Minuteman Project prepares a post-boycott counterpunch
LOS ANGELES (AP) – The Minuteman Project civilian border patrol is readying its counterpunch.
Following widespread pro-immigrant rallies, the group is launching a 12-city caravan tour Wednesday to Washington, D.C., to garner support for its get-tough border stance and pressure federal lawmakers.
Echoing refrains of immigrant marchers who chanted “Today we march, tomorrow we vote,” organizers say they will use the caravan to mobilize voters and recruit members to counter the impact made by the more than 1 million illegal immigrants and their supporters who took to the nation’s streets on Monday.
Minuteman Project officials acknowledged, however, that they would have a hard time mustering the same kind of numbers for a rally of their own. Demonstrations by the Minuteman Project on Monday were scattered and small, often numbering fewer than 100 people per city.
“Our power is not putting a million people on the street; our power is putting 10 million people at the voting box,” said Stephen Eichler, the group’s executive director. “Their voice is accompanied by a lot of bodies, but our voice is accompanied by even more bodies who aren’t going to go out in the street.”
The caravan will arrive on Capitol Hill for a May 12 rally as senators rush to pass an immigration reform bill before a Memorial Day deadline set by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.
Federal lawmakers must then reconcile the Senate bill – which will likely include a guest worker program and a potential path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants – with a House bill that would criminalize them.
The caravan will leave Wednesday from Los Angeles with about 100 staff members and supporters, said Eichler. It will stop in President Bush’s vacation haven of Crawford, Texas, as well as in Phoenix, Ariz.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Abilene, Texas; Little Rock, Ark.; Memphis and Nashville, Tenn.; Montgomery, Ala.; Atlanta; and Richmond, Va.
Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist, a former tax accountant from Orange County, plans to ride the caravan route with a bulletproof vest on hand and heightened security to protect him from “hostile actions,” Eichler said.
“He is a national icon and we take the proper precautions around him at all times, like you would with any celebrity,” he said. “We’re very careful with him. He’s not afraid, but we’re afraid for him.”
Eichler declined to discuss exactly what type of threat Gilchrist faces.
One supporter, Penny Magnotto of Upland, Calif., said she and a friend were planning to follow the caravan in their RV and visit seven additional states on their return to recruit more members.
“We’ll never get a million Americans out on the streets. You couldn’t,” said Magnotto, founder of the Minuteman spin-off Minutewomen on the Road. “But if one in 100 people that we meet up with kind of get it and see that we’re nice family people I will be thrilled.”
On the Net:
Minuteman Project: http://www.minutemanproject.com
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