't understand how anyone living 
in America can have a problem with immigrants. As 
a matter of fact, after calling us domestic 
terrorists, one of the Minutemen said "Of all the 
freedoms you have, please execute this freedom 
you have, LEAVE," It's kind of funny to think 
that someone so opposed to immigration would 
suggest that someone leave the country they were born in.

Sabah: There are a lot of different ways that one 
can approach US residents, and it really matters 
who you're talking to. First off is to break down 
the idea that there is an "immigration problem". 
America is a land of immigrants, and if anybody 
should be pissed that more people are coming into 
the country it would be Native peoples not run of 
the mill Americans. And I don't think the 
Minutemen have any Native Americans in their 
group! Also one could explain about the economy 
and how these 'aliens' aren't taking all our jobs 
and resources, and turn it around so that they 
understand that the problem with the economy lies 
in our system but not in individuals. I would 
explain how I understand the situation of the 
undocumented like I said earlier, and help people 
to understand that the problem here is not other 
humans that they're trying to make us scapegoat, 
but it is the corporations, NAFTA, the 
government, and hate groups like the minutemen 
all in an effort to keep us divided and 
squabbling amongst each other so that we do not 
realize where the real problems stem from.. 
above. That's one track you can go on with it, 
but the main thing is to take the issue out of 
the context that the anti-immigrant groups have 
boxed it into, and bring up all of these other 
points that people probably had not thought, like the term 'alien', etc.

Penny: I've seen it estimated that one in six 
people on this planet has emigrated from their 
country,including tens of millions in this 
country- millions being undocumented. I think 
people have to ask themselves: why is that the 
case? Is it because people are just trying to 
"reap American benefits" or is it because of 
something much deeper? As an important example, 
what is the relationship between the United States and Mexico?

Cynthia:I think you have to tell the truth, and 
you can't be afraid to challenge people. The 
truth is that immigrants are forced to come here 
in order to survive, because they cannot possibly 
earn a living in their own countries. And the 
truth is that the United States is an imperialist 
country that dominates the economies of many of 
the countries in the world, and in particular 
Latin America. Just to shed a little light on 
this: the top 3 sources of Mexico's income are 
earnings that immigrants send back home, tourism 
(principally from U.S. tourists) and income from 
maquiladoras on the border. Thus, the fate of its 
nearly 300 million people is continually under 
the shadow of the U.S. I think that many people 
have no idea what kind of conditions drive 
immigrants to come here, how many lose their 
lives on the way, or what kinds of awful 
conditions they live under once they get here. 
You have to blow out of the water the lie that 
immigrants are a drain on this country--it is 
actually literally the other way around. This 
economy is based on the exploitation of labor, 
and a huge element in that is the exploiting of 
immigrants at incredibly low-paid, dangerous, 
back-breaking, and insecure jobs. Exploitation is 
not just some word. The Revolution newspaper 
(when it was still called the Revolutionary 
Worker-a journal of the RCP) did a feature in 
2003 on immigrants who wake up at 2 or 3 in the 
morning to work 11 hours in the fields; one of 
these workers had been in this country for more 
than 30 years and had nothing more to show for it 
than the day he arrived. This country is going 
through tremendous economic changes, where the 
"social compact" -- things like Social Security, 
health benefits, pensions, etc--is being eroded 
and where the cost of living is growing much, 
much faster than wages are. And there's a lot of 
trying to blame this on immigrants and pitting 
different groups against each other. But to paint 
this as the result of immigration is to obscure 
the fact that the same forces behind this ever 
"leaner and meaner" capitalism that is squeezing 
many U.S. citizens are the exact same forces 
relentlessly exploiting immigrants.
Ron:In my experience it isn't always just 
white-skinned US residents that think illegal 
immigration is a problem. While this reality is 
testimony to the strength of the media propaganda 
machine, it presents a situation for those 
organizing against anti-immigrant groups and 
legislation. How do you address this?

