By Mariana Martinez
San Diego musician and activist Catalina García remembers her encounter with the Minutemen, “I had the chance to be in Arizona, and what I saw was a group of vigilantes flaunting their guns right and left, ready to shoot. I saw the Border Patrol right alongside them, they say they don’t approve of them but they were right by their side: I refuse to let that to happen here¨.
Like Catalina, Joseph Estrada remembers being arrested in Arizona and being told by the police about wire traps to stop immigrants and the story about how the Minutemen had caught an undocumented immigrant, whom they ridiculed and forced to wear a shirt that said “I went across the border and all I got is this lousy T-shirt”. His handcuffed arms filled up with rage, making him aware for the need to stop them.
García and Estrada, part of the Ya basta Edutainment record label/project were among the activists from both sides of the border who had a meeting last Saturday June 25th to talk about groups of armed people that plan to come to patrol California’s border in the coming months.
In the meeting, held at the office of the Workers Information Center CITTAC in Tijuana, representatives form Gente Unida Coalition, the San Diego Maquiladora Workers Solidarity Network, Peace and Freedom Party and International Socialist Organization, expressed their concern for the recent announcements by Friends of the Border Patrol and United States Border Patrol Auxiliary, both part of the Minutemen group to begin armed patrolling of the border between California and Baja California.
Friends of the Border Patrol, founded by Chino resident Andy Ramirez and the United States Border Patrol Auxiliary had both invited volunteers to come to the California border this summer to patrol and report undocumented immigrants to the U.S. Border Patrol.
The first Minutemen action was planned for July 16 by United States Border Patrol Auxiliary, but it was cancelled. The over twenty community activists in the meeting last Saturday attribute the cancellation to the fact that the Minutemen organizers encountered problems with gun laws in this state and their numbers have not been large, they know activists are planning stronger action to stop them and decided not to come. “We believe our vast network with large Human Rights and Immigrant Rights groups in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego had something to do with it” said Aubury Wear, from International Socialist Organization, part of Gente Unida Coalition.
Gente Unida had planned a protest against the group but now plan a victory celebration on Saturday July 2nd, with a walk from the corner of Park and Hall in San Ysidro to Larson Park. The two mile walk will start at 11 am and includes guest speakers, music and entertainment for the whole family.
Along with representatives from other organizations, Gente Unida plans to be at Campo (near the Tecate border) July 16 just to make sure the Minute Man do not show up.
But despite the triumph, the battle against the Minute Man has just begun in California, because Friends of the Border Patrol has announced actions along the state’s border starting September 16, Mexican Independence Day.
This surveillance of this civil groups starting in the historical date of the 195th anniversary of Mexico’s independence is surely set to inflame Mexicans living along the border. But for CITTAC´s Jaime Cota, this is made with the intention to provoke and create violence, further dividing the border community. ¨As activists we have to be aware of their intentions and act above them, we need to stay calm and show the real purposes of these groups: to violate human rights and create fear amongst good people trying to make a living for their families”.