September 23, 2005

Victory against the racists: Civil resistance against vigilante groups in California

Photos and text by
Luis Alonso Pérez

Calexico, a quiet border town in California’s Imperial Valley had an unusual weekend, because of the Friends of the Border Patrol’s announced visit during Mexican’s Independence Day weekend, which led to the arrival of hundreds of activists and human rights defenders looking to dissuade their vigilante activities, and protest against the racist ideologies spreading throughout the Mexico and United States border.

The first ones who opposed against their visit where the citizens of Calexico, led by mayor Alex Perrone and members of the local chamber of commerce, who showed their disapproval by putting up over a thousand signs on the side of the road, on businesses and homes with the message “Minutemen, your minute is up, now go home”.

Young and old alike stepped out to protest the presence of the Minutemen.

On Saturday the streets of Calexico looked calm, people where making their weekend shopping and most of them crossing the border back to Mexicali, a day like any other.

But when the clock turned to 5, a crowd began gathering in Calexico’s International Park. Groups of protestors began to arrive in cars and busses from cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego.

Activists, students, human rights defenders and concerned citizens gathered in front of the reporters, with flyers, signs and banners with messages like “Racists go home”, “Disband the minutemen”, “Stop the vigilantes” and “Nobody is illegal”.

Members from civil organizations like Border Angels, Gente Unida, Desert Angels, shared their message against vigilante groups like Minutemen or Friends of the Border Patrol (FBP), and expressed their rejection to what they consider racists policies from Governor Arnold Schwar-zenegger and President George W. Bush.

The first one to share his message was Enrique Morones from the Border Angels, who questioned the true intentions of Andy Ramirez’s -FBP’s headman- Because it seemed like the only thing he wanted to do was attract media attention to fulfill his personal political aspirations. He also criticized the president’s standpoint on this situation, when he stated that if Mexico was sending troops to help out the victims of hurricane Katrina, and George Bush was allowing these people to come to the border, what kind of message was he trying to send?

Various members from civil associations had their turn at the microphone. When the protest was over everybody present began marching through the streets of Calexico and headed to the border fence, where a group of demonstrators was waiting for them on the Mexicali side.

Around 300 people on the American side and over a hundred people on the Mexican side joined their voices against racism and vigilantes. For over thirty minutes everyone sang the same songs, in Spanish and English. Everyone was banging on the fence and singing fervidly. The strident sounds revitalized their efforts and unified their cause.

Moments later, demonstrators in Calexico continued marching towards a park next to the local city hall. The sun went down and the large group rested on the grass, while members from different associations addressed encouraging messages towards the anti-vigilante efforts.

When the rally was over, many of the people present headed back to a camping area, where they had dinner and organized groups that would look for vigilante patrols and dissuade their activity. During the meeting, the group was informed that according to reliable sources, so far no members of the Friends of the Border Patrol had been spotted in or around the Calexico area.

Rafael Hernandez, from the Desert Angels, informed that a group of approximately 40 Minuteman had been patrolling the area near Jacumba, so the activists spited in two groups, one to patrol Calexico and the other one headed out to Jacumba.

When the second group arrived to Jacumba no traces of the Minutemen where found anywhere. Rafael Hernandez and an eight car caravan drove to the spots where the last two weeks he had dissuaded the armed vigilante patrols, accompanied only by his brother, his wife and two daughters, but no one was found.

The groups that chose to stay in Calexico patrolled the city all night without finding a single member of the Friends of the Border Patrol.

Sunday Morning, activists had confirmed that both vigilante groups had retrieved and that their efforts had been successful.

People’s victory over the racists was declared.

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