On Saturday, Brainy and I went to this counterprotest, where we marched against the people who shoot immigrants coming across the border. No, not the Bureau of Homeland Security, but the people who shoot without a licence – the Minutemen.
At the protest itself, 700 counter protesters faced up to 200 Minutepeople who scattered themselves on the steps of California’s State Capitol Building in Sacramento. The counterprotest wasn’t allowed to remain anywhere near the Minutemen – we had to keep moving in order to avoid arrest. Not, of course, that there weren’t arrests; the police, egged on by the Minutemen, got a little too frisky and rode their horses into a clench (the appropriate collective noun) of Black Bloc kids.
What I did hear of the Minutemen didn’t reflect terribly well on them. Brainy took this photo, which is tremendously telling.
That the rally happened on the steps of California’s State Capitol building in Sacramento was significant not only because Gov Schwarzenegger was invited to speak, but because around 2% of Californians are registered with the American Independence Party, whose candidate in an upcoming Orange County election, Jim Gilchrist, founded the Minutemen. The Minutemen themselves have, according to Gilchrist, a membership of around 4,500 of whom 6% are Latino.
I’m curious about people of colour who see themselves in a movement like this. I haven’t explanations other than pop-psychological ones involving self loathing and internalised racism which explain why they would want to sign up to bigotry. Then again, perhaps one doesn’t need to plumb the depths of the unconscious – my dad once told me there were too many immigrants in the UK. When I pointed out that he was an immigrant, his response was “Ah, but when I came over, I was a British subject.”
And perhaps the “immigrants are costing us millions, stealing our jobs and fucking our women” rhetoric really is as powerful as all that. Particularly on those who are confused about, and want, an identity. One woman on the Minuteman platform confessed “I’m the daughter of a Chinese immigrant, and I’m a Minuteman.” Someone from the counterprotest pointed out “BUT YOU’RE A WOMAN”. But I take her point – I don’t think she’d like to be called a MinuteMaid. Also, as the counterprotest marched by, and there were scuffles with the police, the Minuteman MC told the crowd sadly “there’s just not one American flag down there. There’s anarchist flags, the green party flag too probably.” Mainly, though, there were Mexican flags, which I found a bit troubling – substituting one kind of national tyranny for another isn’t very wise. The Zapatista support group was there, and they very conspicuously were not waving Mexican flags.
But a good protest nonetheless. Plus, there was plenty of good art. Like this, a fine collage of our dear Governor, and Yosemite Sam.