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The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps dissolved this past spring, after years of infighting and accusations of financial mismanagement. But the demise of the group, once so media-genic that it spawned many imitators, does not signal the death of organized nativism in the United States. On the contrary, the anti-immigrant movement is stronger than ever. And it is gaining political muscle through its growing ties to other ultraconservative groups.
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A superior court in Arizona has ruled that Chris Simcox, the disgraced former head of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC), must continue to maintain distance from his estranged wife Alena and their children. In recent years, MCDC was one of the most important of the country’s anti-immigration extremist groups, but the organization has been considerably weakened of late.
“The court finds that conflicting testimony has been presented on every allegation and the court must make a determination of credibility,” The Washington Times quotes Maricopa County Superior Court Commissioner J. Justin McGuire as writing in his decision. “The court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that there is reasonable cause to believe that the defendant has committed an act of domestic violence within the last year. The court further finds that good cause exists to continue the order of protection in this case.” ( continue to full post… )
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In an Arizona Senate campaign in which immigration and border security have been center stage issues, it’s no surprise that Chris Simcox managed to insert himself back into local headlines. Since reinventing himself in 2002 as the charismatic founder of the vigilante border-watch group Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. (MCDC), Simcox has always found a way to command attention.
But the latest chapter in the Simcox saga has been more low-comedy soap opera than high-desert drama. It’s been years since Simcox was the subject of national media attention and a regular guest on Fox News and CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight.” He began his most recent attempt at a comeback with big ambitions, his goal nothing less than unseating sitting Republican senator John McCain. When his efforts went nowhere and he dropped out of the race, Simcox found himself back in the familiar position of issuing pleading E-mail messages to his remaining (and most gullible) supporters, begging them not to abandon him in his latest hour of financial and legal need.
As Hatewatch noted in early June, Simcox’s estranged wife, Alena Lyras Simcox, has accused him of threatening her and their children with loaded handguns on two occasions in late 2009. He also allegedly threatened to shoot police if his wife called them to their home in Scottsdale, Ariz. Although Simcox denies the allegations, in April a Phoenix judge ordered Simcox to move out of the Scottsdale house, surrender his guns and maintain a distance of 200 yards from his family. His next court hearing in the custody dispute is scheduled for August.
Now, in the July 9 edition of his increasingly self-pitying E-mail newsletter, “The Simcox Report,” Simcox accuses his wife of having been involved in an adulterous relationship with Stacey O’Connell, a former member of the MCDC with whom Simcox has been feuding for years, since November of 2009. (O’Connell has denied the allegation.) Simcox charges that ever since O’Connell was thrown out of the MDCD in 2007, the self-described (but unlicensed) “bounty hunter” has “been engaged in an obsessive, devious plan to ruin my personal life.” In mid-June, in fact, O’Connell’s Fugitive Recovery Services of Arizona issued a “Wanted” poster for Simcox, saying that O’Connell had been hired by Lyras to serve the protective ordered granted to Lyras by the court. In the E-mail, Simcox treats his supporters to a large selection of text messages he says O’Connell has sent him in recent weeks, including one taunting, “i chased your skinny little ass right out of the state, youre such a little man (sic).” ( continue to full post… )
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Chris Simcox always wanted to be famous. Now, in a manner of speaking, he is.
Late last week, Fugitive Recovery Services of Arizona (FRS) released a “Wanted” poster asking for information about the location of Simcox, who it says readers should consider “ARMED & DANGEROUS.” The bounty hunters are seeking Simcox, co-founder of the anti-immigration Minuteman movement, so that an order of protection obtained by his estranged wife in April can be served. There is no warrant for his arrest and he is facing no criminal charges.
Alena Simcox was granted a protective order after telling a court that her husband had threatened her and her three children, aged 2, 3 and 8, with a loaded gun, and suggested that he would kill police officers if they interfered. The document orders Simcox to vacate the house in Scottsdale, Ariz., the couple shared, stay 200 yards away from his wife and children, and turn in any weapons to police.
“Simcox is known to be hiding, possibly staying in hotels, or with known associate Carmen Mercer in Tombstone AZ,” the poster says. Mercer long worked with Simcox in his Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, and took it over when he left to run for an Arizona Senate seat long held by John McCain (he dropped out of the race earlier this year). She folded the organization in March. (Mercer is also a defendant in a recent Arizona attorney general’s lawsuit alleging a property tax scam.)
