PHOENIX, ARIZONA: Nationalism and border security

12 July 2005

PHOENIX, ARIZONA: Nationalism and border security

by Scott Kerr

In the shade, it was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit this past weekend in
Phoenix, but the heat did not seem to bother over 200 Minuteman supporters
and the seventy-five counter-protestors. United States flags were as
common as water bottles among Minutemen as they gathered in front of the
State Capitol building.

I was there also with the small white cross that I carried the month before
along the seventy-six mile migrant trail bearing the name of a migrant who
died in the dessert, Albino Montes Campos, age forty. Some people asked me
about the cross; most did not. One man asked in a sarcastic way if Albino
died defending our borders. I said no and then talked about my family's
military history. Maybe the better answer would have been "No, Albino died
defending our principles."

The conversation between the counter protestors and the Minutemen largely
centered around two ideas. The counter-protestors talked about racism and
the Minutemen focused on law and order and national security. These themes
often appear in the discussion of national immigration and border reform.

Listening to the speakers, I heard recent immigrants talk about the long
process of getting papers, and from parents of a border patrol agent who had
been shot and killed by undocumented migrants. These personal testimonies
affected me deeply.

Later, while sitting under a tree listening to more speakers trying to
explain the increasingly blurry line between nationalism and racism, the
concepts all came together for me. About ten feet in front of me sat a man
in his thirties with his two children. One of them was an eleven year-old
girl holding a sign saying "Stop the invasion." On the sign was the same
graphic that appeared on flyers in Douglas, AZ on Easter morning. The
flyers were put out on 8th Street in Douglas by the white supremacist group
National Alliance. Local hate group monitors suggested they chose 8th
Street to honor Hitler (H is the 8th letter in the alphabet.)

Seeing the presence of this hate group at this rally was not surprising.
What surprised me was seeing so many people casually greeting the man from
the National Alliance, and talking about guns, ammo and the increasing
likelihood of using them. Before I left my shady place under the tree I
also observed the Master of Ceremonies of the event greet the same man as an
old friend.

Attending this Minutemen rally in Phoenix in some ways was as scary as
working in Colombia during a paramilitary invasion, or Baghdad during the
bombings. Here in the middle of a large U.S. city are White Nationalist
groups openly organizing and recruiting. Similar gatherings of people are
planting and watering seeds of hate and violence around the country--people
who will use "border security" as a code word for nationalism and/or