The web site asks: “Aren’t you tired of watching your state turn into a Third World cesspool right before your eyes?” That’s the racist message of Save Our State, one of a handful of far-right groups that are trying to grow in Southern California by creating the illusion that their forces are strong and their ideas are legitimate and mainstream.
Save Our State has organized several actions at day laborers’ hiring centers in the Los Angeles area, as well as in the Latino neighborhood of Baldwin Park. In front of the media’s cameras, the group’s members claim that they are not against individual immigrants. But when the cameras are turned off, these bigots spew racist slurs.
“This idea is predicated on a singular notion that Americans are fed up with illegal immigration and want to get involved with an outfit that is serious,” Joe Turner, founder of Save Our State, wrote on the group’s Web site. “Eventually, we are going to have an activist presence that will intimidate and strike fear into our opponents’ hearts. Not only because we will have the troop strength to evoke fear, but because of the manner in which we are active. We take our battles to the streets…something no other organization in the movement has ever done with any consistency or persistence.”
Not surprisingly, Save Our State maintains contact with “white nationalist” groups, like those that organize through the neo-Nazi Stormfront.org Web site.
Among the anti-immigrant groups, the Minuteman Project gained a high profile because its invasion of Arizona earlier this year, where vigilantes claimed that they would “patrol the border” in search of undocumented immigrants. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger praised the Minuteman Project and its founder, Jim Gilchrist, a California resident.
Gilchrist works with the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, headed by Barbara Coe, the co-author of Proposition 187, the anti-immigrant ballot measure approved by California voters in 1994.
Working alongside this group is another organization called Friends of the Border Patrol, whose leaders Andy Ramirez and Ron Prince (another co-author of Prop 187) unsuccessfully tried to get a new anti-immigrant referendum on the California ballot last fall. Now, Friends of the Border Patrol has called for a mobilization to patrol the California-Mexico border on September 16–Mexican Independence Day.
Another organization called the Border Patrol Auxiliary had planned a separate mobilization at the border on July 16–which it canceled late last month. Its leader, James Chase, openly encouraged members to arm themselves and organizes his members militia-style.
For this reason, Friends of the Border Patrol distanced themselves from Chase’s group–to protect their media image. But if there are minor tactical disagreements among them, all of these groups have members in common.
They aim to recruit members by using the media to create the appearance that there is a massive anti-immigrant movement in the U.S. Their goal is not only to promote anti-immigrant ballot measures and legislation, but to intimidate immigrants on the streets.
That’s why confronting them is crucial. Looking back on the rise of the Nazis in Germany, Adolph Hitler wrote, “Only one thing could have stopped our movement–if our adversaries had understood its principle and, from the first day, smashed with the utmost brutality the nucleus of our movement.”
Since Save Our State began its protests in the Los Angeles area, immigrant rights supporters and anti-racist organizations have come together to challenge them. In Baldwin Park, Garden Grove and Alhambra, counter-demonstrations have drawn from 300 to 500 people. Community groups, chapters of the Chicano organization MEChA, anti-war groups, and Chicano and immigrant rights organizations have built a level of opposition to the anti-immigrant bigots in California that the Minutemen didn’t face in Arizona.
Directly confronting groups like Save Our State wherever they show up is important–rather than organizing separate “positive” events focused on culture and celebration. After 300 antiracists confronted, surrounded and shouted down Save Our State in Alhambra in June, leader Joe Turner wrote on the group’s Web site, “LA County is basically a write-off situation at the moment. Since LA is essentially a municipality of Mexico we are not doing ourselves many favors by assembling there.”
A few days later, the Border Patrol Auxiliary announced that it was calling off its border action in July. Immigrant rights activists plan to rally anyway to claim their victory.
SARAH KNOPP writes for the Socialist Worker.