Anti-immigrant rallies fizzle in Texas, elsewhere

DENTON, Texas — A group calling itself “Lone Star Minutemen” called a statewide protest against immigrant day laborers in this college town in the early morning of Jan. 7. Supporters of the group had declared their intention to carry out anti-immigrant actions in Texas’ major cities. They were undoubtedly disappointed with the response they received here.

The racist Minutemen group has previously been known for anti-immigrant publicity stunts on the Arizona border. Its supporters had proclaimed that “grassroots organizations” would hold actions in 19 states on Jan. 7.

But around the country the handful of anti-immigrant participants were vastly outnumbered by immigrant rights supporters who showed up to oppose them.

North Texas peace activists found out that the Minutemen planned to protest where day laborers regularly gather at the corner of Collins Street and Fort Worth Drive. In a statement, the Minutemen raged against what they called an “illegal, invasion of the United States orchestrated by the Mexican government.”

Less than 24 hours before the planned action, peace activists forwarded the racist plans with a simple call, “We need feet on the street in Denton on Saturday morning!” The resulting numbers tell the story: Number of Minutemen protesting: five. Number of counter-protesters: 42. Number of day laborers still at the site despite protests: 35.

Among the organizations opposing the Minutemen were GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Association of Denton), Denton Peace Action, Denton LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) and Denton County Democrats.

“We’re here because we oppose racism,” commented Sandy Swan, secretary of Denton Peace Action. “These Minutemen are an attack against workers. We’re here to show solidarity with the day laborers who are just trying to support themselves and their families.”

Manual Rendon, president and founder of the Frisco, Texas, LULAC Youth Council, said, “The Minutemen go against everything we stand for. Vigilantes are not proper border control. If they are so interested in ‘protecting America,’ they should join the military. Their action is more about racism.”

Kenna Griffin, secretary of Denton County Democrats, said, “We’re here to show support to the people that depend on this day labor site for work. These Minutemen assume just because someone is Hispanic that they are illegal. The original Minutemen [referring to the anticolonial militiamen of the American Revolutionary War] are rolling in their graves.”

Noting that the Minutemen “have ties to white-supremacist organizations and individuals,” Denton Peace Action member Arvin Hill said, “This issue is about scapegoating. The powers that be, the neo-cons, want a wedge issue for the 2006 elections, and immigration is the only remaining issue they have left to exploit.”

Similar protests were held elsewhere. In Glendale, Calif., a Los Angeles suburb, about two dozen anti-immigrant protesters waving American flags were surrounded by more than 100 drum-beating immigrant rights supporters.

In Framingham, Mass., near Boston, a small group protesting “illegal” immigration was met by a much larger group of counter-demonstrators. Manuel Olivera, pastor of nearby New Life Presbyterian Community Church, said of the anti-immigrant protesters, “What they are doing is just harassing people who are out here to go to work every day, and they’re doing it in a hateful manner, which is against everything this country stands for.”



The Associated Press contributed to this story.