Sabah: Like I said earlier, regardless of 
skin-color it is their agenda which is racist, 
and a majority of non-white people understand 
that. There are a few, like Rosanno Pulido, who 
is the head of the Illinois chapter, which 
presents an odd situation, but just because 
someone is brown does not mean that they 
automatically wish the best for their people, or 
understand what is good for their people. She 
calls herself an American and proclaims that she 
is working for what is good for America her skin 
color has nothing to do with anything, but to 
confuse us. And I would not be surprised if she 
wasn't chosen exactly to do that.

Cynthia: Again, you have to start with the truth. 
This is a country that forces many immigrants to 
come here and then exploits them viciously when 
they do. Just because some immigrants are able to 
"make it" and the vast majority are not, that 
doesn't change the nature of this system and what 
it does to people, any more than a few wealthy 
Black conservatives changes the fact that Black 
people are oppressed in this country. And just 
because groups like the Minutemen use brown 
faces, like Rosana Pulido, that doesn't change 
the fact that their agenda is racist, pure and 
simple, and very, very thinly veiled. The 
Minutemen employ rhetoric very similar to what 
was used in Nazi Germany against the Jews: 
speeches by Chris Simcox or the Minutemen's own 
blogs are full of allusions to the idea that the 
"cultural fabric of America" (a phrase they would 
use, not I) is threatened by the arrival of 
immigrants with a different cultural background 
than the dominant white culture. They equate 
immigrants with terrorists ( a sign at a recent 
Minutemen rally read: "Mexican Border = Drugs, 
Gangs, Al Qaeda.") There are sections of the 
rulers and prominent figures in this country who 
are promoting and fighting for a whole 
anti-immigrant program. From CNN's Lou Dobbs and 
his constant CNN stories of the immigrant 
"invasion", to Samuel Huntington's white supremacy with a Harvard pedigree.

I think that once you get clear on the actual 
nature of these anti-immigrant movements, then 
from that basis you can confront people, of all 
nationalities: why would you be behind this?

Why is it acceptable for immigrants to die from 
dehydration on the border, or to freeze in the 
winter? Why is it acceptable for families to be 
ripped apart families by deportation? Why is 
forced detention in prison camps acceptable for 
someone trying to keep their family from 
starving? Why is it acceptable for undocumented 
immigrants to live in constant fear, for their 
families to be at constant risk of being torn 
apart because of the legal status of one member? 
Why are these forced roundups of Arabs and Muslim 
and South Asian immigrants, this profiling and 
criminalizing of entire peoples, something that 
anyone can live with? What human being with a 
conscience would support a bill like HR 4437, 
that legally requires immigrants to suffer and 
die by criminalizing anyone who helps them? And 
if things like all this are allowed to go down, 
what more horrors will come next?

Penny: I have seen a lot of people, even very 
progressive people, who have a really negative 
view of immigration- especially undocumented 
immigration. But where I see a lot of that coming 
from is that people are suffering, including in 
this country- even middle class people are being 
hit very hard economically right now, and this is 
especially true in the most oppressed and 
exploited parts of this country, like in urban 
areas where there's places that half of the 
population (this is especially in ghettoized 
black neighborhoods) will never see employment 
any time in their lives. That kind of statistic 
is just staggering when you think about it, and 
then in that climate you have the media and 
politicians and everything telling you that it's 
the immigrants that are the problem- they're 
"draining all our resources" and stuff like that, 
then you can start to see why people start 
turning on immigrants, on each other. For 
example, I heard recently that the Minutemen are 
organizing in Watts, in South Central L.A. But 
really people need to get above that, to look at 
the big picture of how all this is connected- for 
example, why have millions of people uprooted 
their lives, left their homes and often their 
families, everything they've ever known, and 
risked their lives through the conditions of 
travel across the border, including the 
vigilantes patrolling with guns, and come to this 
country where they're forced to live in fear 
every second of their existence, and take the 
absolute bottom level of jobs in this country, earning basically nothing?

