Drop the Charges! No Jail Time for the Anti-Minutemen 5!

Revolution #038, March 12, 2006, posted at revcom.us

Revolution received the following from the Anti-Minutemen 5:

Right now this country is seeing increasingly vicious attacks on immigrants, justified in the name of the "War on Terror." When people step out to oppose these outrages, they must be supported. And when they are attacked, they must be defended. A group of five young people – white, Latino, Muslim – are facing up to four years in jail for a protest against the racist vigilante group the Minutemen. We need you to join in demanding that the charges be dismissed immediately against the Anti-Minutemen 5.

Legal and political precedents are being set that are chillingly similar to the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany. Since 9/11, the administration has built legal precedent for the concept that immigrants — especially Arab and Muslim — are not entitled to due process, and can be held indefinitely in deplorable conditions. Legislators such as Tom Tancredo and Dennis Hastert are calling immigrants a threat to America, defending harsh profiling, and manipulating fear to justify any anti-immigrant measures in the name of the "war on terror." The Sensenbrenner bill (HB 4437), which passed the House in December, would turn millions of immigrants into felons for crossing without permission – and would make it a felony for anyone to aid or assist them. If this passes the Senate it would mean millions of teachers, health workers, and activists could become felons for giving aid or education or even a drink of water or a ride to the hospital. And in February 2006, the U.S. government announced a $385 million contract with Halliburton to build detention centers for immigrants. This in a country that runs notorious torture centers in Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.

Just what will happen in these detention centers, built to lock away undocumented people whose legal rights have been disappeared, and who have been cast as "hordes," "invaders," and a threat to national security?

In this atmosphere, groups like the Minutemen serve as semi-official shock troops and enforcers. They patrol the border with guns, hunting the human beings they call a threat to the "fabric of America." Recently they attacked a teacher in Elgin, Illinois, for teaching about Mexican Independence Day, acting as the self-appointed enforcers of patriotism and jingoism. Minuteman co-founder Chris Simcox accused his opposition of being "terrorists" – and despite his complete lack of evidence, this accusation was disseminated widely by the Associated Press.

They hold rallies on the lawn of the Capitol, to national press coverage. Rep. John Culbertson of Texas has introduced bills asking for financial support and legal recognition for their armed patrols. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has twice praised these folks for doing a "fine job."

On October 15, people of different nationalities held a peaceful protest on the public sidewalk in front of the site of a Minutemen conference, in Arlington Heights, Illinois, near Chicago, in a show of solidarity with immigrants. This protest was sponsored by many immigrant rights groups and the Chicago World Can't Wait committee as well. Two of the defendants have been active in World Can't Wait. They chanted and spoke out against the Minutemen and in favor of immigrant rights. The response? On orders from the Minutemen, the cops attacked the protest, even though demonstrators were not preventing anyone from entering the conference, and had done nothing but chant on the sidewalk. They called in two regional special task forces, drawn from police from more than 90 surrounding cities, dogs, riot gear, and heavy artillery.

They singled out five of the most vocal activists – including the only woman at the protest wearing a hijab (Muslim head scarf), which they tore off of her head in a blatant violation of her religious rights. Those five were given outrageous and trumped-up charges of resisting arrest and battery against the police officers. Some are facing potentially four years in jail. Two state’s attorneys have refused to discuss a plea without jail time. Their case goes to trial on March 24.

This is part of the overall criminalization of dissent in this country, where protest is equated with treason. Where the president declares the right to spy on anyone, for whatever reason he wants, and says that the real danger is that newspapers dared to write about it!

When opposition to the Minutemen is attacked, while they are protected and promoted, it is clear that the government intends to enforce its anti-immigrant program and to silence anyone who gets in the way. The message is this: Don’t protest. Don’t resist. This can’t be allowed to happen! Charges like this have and can be defeated, but not without tremendous political battles for support. You have an important role to play in this. Here’s what you can do:

  • Send letters now—we need thousands—to the State's Attorney, asking that the case be immediately dismissed:
    Richard A. Devine
    Cook County State's Attorney
    500 Richard J. Daley Center
    Chicago, IL 60602
  • Funds are needed very urgently; we need to raise upwards of $10,000 in legal expenses in a few weeks. Send contributions and make checks out to:
    Law Office of Jim Fennerty
    36 South Wabash, Suite 1310
    Chicago, IL 60603
    Attn: anti-MM5
  • Come to the Rolling Meadows courthouse at 8 am on March 24 to demand the charges be dropped.
  • Spread the word and build support: write about the case in your local newspaper; post this flyer on blogs and web sites; arrange for one of the Anti-Minutemen 5 to be interviewed by your local radio or TV station or newspaper.

Contact at: Antiminutemen5@yahoo.com

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