Thursday, July 10, 2014

Militia Efforts to Converge at the Border Fizzle Out

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

What if militias announced a showdown with the feds and nobody came?

That’s pretty much what happened in Texas this week, after a handful of militia activists called on their fellow militia members to intervene in the increasingly fraught humanitarian crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border, involving large numbers of children from Central America who are straining the government’s ability to process their complicated cases.

For a Texas militiaman named Chris Davis, there was nothing complicated about it. In a video he posted at YouTube – which he has since been removed – he offered a simple solution for dealing with the young border crossers.

“How?” Davis asked rhetorically. “You see an illegal, you point your gun right dead at them, right between the eyes, and say ‘Get back across the border, or you will be shot.’ Simple as that. If you get any flak from sheriffs, city, or feds, Border Patrol, tell them look — this is our birthright. We have a right to secure our own land. This is our land. This is our birthright.”

Davis’s solution was part of his call to his fellow militia members to make their way to the Texas border near Laredo in order to prevent child refugees from crossing there. Late last week, he posted an “Action Alert” bulletin at various online forums, including his Operation Secure Our Border Facebook page. “All Texas & National Militia Available Please Converge Immediately,” it said.

The alert said the “mission” was to “close down Laredo Crossing for starters,” and that the operation would be “complete when border fence is in place and secure.”

It named a gathering point at a truck stop in Encinal, Texas, and concluded: “It’s time to bring down the thunder. Activating the Patriots willing to stand up for America GO GO GO. … Let’s share this like the brushfires of Liberty.”

However, Davis’ militia muster call quickly vanished into virtual thin air. Shortly after he began receiving media attention – including accounts in the  McAllenville Monitor, Brownsville Herald, San Antonio Express-News and Los Angeles Times – he not only took down all his YouTube videos and deleted his channel there, he also deleted his Facebook page and all its incendiary antigovernment content.

Davis told the Express-News that he removed the video Monday because it was taken out of context “by a newspaper that supports amnesty.”

“We’re here to supplement and be where law enforcement is not and help them support the border,” Davis told Los Angeles Times. “There’s nothing malicious, there’s no malicious intent — every person is vetted. We’re just here to serve freedom, liberty and national sovereignty.”

Davis described himself as a 37-year-old truck driver, saying he had served in the Army and National Guard, and had been involved in Open Carry Texas events. He told reporters that the militia was in “preliminary stages of recruiting and training volunteers” and would be showing up in Laredo “in a few weeks.” He wouldn’t say how many were involved.

He and a spokeswoman from North Carolina named Denice Freeman tried to quickly reshape the image of their campaign.

“This is not a ‘go-in-guns-blazing’ kind of thing,” Freeman told the Brownsville Herald. “This will be handled with the utmost professionalism and security and safety for everyone involved.”

One of Davis’ Texas cohorts, a militiaman from Rocksprings named Rick Light, told the Los Angeles Times that he was surprised by the video.

“I’ve never known Chris Davis to threaten anyone like that,” Light said. “There’s a lot of hype and Commander Davis is kind of being targeted.”

Light insisted that they plan to be a “productive, professional militia that just assists our law enforcement.”

Within a few days, though, Davis had dropped out of view entirely. Scheduled to appear on a web talk show on the conspiracist Truth Broadcasting Network called Death to the New World Order, Davis simply didn’t show up. The host, Harry Link, told listeners that he called Davis himself and was told he simply couldn’t do the interview.

Link was furious, and spent the bulk of his remaining hour-plus of airtime ranting against Davis, claiming that the militia presence on the border not only was “fake” but actually comprised a New World Order “psyops” program designed to fool true Patriots like himself.

Davis identified himself to a couple of reporters as a “III Percenter,” one of several antigovernment Patriot movement organizations. However, Mike Vanderboegh, one of the originators of the “III Percent” concept and something of a self-anointed kingmaker in the militia movement, wrote a scathing post about Davis’ plans on the border, concluding: “Based on what I know now, stay as far away from this incipient exercise in cluster coitus as you can.”

However, Davis was not the only right-wing extremist calling for militias to head for the Texas border. At the Free Republic – where one of the first “Operation Secure Our Border” bulletins was posted – publisher Jim Robinson posted his own call to action, this time for the California militias to get out there and help support the efforts in Texas.

