Minuteman Project kicks off 12-city tour to build support for immigration reform
LOS ANGELES – Leaders of the Minuteman Project began a cross-country tour Wednesday to seek support for tighter border security, launching a caravan to the nation’s capital from a heavily black neighborhood where many residents shouted at the civilian patrol group to go home.Minuteman leaders started the trip from a park in a black neighborhood as part of a push to attract more blacks as members.”If we are going to be giving preference to anybody … preference should go to the American-African community that has suffered more than anybody,” Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist told a crowd of 40 supporters that included about 10 blacks.But the event soon provoked screaming matches about whether illegal immigrants were taking jobs from blacks or should be embraced as fellow minorities looking for a better life.Gilchrist had to yell over a dozen mostly black protesters who chanted “Minutemen go home!” and “KKK go home!”Gilchrist repeatedly stopped his speech to address the protesters, telling them: “Ours is not a racial cause. It’s a rule-of-law cause.”As Gilchrist spoke, supporters and opponents engaged in a heated debate.”Hispanics are taking away our jobs,” said Angela Broussard, 38, a black playwright. “They are moving into our neighborhoods, so now where are we going to go?”Morris Griffin held a sign criticizing a measure passed by the U.S. House that would make it a felony to be in this country illegally and penalize people who aid undocumented immigrants.”Don’t pit the blacks against the browns, like they do in the jails and schools,” Griffin told Broussard.When the chants and arguments persisted, Gilchrist stepped up his rhetoric.”Minutemen, stand your ground,” he said. “Do not fire unless fired upon. And if it’s a war he wants, then let it begin here.”Gilchrist then boarded an RV and left. His vehicle was followed from the park by two other RVs and a few cars.Organizers hoped the trip would help counter marches staged Monday around the nation by more than 1 million people demanding amnesty for illegal immigrants.According to the Minutemen Web site, the caravan is scheduled to stop in President Bush’s vacation haven of Crawford, Texas, as well as Phoenix, Albuquerque, N.M.; Abilene, Texas; Little Rock, Ark.; Memphis, Tenn.; Nashville, Tenn.; Birmingham, Ala.; Atlanta; Greensboro, N.C.; and Richmond, Va., before arriving in Washington.—On the Net:Minuteman Project: http://www.minutemanproject.comVail, Colorado
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