FRS is offering $500 for information about Simcox’s whereabouts.
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Chris Simcox, co-founder of the Minuteman movement and a principal nativist leader, threatened to kill his wife and family last year, according to a petition filed in Maricopa County Court in mid-April by his estranged spouse, Alena Simcox.
According to Phoenix New Times’ Steve Lemons, who broke the story yesterday, a Maricopa County court commissioner granted the petition April 16 and ordered Simcox to remain 200 yards away from Alena, their two children, and Alena’s child from a previous relationship. The order prohibits Simcox from possessing, receiving or purchasing firearms or ammunition.
The filing describes several violent incidents, Lemons reports. On Nov. 29, 2009, Alena alleges, Simcox was “drinking” and threatened her “with a gun. Repeatedly pointed it at me, saying he was going to kill me, and my kids, and the police. Kids were present and saw him. Very verbally abusive to me throughout the incident.”
On Aug. 22, 2009, Alena alleges, Simcox again confronted her with a weapon: “On our wedding anniversary, he was drinking and angery [sic]. Got a revolver gun and loaded with kids present. Then proceeded to ask me to ‘shoot him.’ I said ‘no,’ so then he said he would shoot entire family and cops.”
In late April, Alena Simcox file a petition for divorce from Simcox after five years of marriage. She was temporarily granted legal custody of the children, pending resolution of the divorce. A reply to the court, filed by Simcox’s lawyer John Acer, denies the allegations of domestic violence. The two were married in late 2005, when Simcox was 44 and Alena was 25.
This isn’t the first time Simcox has been accused of violent and bizarre behavior by a spouse. In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center revealed that Simcox’s second wife, Kim Dunbar, had filed an emergency appeal in September 2001 to obtain full custody of their teenage son because she feared that Simcox had suffered a mental breakdown and was dangerous. ( continue to full post… )
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April 19 is the most significant date on the antigovernment “Patriot” movement’s calendar. It marks the day that the first shots were fired against the British in 1775 at Lexington and Concord, but it’s also the anniversary of the end of the 1993 FBI siege at Waco, Texas, as well as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
This year, the day will be marked by feverish activity from the fast-growing Patriot movement, whose ranks swelled from 149 groups in 2008 to 512 in 2009. Militias, which are the paramilitary arm of the Patriot movement, also grew quickly, rising from 42 in 2008 to 127 in 2009.
Here is what the Patriots have planned for April 19:
• Longtime Georgia militia organizer Jim Stachowiak reportedly has called on his fellow militiamen to discharge their weapons at midnight, thereby causing a flood of citizens to call 911 and overload emergency services. Stachowiak’s plans prompted the Alabama Fusion Center, which focuses on the prevention of terrorism, to issue an April 9 bulletin warning law enforcement agencies that “an individual with militia ties in Georgia” is “coordinating a plan” with the intent to “disrupt emergency services.”
• Patriot leaders, for whom the specter of gun restrictions is a recurring theme, will join gun rights advocates for a “Second Amendment March” in Washington, D.C. Speakers will include: Stewart Rhodes, founder of Oath Keepers, a conspiracy-minded, antigovernment organization composed mostly of active-duty police and military officers and veterans; Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff who travels the country preaching about the evils of the federal government; Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, who advocated the formation of citizen militias in the United States in the early 1990s; and U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, a Georgia Republican who has questioned President Obama’s citizenship and suggested the administration might use a pandemic or natural disaster as an excuse to declare martial law.
• An open-carry rally to “Restore the Constitution” will be held at Ft. Hunt National Park near Mount Vernon, Va. Designated a “call to muster,” those rallying want the federal government to know that they “will not be ignored anymore.” Daniel Almond, who believes the federal government is “bringing totalitarian socialism to America” and is a member of the Georgia chapter of the Oath Keepers, organized the event. Speakers will include Richard Mack and Larry Pratt, who will also speak to the D.C. rally, as well as Bob Wright, who ran the New Mexico militia in the 1990s and has more recently participated in border vigilante operations with the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, and Mike Vanderboegh, a longtime Alabama militiaman who recently called for his supporters to throw bricks through the offices of representatives who voted for health care reform. This past Tuesday, the head of the Oath Keepers withdrew as a speaker due to “published statements by a few outspoken participants.” The group did not ask its members to stay away from the event.