“Ok, this is just the germination of the plan,” Robinson wrote. “We have independent units from the Bolinas Border Patrol and the Central Valley Citizens militia joining forces with independent citizens militia units of Texas to defend our southern border in Texas, to protest Obama’s lawless open borders policies and to rally support for Governor Perry to officially call out Guard units and Texas militia units at his disposal to defend the border!! Lawsuits will not cut it. The invasion is happening now. Action must be taken NOW!!”

That plan seems to have drawn roughly the same response as Davis’ muster – namely, none at all.
Likewise, another Patriot-movement site called “Patriot Information Hotline”, operated by a woman named Barbie Rogers, ran Davis’s original “Call to Action”, and then became a short-lived conduit for information about the Texas effort. She told an interviewer on Newsmax’s “MidPoint” show that this would be an ongoing effort: “This will continue for days and weeks to come” and spread “to other points” along the Mexico border, she said.

An Express-News reporter called Rodgers’ “Patriot Hotline” and was told that there were already “boots on the ground” in Laredo. The message at the hotline told callers to provide a name to perform a “criminal background check to make sure you don’t have any felonies”.

And then there was militia enthusiast Dyna DeRien, who posts at YouTube as 1HellOnHeels and calls herself the “CEO and founder” of “the American Anti-Federalist Patriot Party.” After Davis yanked all his videos from the Internet, hers were the only videos remaining on the web describing the militia plan of attack and the motivation for turning out on the border.

“We’re tired of those SOBs in Washington D.C. bringing all these illegals into our country and just spreading ‘em out with all their diseases all over the place,” she said.

A day later, that rant had been taken down, too.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Jim Gilchrist Eyes Reviving the Minutemen to Exploit Fresh Border Crisis

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Jim Gilchrist, the California-based cofounder of the nativist border watch group the Minuteman Project, was last in the news back in 2009, when one of his associates was arrested by the FBI for murdering a 9-year-old girl and her father in their Arizona home. But he’s bidding to make headlines again by reawakening the Minutemen around the growing controversy over the child refugee crisis at the border.

In an interview last week with the right-wing cable channel One America News Network (OANN), Gilchrist announced that he was considering restarting his moribund organization:

GILCHRIST: I have been toying with this idea for several years. I personally would like to organize another major massive assembly of Minute-men and –women along the entire border – not just Arizona this time, but the entire 2,000-mile border from San Diego, California, to Brownsville, Texas. I would need 3,500 volunteers to spend thirty days in certain areas of the unprotected border areas along that 2,000-mile-long border. It takes 10 months – it would take me until next May to organize such a huge effort.
And Gilchrist was casting about for support on the Minuteman Project website as well:

1. Should the Minuteman Project again call up volunteers to establish observation outpost
positions on the U.S. – Mexico border from San Diego, Ca. to Brownsville, Texas?
2. Would you volunteer to spend up to 30 days of your time staffing an observation outpost on the border?

Gilchrist’s tendency toward delusional grandiosity was on display in the OANN interview, when he veered into a comparison between organizing a month-long Minuteman protest to the Normandy invasion on D-Day:

GILCHRIST: For example, Normandy was not thought about and organized overnight. It took two years to organize and create the logistics and the ability for the Allied Powers in World War II to actually land at Normandy. Of course, this is not Normandy that I’m talking about, but it is an endeavor that’s just as full of tedium, day after day, logistics that have to be covered. I need lawyers, I need captains, I need personnel, I need law-enforcement liaisons, I need airwaves – Ham radio operators, I need about 300 of those. So on and so forth.

It’s not like you just say, well, ‘We’re the Minutemen and we’re coming to the border, and we’re gonna save the day and we’re gonna do it tomorrow.’ It doesn’t happen that way.

It seems to have escaped Gilchrist’s notice somehow that the original Minutemen of the American Revolutionary War from whom his group took its name were noted for their ability to respond to situations at a moment’s notice (thus their name). But that is among the lesser obstacles to a revival of the Minutemen by Gilchrist.

The most chilling aspect of the possible involvement of the Minutemen in the increasingly tense fight over how U.S. immigration officials handle the humanitarian crisis at the border involving large numbers of Central American children – who, under laws passed in 2002, cannot be immediately deported but must undergo complex hearings to determine if they warrant asylum – lies in their established track record. That record includes the cold-blooded murder of a Latina girl in Arizona.

