Minutemen Shut Down on Fourth of July in Minnesota
Saint Paul, MN – Over 200 immigrants’ rights supporters drove out a dozen anti-immigrant ‘Minutemen’ as they tried to rally at the Minnesota state capitol building on the Fourth of July. According to Erika Zurawski, an organizer of the pro-immigrants’ rights rally, “The racist Minutemen tried to show their faces here, and we outnumbered them twenty to one. They left after a half hour without even being able to hold a rally or press conference at the capitol, as they had planned. We were chanting ‘Minutemen go home!’ and they did! Everyone at our rally was so inspired when they decided to just drive away.”
The anti-Minutemen protest was organized by the immigrant rights coalition that built the historic April 9 and May 1 immigrants’ rights protests in Minnesota, along with other anti-racist activists. The protest was called to counter the Minutemen’s presence and also to demand legalization and full equality for all immigrants.
The Minutemen are an anti-immigrant vigilante group that does armed patrols on the U.S.-Mexico border and is building their own ‘fence’ along the border. They have organized what they are calling a “21st Century Paul Revere Ride” this summer to try to spread their anti-Latino immigrant sentiment around the whole country. They plan to visit every state capitol en route to Washington D.C.
Thousands of Latin Americans come to the U.S. to seek survival and a better life. Many are driven out of their countries by poverty created by the ‘free trade’ agreements that the U.S. government imposes. Others are fleeing countries devastated by U.S.-sponsored civil wars. According to Patrick Leet, an organizer for immigrants’ rights and Latin American solidarity, “The problem of immigration isn’t immigrants; it’s a problem of U.S. foreign policy, especially trade policy in the last few years. When two million farmers in Mexico have been pushed off their land and wages in the cities are going down, what options do people have? So people take the option people everywhere have always taken, to go elsewhere and look for a better life for one’s self and family. The approach of groups that want to stop immigrants is futile.”
The Minnesota affiliate of the Minutemen, Minnesotans Seeking Immigration Reform (MINN-SIR) hosted the attempted anti-immigrant rally, but could only muster a handful of Minnesotans to come to the capitol to join the half dozen non-Minnesota Minutemen on the national tour. MINN-SIR has organized against immigrant workers in greater Minnesota, where many immigrants work in factories and in seasonal farm work.
While the Minutemen are a small group, their border militias and their fence building have pushed the national immigration debate to the right. President Bush referenced the Minutemen in his speech announcing that he would order 6,000 National Guard troops to further militarize the U.S.-Mexico border.
The pro-immigrants’ rights protesters in Saint Paul were a diverse group. There were many immigrants at the protest, but the majority of people were from Minnesota. According to immigrants’ rights organizer Francisco Segovia, “Minnesotans have a core value of being an inclusive society. And this core value is going to be against what these [anti-immigrant] people are about. It’s not just about defending immigrants; it’s about standing up for what you believe, rejecting racist ideas of exclusion. And that’s what I felt happened. Obviously the Minnesotans that came to the event understand the immigration issue and that we’re an essential part of this economy and society. But it was important that Minnesotans stood up for what they see as the core values of this society.”