• Members of the Patriot group We the People (WTP) plan to visit elected officials across the country as part of their 2010 “Plan to Restore our Constitution.” Led by radical tax protestor Bob Schulz, the group helped launch the militia movement in May when it held an organizing meeting in Jekyll Island, Ga., that included many leaders of the 1990s militia movement as well as several new recruits. The group is demanding that elected officials enact its radical “Articles of Freedom.” They call for the repeal of all social service spending, denounce “a cartel of private banks,” demand a currency alternative to the dollar, and insist on the end of taxation. Taking a page from the “sovereign citizens” movement, the document calls for an end to driver’s licenses, auto registration and insurance. And rejecting the existing legal system, it demands the creation of “randomly empanelled citizens’ common law grand juries” to determine when a trial will take place. Like the anti-Semitic hard-liners of Posse Comitatus in the 1980s, it also asks that Americans treat county sheriffs as the highest legitimate police authority.
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A major nativist group known for its armed border patrols is disbanding.
In a Monday E-mail to supporters, Minuteman Civil Defense Corps President Carmen Mercer said the MCDC will no longer exist as an organization, though she encouraged supporters to continue its work independently. “I predict Americans, on their own, will lock, load and do what the feckless cowards in Washington refuse to do — and frankly I hope Americans do take up arms to defend this great nation,” she wrote in the “urgent alert.”
MCDC is an offshoot of the Minuteman Project, a month-long civilian border patrol that was covered extensively by journalists five years ago. (Then-President George W. Bush called the Minutemen “vigilantes” in March 2005.) In 2009, MCDC had at least 74 chapters in nearly 30 states, making it the biggest of the Minuteman spin-off groups. But MCDC and the larger Minuteman movement have been plagued by infighting, allegations of financial impropriety and civil litigation. In addition, the leader of Minuteman American Defense (MAD) was charged with the May 2009 murder of a 9-year-old Latina girl and her father during a home invasion in Arivaca, Ariz., setting off furious accusations and counter-accusations over who had supported MAD’s Shawna Forde over the years.
The announcement of MCDC’s dissolution also followed an E-mail Mercer sent a week earlier, in which she urged supporters to bring their long arms to the border and to “forcefully engage” the “criminals” who try to cross without documentation. Mercer wrote on Monday that she received hundreds of responses to that E-mail, including some that sounded over-enthusiastic. “It was obvious that many had decided to return to the border who had tired of the sometimes futile watch and observe methods. It showed me that people are not willing to be silenced anymore; it also showed me that people will be less likely to follow the rules of engagement in a desperate attempt to stop the criminals who violate our borders every day. That is not what we want and we cannot take the responsibility for this.” ( continue to full post… )
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The leader of the nativist extremist group Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC) publicly repudiates the use of illegal tactics to secure the border against undocumented immigrants. “If one single individual steps over the line for their personal gratification, we are all stained with that irresponsible behavior, and labeled forever as a fringe element that embarrasses all who are counting on us to make a historic statement,” MCDC President Carmen Mercer wrote on the group’s website.
But Mercer doesn’t sound nearly so careful in a recent E-mail to Minutemen that repeatedly asks them to come to the border “locked and loaded” — military jargon for an assault rifle that’s ready for firing — and prepared to “forcefully engage” the “criminals” who try to cross without documentation. Monday’s “urgent alert” announced an armed border patrol operation that’s scheduled to begin on March 26 and to last until the U.S. military is deployed to secure the border.
“President Obama and John McCain have left us no choice – this March we return to the border locked, loaded and ready to stop each and every individual we encounter along the frontier that is now more dangerous than the frontier of Afghanistan,” Mercer wrote in part. “This operation will not be for the faint of heart. MCDC volunteers will work under an entire different SOP [standard operating procedure]; we will approach our duty as citizens as we should – we have a zero tolerance for any and all violations of our border and we will forcefully engage, detain, and defend our lives and country from the criminals who trample over our culture and laws. Long arms will be allowed and frankly, encouraged.”
Though MCDC has conducted armed border patrols before (and they’re perfectly legal under Arizona’s lenient gun laws), Mercer’s latest rhetoric is especially shrill. In the E-mail, she referred to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano as “an unqualified buffoon who risks the lives of American citizens every day she is the head of DHS.” She also states that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has been more sympathetic to immigrants than many in his party, “is responsible for every death of an American citizen at the hands of illegal alien criminals and the drug cartels.”