Despite Gilchrist’s longstanding claims of “success” for the vigilante border watch group he cofounded with Arizonan Chris Simcox in April 2005, the entire effort splintered apart and both Gilchrist and Simcox fell under the shadow of claims of mismanagement and misappropriation of funds.

Even more significantly, the border watch movement became a major magnet for some of the most vicious and violent elements of the far right, including neo-Nazis and various white supremacists who participated in the initial April 2005 effort in Arizona.

Gilchrist is clearly cognizant of this problem, because he brought it up, and attempted to address it, in the OANN interview:

GILCHRIST: In all fairness, there is that two percent whacko rate that everybody has in the activist organizations, and they have to be vetted out. About two percent of the people will be bit strange and probably should be staying home.
We had that issue in the Minutemen assembly of 2005, and we handled it very well. No one was arrested, no one drew a weapon on anyone, there were no fights. It was very, very successful.

In reality, as David Holthouse reported for the Southern Poverty Law Center at the time, Gilchrist appeared on-camera at the Arizona gathering with a group of men who were avowed neo-Nazis without apparently realizing it – and proceeded to lecture the reporters about how their efforts were the modern equivalent to Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights campaigns.

While both of the Minutemen organizations that emerged from the Simcox-Gilchrist split claimed in the ensuing years that they performed extensive background checks on all their officers and members in an effort to “weed out” the criminals, the reality was that the organization was plagued by criminality, culminating with the criminal rampage of Jim Gilchrist’s associate, Shawna Forde.

Forde – a onetime hairdresser and Boeing worker from Everett, Wash., who first became involved in the Minutemen during their short-lived effort to organize citizen watches on the Canadian border in an attempt to rebut accusations of racism for concentrating on the Mexico border – became the symbol of everything wrong with the border watch movement when she and a team of men invaded the home of a marijuana smuggler in the remote border town of Arivaca, Ariz., in the early morning hours of May 30, 2009.

Her team included Jason Eugene Bush, a white supremacist serial killer who had fooled his colleagues into believing he was an experienced combat veteran. Bush acted as Forde’s gunman and shot Raul “Junior” Flores, his wife, Gina Gonzalez, and their 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia Flores, as she pleaded for her life. Gonzalez survived her wounds, pretending to be dead, and eventually drove the invaders from her home in a fusillade of exchanged gunfire. Forde and two of her cohorts – including Bush and a local man named Albert Gaxiola, who had organized the “hit” – were arrested, tried, and convicted. Forde and Bush both are on Arizona’s Death Row.

Both Simcox and Gilchrist immediately tried to distance themselves from any association with Forde, and were largely successful in doing so in much of the mainstream press, including Fox News. However, as my investigation of the matter revealed, both men had extensive dealings with her at various times.

While it was Simcox who first promoted and empowered Forde at the state level, it was Gilchrist who most ardently adopted her when she formed her own border watch outfit, calling it Minuteman American Defense (MAD). After Forde sponsored two Gilchrist appearances in Washington state, she moved her operations to Arizona, and Gilchrist’s website began trumpeting Forde’s activities – in fact, he essentially outsourced all of his border watch activities to her, and anyone who approached the Minuteman Project asking where to go to stand guard at the border was referred to Forde. (Forde herself has hinted that it was Gilchrist who connected her with Jason Bush.)

Even after Forde committed the murders, she remained in contact with Gilchrist. On the day she was finally arrested nearly two weeks later, outside the ranch owned by another nativist extremist leader, Glenn Spencer, she had just finished firing off an email to Jim Gilchrist using Spencer’s computer.

Even though the Minutemen remained a leading name among nativist extremist groups for several years afterward, the steam quickly left the movement and most organizations stopped using the “Minuteman” moniker out of fear of being associated with Forde and her antics. In a fitting denouement, Chris Simcox was arrested last year and currently awaits trial on multiple charges of child molestation.

In the meantime, with a fresh border crisis to exploit, Jim Gilchrist is clearly hoping that everyone will have forgotten all this, and he will be able to return to those halcyon days when thousands of angry Americans were sending him checks.

Just as he did a decade ago, Jim Gilchrist is trying to organize a mass movement using conspiracy-minded fears of hordes of invaders at the border and the supposed decline of white America – attitudes that were raw material for violent haters such as Shawna Forde.