Ultimately, it's the same reason as why whole 
sections of the population in Watts are forced 
into the kind of conditions where they make money 
illegally and join gangs and all that. It's 
because of capitalism, it's because a whole 
group, specifically a whole class of people at 
the top owns everything and earns wealth at the 
expense of everyone else. It's because across the 
planet, the way of organizing society is driven 
by profit and accumulation, rather than meeting 
peoples' needs. And these days, with heightened 
globalization and the days of leaner, meaner 
capitalist exploitation, including trade 
agreements like NAFTA, billions of people across 
the planet are having their lives turned upside 
down, and forced to migrate and work in 
sweatshops or be bought and sold as sexual 
slaves, and face other unimaginable conditions of 
life. That's why there's a huge up swell in the 
level of immigration. But it's not "illegal 
immigration" that's the problem- it's capitalism, 
and I don't think we'll solve any of the problems 
we're talking about until we have a different way 
of organizing society, where what's guiding is 
the interests of the people at the bottom.

Ron:The ("revised") PATRIOT Act was passed while 
I was composing these questions. I have to admit 
that this was no surprise. How do you see that 
repressive legislation fitting in with other 
pieces of legislation like HB 4437?

Penny: I think the whole climate of attacks on 
immigrants holds a strong relationship to what 
the Democrats and the Republicans are calling the 
"War on Terror." Really, this is an open-ended 
war on the world that even Dick Cheney has said 
could last "a generation or more." Right now, the 
U.S. imperialists have both the perceived need as 
well as the unique opportunity to really change 
the face of the planet as we've known it (as 
horrible as it's been and already is.) I think 
their ambitions are truly world-historic in a 
horrifying sense, where they envision bringing 
into being a planet where the U.S. has 
obliterated even the potential for any other 
imperialist country to rise to the point where 
economically, politically, or (importantly) 
militarily, they could offer any sort of a 
challenge to the sole-superpower status of the 
United States. I think we're only seeing the very 
beginning of this with Afghanistan and Iraq- 
where the Bush Administration has identified a 
strategically very important region if you're 
going to run the planet, and just bombed the shit 
out of these countries; and is attempting to 
completely reshape the whole way the region, and 
these countries within that, are formed, in the 
interests of American empire. (And I think we're 
also seeing very important possibilities for this 
to get very out of hand for the imperialists, 
including the current situation in Iraq, as well 
as where millions of people, in this country and 
around the world, stood up in mass opposition to 
the invasion well before it even began- something quite unprecedented.)

And I think the imperialists have relatively 
agreed on the need and possibility to go forward 
with that agenda of unending war and re-shaping 
of the world, and then there's a relationship 
between that and what's going on in the 
Fatherland (err, "homeland.") Millions don't (and 
won't) want to go along with this open-ended war, 
what Condoleeza Rice and others like to call 
"democratization." So there's both a broad 
culture of fear and intolerance that's being 
whipped up by different sections of the rulers 
and their representatives, as well as a whole 
clampdown on dissent and clampdowns on sections 
of the population that could potentially pose a 
real opposition to this program. As the U.S. is 
attempting to re-shape the Middle East (perhaps 
we might call this "phase one" of the 
non-existent "War on Terror") the Bush 
Administration sees a possibility, and maybe some 
need to clamp down and terrify the 
Middle-Eastern, Muslim, and Arab people in this 
country, through measures legitimized by the 
Patriot Act. (And obviously, as the votes have 
shown, the Democrats either just overwhelmingly 
agree with this, or capitulate to it.) Similar 
with those who exercise critical thinking or 
dissent on any or all of this. And in Chicago, 
just last week, we saw a huge potential for 
immigrants, especially Latino, to stand up and 
take independent political action opposing the 
direction things are going, to break out of the 
confines being set by the people at the top, when 
hundreds of thousands took to the streets to 
oppose House Bill 4437, the Minutemen, and 
attacks on immigrants' rights. Well that's a huge 
Achilles' heel for U.S. imperialism, here in the 
Fatherland, and I think that's at least a basic 
part of why we're seeing all this horrible legislation come down.