Mercer, of Tombstone, Ariz., did not respond to an E-mail message sent yesterday seeking clarification of her statements. In addition, her voice mail was full and would not accept messages. A German immigrant and longtime Minuteman leader, Mercer was named in lawsuit filed by the Arizona attorney general’s last summer after a post office box she owned was included in a property tax solicitation aimed at scamming homeowners. Mercer claimed that she had opened the post office box for a friend and didn’t know it would be used in the alleged fraud.
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In 1773, American colonists dumped tea into Boston Harbor to protest taxation without representation under British rule. If they were around today, the colonists might be surprised by the array of perceived ills around which their modern-day counterparts have been rallying at symbolic “tea parties” across the country: the Wall Street bailout, the income tax, big government, President Barack Obama, and now, the possibility of citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Nativist leader William Gheen has joined the tea party frenzy by organizing “Tea Parties Against Amnesty and Illegal Immigration,” scheduled for this Saturday, Nov. 14, in more than 50 towns and cities nationwide. Gheen, who heads Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, said in a news release that the event is just the prelude to more tea parties and other anti-amnesty campaigning in the spring. Also sponsoring tomorrow’s protests are the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a nativist extremist group, and RightMarch.com, according to the event website, AgainstAmnesty.com.
The local organizers of the anti-amnesty tea parties include some prominent nativists, according to AgainstAmnesty.com. In Chicago, Rosanna Pulido served as a regional field coordinator for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as a hate group in part because of its ties to white supremacists. She also formed the Chicago and Illinois chapters of the Minuteman Project and represented the FAIR-financed front group You Don’t Speak for Me! In Hazleton, Pa., Dan Smeriglio heads the Voice of the People, which organized an anti-illegal immigration in Shenandoah, Pa., six weeks after Mexican immigrant Luis Ramirez was murdered there.
Often featuring nativist speakers and signs, tea parties have provided a forum for anti-immigrant sentiment since their inception early this year. This spring, Gheen E-mailed leaders of allied organizations asking them to join a coalition of anti-immigrant groups planning to attend tea parties. But tomorrow’s tea parties are different in that they’re solely targeting illegal immigration. In addition, while the tea party movement has attracted some blatantly racist groups, such as the Council of Conservative Citizens, Gheen states on AgainstAmnesty.com that the protests are open to those who “share our nonviolent and nonracist multiethnic and bipartisan support for secure borders and immigration enforcement.” He added: “Any groups, individuals or materials that are not appropriate will not be allowed in our permitted areas.”
Let’s hope that’s the case. Information about the rallies appears on the websites of former Klan boss David Duke and the racist National Policy Institute in Augusta, Ga. Posters on Stormfront, the leading white supremacist website, are also urging members to attend. “This is great news!” wrote “ronatvan” on Tuesday. “All Stormfronters should join these huge Tea Parties! Prepare yourselves with big banners to spread our message.”
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The Patriots Coalition, a new antigovernment ‘Patriot’ group founded by the former vice president of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, is carrying out its first border vigilante operation targeting Latino immigrants and drug smugglers.
Along with Patriots Coalition members, the month-long event, dubbed Operation Spike, is drawing volunteers from other Minuteman splinter factions such as Minuteman of One.
Patriots Coalition founder and president Al Garza identifies the group as part of the Tea Party tax protest movement. The Patriots Coalition website is loaded with “birther” conspiracy theory materials and jokes about assassinating President Obama.
The Sierra Vista Herald reported that on Saturday, Sept. 26, there were 45 participants stationed in just one of several Operation Spike ‘border watch’ sectors. All the sectors are within a 50-mile radius of Palominas, a Cochise County, Ariz., border town located just east of Coronado National Forest.
Garza estimated that 200 to 300 border watchers would take part in the operation, which began Sept. 19 and is scheduled to conclude Oct. 19, though Garza said he may extend it to the end of October, depending upon turnout and results.
Operation Spike participants told the Herald they’d reported groups of 15 and 17 individuals along the border, as well as a larger group of 65 individuals, some of them carrying backpacks, accompanied by four “ninja-dressed” men armed with AK-47s.
“We are seasoned and we know what to look for,” Garza told the Herald. “We know what to find. We know when we see something what to expect of it.”
A Border Patrol spokesman in Tucson served up the agency’s standard Minuteman disclaimer: “We don’t encourage people going out and actively looking because they are not trained as Border Patrol agents are trained. If something happens, they might put themselves in danger or they might endanger somebody else.”