By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
By Joe Eskenazi
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By Erin Sherbert
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?
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!"
"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.'"
"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."
Our new friend came to the United States as an illegal immigrant. Now he has his residency card and feels the Minutemen are only creating division and tension in the U.S. "What it's doing is creating stereotypes of people thinking now that everyone can be a Border Patrol and reporting everybody," he says. "What it does is it creates this ideology of superiority, that they think they have the right to do this. They put themselves at a position where they think they are authorities at a place where they are not."
In the background, little kids gleefully swing at an M&M's piñata hanging from a tree with a large "M" across the front (or is it a Minuteman effigy?!).
"They're dangerous," he adds. "Not dangerous themselves, but dangerous in the ideologies that they are creating. Most of them are veterans of war, right, and supposedly they fought for this country. But at the same time they are people who don't have anything to do.
"If they can come for a month and sit around with binoculars and cameras, what does that tell you about them?"
The Minuteman Project's closing barbecue is a big clappity-clap fest, with a lot of patriotic American flag-waving and God blessing of America. The turnout is good, with a lot of large trucks in the parking lot with a lot of bumper stickers that make profound statements like: "CNN Lies; Don't Worry, the King of England Didn't Like the Minuteman Project Either" and "Hanoi Jane 1972, John Kerry 2004."
Like the last day of a militaristic summer camp for the elderly, there's a lot of handshaking, pats on shoulders, and thanks for coming outs. Television cameras from a variety of news agencies videotape.