Sabah: The Patriot Act is definitely in line with 
a repressive bill like HR4437. It is the 
government slowly chipping away at our rights and 
hiding it in legislation that is outwardly their to make us more secure.
Cynthia: Like some of my other answers, it's 
tough to summarize in a short space what is 
actually a very complex phenomenon. But speaking 
for myself, I think that you have to interpret 
laws like the PATRIOT Act as 1930s pre-Nazi 
Germany laws. Laws that flatten the opposition, 
that deem even mild opposition as a security 
threat and that aim to crush any kind of 
fundamental questioning of the system or anyone 
fighting for a radical or revolutionary alternative.

I think that one aspect of laws like this is that 
since 9/11, there's a section of the ruling class 
that is really trying to expand the reach of U.S. 
empire around the world, and keep any other force 
from growing strong enough to rival them. 
Invading Iraq, plans on invading Iran, declaring 
the right to peremptorily strike against any 
country the U.S. deems a threat, holding an 
economic stranglehold through sanctions and 
approving or withdrawing loans--the U.S. has 
really taken a huge leap in these last few years, 
acting on plans that in many cases were drawn up 
years before 9/11. And in particular, from the 
perspective of those in the ruling class who are 
carrying this stuff out, immigrants who are from 
that country or that region of the world, who 
tend to still have ties and stay in touch with 
developments from and still feel a connection to 
that country (especially if the U.S' actions were 
responsible for them having to immigrate here in 
the first place) -- they see those people as an 
Achilles heel, as a potential threat. Laws like 
the PATRIOT Act are the rulers making their 
position clear: we're going to carry out these 
invasions and we're going to devastate and occupy 
whatever country we want, wherever we want, for 
the reasons we choose--and we will not tolerate, 
by any means, any kind of opposition. I think HR 
4437 would pave the way for even more vicious 
exploitation of immigrants, by driving millions 
of them into the shadows where they can be 
treated ruthlessly, with complete impunity. And 
it would also force everyone else to go along 
with all of this. And groups like the Minutemen 
are the semi-official enforcers of all of 
this--they are like the Hitlerjugend that came 
out in force to attack anyone who helped the Jews in Germany.

Ron:I read in the press release that one of the 
arrestees is a Muslim woman. Are Muslims being 
specifically targeted in the new legislation? If 
so, how? Having lived in Muslim countries as a 
youngster, I see the similarities between 
so-called Judeo-Christian culture and Muslim 
culture being much greater than the differences, 
but most people in the US tend to see the 
differences more. Consequently, their fear of the 
other tends to overcome their rational sense, 
especially in today's climate where that fear is 
whipped up by reactionary religious and political 
leaders. More importantly, how does one get US 
residents to move beyond their fear of the Muslim religion and culture?

Sabah: I don't know if Muslims are being 
specifically targeted with this new bill, I know 
the target seems to be Mexicans, but it is 
certainly going to be used on Muslim and Arab 
immigrants as well, and Mexicans are not the only 
undocumented in the U.S, there are all sorts of 
other immigrants that will be effected too. I 
think the first attack after 9/11 was on Muslim 
and Arabs with the Patriot Act. Knowledge is 
essential to move US residents beyond their fear 
of Islam. The media portrays Muslims negatively 
and the only way to counter this is to teach 
people about Muslims and take away this 
xenophobia. Muslims are just like other people. 
You are right that there are much more 
similarities between the three Abrahamic faiths 
then people know, and this is what we should try to inform people about.

