Murrieta, California, where an angry crowd blocked buses carrying undocumented mothers and children last week, has merely been the most visible locus of a reactionary wave on the right that has been inspired by Texas Governor Rick Perry’s “border surge.” Remember that massive protest by
millions thousands dozens of ‘patriots’ a few weeks ago in Washington, DC? For the ‘sovereign citizens,’ doomsday preppers, and militia types who turned out at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in April, “Operation American Spring” is apparently still in full bloom — but instead of cows, this time the armed-and-paranoid say they are gathering to defend America itself from a wave of Central American refugees.
As we reported last week, Murrieta bus blockade organizer Patrice Lynes is deeply tied to John Birchers and other extremists. Jim Gilchrist, an associate of convicted murderer Shawna Forde who organized the Minuteman Project in 2005, was also in Murietta. Remember how a few dozen members of his movement managed to captivate reporters for fifteen minutes back then?
Though the Minuteman organizers vowed that 1,600 or more mad-as-hell volunteers had signed up for duty and that “potentially several thousands” would participate in the kickoff rallies during April Fools’ weekend, turnout was an unmitigated flop — less than a tenth of the promised throngs showed up at the rallies. The entire Minuteman spectacle, indeed, easily qualified for that journalistic catchall phrase, “a fizzle,” but virtually none of the news media reported it as such.
On its opening day, I could count no more than 135 participants, even at the two kickoff public rallies along the Arizona border. At one near the border town of Douglas, two dozen reporters and a handful of TV cameras swarmed over no more than 10 Minutemen — most of them sitting in lawn chairs or in pickup truck beds. During the entire kickoff weekend, the media troops clearly outnumbered the Minutemen. And in the days that followed, piecing together the various reports and reading between the lines, it’s obvious that the Minuteman numbers dwindled to no more than a few dozen at a time. If that many people marched down Hollywood Boulevard for any cause, who’d report it?
Fifty right wing nutjobs are usually enough to draw media attention, and in fact the American Spring managed to gain mainstream notice with no more than 150 people. Nevertheless, as reports of militias gathering in border states reach mainstream media outlets, it’s not clear how many of their stated plans are genuine and how many are merely aspirational.
Mark Kessler, the former police chief of Gilberton, Pennsylvania who was fired for ranting about liberals while he fired department weapons on video, is a perfect example of how murky this can get. He has set out for the Arizona border, supposedly to confront Mexican drug cartels — but is he really that crazy, or is it just part of his TV reality show?
Barbie Rogers is another example of the phenomenon. Her Patriot Information Hotline has become slightly internet-famous since she called for militia patriots to form human chains and block the border. But her organization is really just a website that was only created in May, and many site users have already been deleted from her message boards. As far as I can tell, her Ustream page features nothing but a static webcam of herself listening to talk radio and eating candy. The most interesting thing on her site is this conference call with the owners of the Little Ale’inn, a famous fringe-themed roadside diner near Area 51 in Nevada.
And maybe that’s exactly how these ‘patriots’ think: in their minds, children who flee violence and instability for sanctuary in the United States are not just illegal, but aliens. And if they are not human beings, then they have no human rights. See how that works?
“What we are trying to say, we are Fed up. We were promised a Wall. Money was provided for the Wall,” Rogers says with capitalized emphasis. Her words have been repeated by various patriot organizations and conservative websites, including III-percenter groups, Oathkeepers, and the classic militia movement. Now it seems that at least some of them are actually gathering in Texas, as reported by Rio Grande Valley TV station KGRV, which won’t even show us what they have seen out of “security concerns.” The press is once again chasing down a spectacle while ignoring the obvious extremism.