By Erin Sherbert
By Howard Cole
By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
By Leif Haven
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Kate Conger
A man with one of the group's bigger bellies proclaims to a guy wearing a "Tyranny Response Team" T-shirt, "I got an e-mail from some people in Australia who want to put together a Minuteman Project there, 'cause they got a big illegal problem. They want to secure the coast."
A rotund documentary filmmaker, who just had his camera pointed at someone, gets mad at me. "Don't film me without permission," he whines. Now even the media hate the media.
The closing starts with the Pledge of Allegiance. Then a pastor is brought up to give a valediction in the name of Jesus Christ. (But what about the Jewish Minutemen?!) Some Nuremberg-style cheerleading is kicked off by Minuteman founder Chris Simcox, who's wearing a red button-down shirt and looks like a thinner Jeff Foxworthy. But instead of uttering, "You might be a redneck," he proclaims, "We did this together. We the people. We all inspired millions of people to follow us, so you're all leaders."
If the American flag could smile, it would be grinning from ear to ear, as rows of lunch tables loudly applaud.
"I have almost 20,000 new volunteers that will follow our lead and that will make sure we lead the way," Simcox states firmly. "As I said, the only honorable thing to do at this point is to relieve us of duty by sending out Humvees filled with National Guards to protect our borders!"
Yah! screams the crowd.
There's more. Gilchrist, the bad cop to Simcox's good cop, sarcastically proclaims himself proudto be a vigilante. (Take that, George Bush!)
The guy with the beard and Fidel Castro hat announces, "I have stood shoulder to shoulder with heroes of America -- you are it!"
A mustachioed guy who works in the office, adorned in a jean vest with red sleeves popping out, feels Bush should hold a press conference and say, "We expect all other countries in the world to respect our borders. Those who do not respect our borders shall be repelled by force if it is necessary!
"If he would do that, it would begin the change. But I'm afraid the president is not a Minuteman."
I think he's expecting a Dead Poets Society-style, slow, building round of thunderous applause, with people eventually standing on the lunch tables, but it doesn't happen. Instead, the guy adds, woodenly, "People ask, 'Aren't you afraid of getting killed?' I tell them, 'Fear is for those who sit home and watch reality television. THE MINUTEMEN HAVE NO FEAR!'"
"You ain't seen nothing yet, we've just started."
"There's no telling how far this thing will go."
After a speaker mentions the Minuteman plan to patrol the California-Mexico border in October, a video camera is shoved in my face.
"What do you think of the situation on the border?" asks a cameraman from the Minuteman Project's own news organization.
"What part of 'illegal' don't they understand!?" I reply, reading my response off the woman's shirt.
An Arizona grandmother goes to the podium, leans into the microphone, and starts screaming, "We want President Bush personally to come out and pick up every bit of illegal alien garbage!"
More yahs. ("Illegal alien garbage" could be taken two ways, the second being very racist. And what about all those aforementioned copies of the Quran?!)
"Mr. Bush, we got your garbage bags, come pick it up!" she says, raising her arms in triumph.
This is the part where it gets really ugly and, with patriotic-adrenaline pumping, the crowd turns on us, the media.
The oldest man here (so old he looks like he's about to fall over), a religious broadcaster since 1961 ("I've been battling the leftists ever since!"), who's wearing an ill-fitting baseball cap, grabs the microphone, sternly raising his voice to the point where I think he might wind up clutching his heart.
"I went into religious broadcasting so I could TELL THEM WHAT I THINK OF THEM!"
"The left-wing media is the biggest problem we got in America. If it wasn't for them, our president and a lot of these other politicians would stand up and tell the truth, but they're afraid of these guys!
"But you don't be afraid of them!"
"Don't be afraid!" someone in the crowd repeats. "Don't be afraid!"
After the diatribe, a smarmy, well-groomed reporter from Tucson takes flak from several Minutemen who've surrounded him.
"Aren't you that guy who had the hidden camera and walked around?" an old man asks.
The well-groomed reporter defends himself. "I've been on this story since day one, and I've been nonbiased," he says, standing his ground.
It's not pretty when a well-groomed local TV reporter becomes unnerved. In a tizzy, he snaps, "I'm done with this!" He motions to his production assistant and storms off, reporter-panties in a huge bundle. I follow. He gains composure, readying himself to interview a random Minuteman with some well-groomed and ultra-hard-hitting questions. "It started out with protest. It ended peacefully," he says with a big grin and an almost goofy giggle one would expect if he were covering a story on a Teens for Christ community bake sale. "How good is that?"