I am a Muslim woman, and I don't think it is a 
coincidence that I was violated the most by the 
cops, in that they targeted me for my scarf, 
which is evident by the fact that my arresting 
officer was so focused on it that she took it off 
my head while angrily saying, "take that thing 
off your head". We've seen the Minutemen express 
racism and hatred towards Muslims as well, 
especially in their forums and blogs. I think it 
is definitely connected, immigrants are under 
attack, Muslims and Arabs are under attack, and 
those that stand up in opposition to these 
injustices are under attack. But the solution is 
what they fear most, for us to unite in 
solidarity with each other, because although we 
are different communities, we are all being 
targeted by the same source, and their goal is to 
divide and conquer. The AMM5 is a very diverse 
group, and we take pride in that, I hope that we 
can be a symbol of solidarity, and bring many 
different groups together around our cause, because it is all of our cause.

Cynthia: I think that the blame for this fear and 
ignorance lies not principally on people living 
in the U.S. but in those in power, and that a 
good part of the solution lies in getting people 
broadly to understand that they've been lied to 
and manipulated. I think that, for those who are 
motivated by a fear of "terrorism" or a 
generalized fear for their own safety, and so are 
willing to go along with attacks on immigrants in 
the name of keeping them safe, you have to 
actually challenge people with some doses of 
reality for a second. Can a government that left 
thousands of its own citizens to die in New 
Orleans really claim to be providing "safety" for 
anyone? And you have to ask people if they're 
willing to go along with anything-- mass 
deportations, imprisonment, torture, the casting 
of millions of human beings into the shadows--for 
their "safety". Because to say that, to say 
"whatever you do, whoever you hurt, as long as 
I'm safe", is really a bargain with the devil, 
that I think lots of people in their hearts would 
not be willing to make. And even if you do make a 
bargain with the devil thinking he's going to 
protect you, you have to realize it's not going 
to work. I think that people should really 
compare that "go along with anything in the name 
of my safety" with a statement by Craig Murray, 
who used to be a UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, at 
the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes 
Against Humanity by the Bush Administration: " 
... this administration has introduced a 
dehumanization of our Muslim brothers and sisters 
which means that anything done to them doesn't 
count. And that is a step along the road to the 
ultimate evil. And that, ladies and gentleman, is 
I believe where we areWhich is just to say I 
don't believe it works, but even if it did work, 
I would personally rather die than have anyone tortured to save my life."

Ron:One more question. While writing that last 
question, I realized that it is not the religions 
of any culture that have necessarily created 
tolerance. Indeed, it is much more likely that it 
is the rationalist elements. What do you think?

Penny:I might go ahead and do some exposure, 
specifically on "tolerance" of religions- bring 
in the Christian fascist morality drawn from the 
literal interpretation of the bible. The 
connection between that and Islamic 
fundamentalist, rooted in the underlying material 
conditions: collapse of Soviet Union, 
turbo-capitalism. The need for a different 
morality based on the critical examination of 
reality and the desire/potential to change that 
for the better for all of humanity.

Sabah: Well I'm not sure, if you look at 
religious texts they often preach tolerance, 
understanding and forgiveness, and least I know 
this is the case for Judaism, Christianity, and 
Islam. I think the question should be addressed 
the other way around. It is not religions that 
have created intolerance it is people who seek 
power and divisions who have created intolerance.

Cynthia:That's a pretty complex question and I 
think it would be hard for me to give an answer 
justice in the amount of time I've got for these 
questions ... it's not that I don't have any 
opinions -- as an atheist, I do -- but I don't 
want to give a partial or inadequate answer, so 
I'll pass on this question for now.

Ron: Back to the trial. What happens next? How 
can people contact you and support you?

Cynthia: Our trial is currently set for April 25, 
but we are fighting for the case to be dropped 
before it ever gets to that point. People should 
spread the word really broadly about this case. 
Organizations should sign on to support us and 
build for our case. We really need thousands of 
dollars in donations for legal expenses --the 
huge expense of going to trial has always been a 
major part of how the state attempts to punish 
and crush opposition. People should send 
thousands of letters to the state's attorney, 
asking that the case be dismissed. And if it 
isn't dismissed, they should come out to the 
courthouse on April 25 and rally and demand "No 
Jail Time for the Anti-Minutemen 5!" We have a 
web site: 
<mailto:antiminutemen5.tk>antiminutemen5.tk, and 
a blog: 
and an email address: 
<mailto:antiminutemen5 at yahoo.com>antiminutemen5 at yahoo.com.

Well, I think first of all, people need to be 
armed with the understanding that fighting 
against these charges is a key part of the fight 
against all these attacks on immigrants and the 
whole direction society is being taken. We've 
been telling people: If you want to oppose groups 
like the Minutemen, if you don't want to live in 
a society where you have thug shock troops 
showing up at your door if you help "illegal" 
people, then you have to defend those people that 
are getting attacked and arrested for opposing 
this. With these charges and their determination 
to jail us, the state is trying to make a very 
strong statement: To people who stand up for 
immigrants' rights: "Don't even think about 
opposing the Minutemen.". And think twice before protesting at all."

And, to immigrants: "You have no friends. No one 
will help you. No one will defend you." This 
needs to really get turned around completely on 
them! It should become an exposure of the 
Minutemen and what they represent, and I really 
hope the battle to defeat these charges is part 
of strengthening the whole opposition to these attacks on immigrants overall.

Penny: We go to trial April 25th. The state has 
shown in a number of hearings that they are 
serious about jail time for trumped-up charges on 
protestors acting peacefully and symbolically. 
And something we're learning is that people who 
protest the Minutemen are being attacked across 
the country: in Vermont, the head of this 
vigilante group labeled peaceful demonstrators 
"domestic terrorists" and this got picked up by 
mainstream media, and in California one of the 
Minutemen drove a car through a picket line, 
knocking people down, and nothing was done for 
over half an hour (and eventually anti-Minutemen 
protestors were arrested and given felony 
charges.) So we see our case, and rallying to the 
defense of the Anti-Minutemen 5 as a crucial way 
to stand up in opposition to the Minutemen. And 
on that basis, we're finding lots of support but 
we still need to raise upwards of $10,000 in 
legal fees (address for donations below) and need 
to have the real deal on the Minutemen much more 
broadly understood, including our case. We also 
need letters of support and demands that the 
charges be dismissed sent to the judge and 
state's attorney right away (see below).

And people can contact us through our website: 

Beyond that, I think the resistance to these 
vigilantes, as well as attacks on immigrants 
generally, and ultimately resistance to the whole 
way the Bush Administration is remaking the 
entire planet in a fascist direction, needs to be 
raised to a whole other level very quickly in 
this country. People need to check out the call 
to Drive Out the Bush Regime from World Can't 
Wait, which takes on the whole Bush program- I 
think it's the only vehicle in this country that 
can actually change the whole disastrous course 
these people are setting us on- as the call 
concludes, "The future is unwritten. Which one we get is up to us."

Sabah: Our trial is set for April 25th. We really 
need support as far as legal funds go and 
letters. I really would like to make a call out 
for people to send letters asking that the 
charges be dropped to Dick Divine the States 
Attorney, as we believe this will really help our 
case. Thank you for all your effort, Ron. We 
really appreciate this. Sorry if we took long 
getting back to you. Its been crazy over here. Peace.

Send letters now- they need thousands- to the 
State's Attorney, asking that the case be immediately dismissed:

Richard A. Devine
Cook County State's Attorney
500 Richard J. Daley Center
Chicago, IL 60602

Funds are needed very urgently; they need to 
raise upwards of $10,000 in legal expenses in a 
few weeks.Send contributions and make checks out to:

Law Office of Jim Fennerty
36 South Wabash, Suite 1310
Chicago, IL 60603 Attn: anti-MM5

Ron Jacobs is author of 
Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather 
Underground, which is just republished by Verso. 
Jacobs' essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in 
CounterPunch's new collection on music, art and 
in the Garden. He can be reached at: 
<mailto:rjacobs3625 at charter.net>rjacobs3625 at charter.net

The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9977
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