Profiles of 20 Nativist Leaders
Shawna Forde, 39
Preppy, blonde and fashionably coiffed, Shawna Forde doesn't look much like a grunge rock promoter or a border vigilante. Yet during the Seattle grunge scene's early 1990s heyday, Forde promoted and toured with several post-punk bands. Today, she's traded in her thrift-store flannel for a pantsuit, and her concert posters for Minuteman fliers pronouncing, "The Great Gringo awakens from siesta."
As head of Minutemen American Defense, or MAD, she straps on a yellow armband and carries a two-way radio to patrol the U.S.-Canadian border "against unlawful and unauthorized entry of all individuals, contraband, and foreign military." Acting on what she claims are "insider personnel tips," the group also has assigned members to patrol the Everett, Wash., main branch public library in search of suspicious-looking Middle Eastern men. Fortuitously, the library's windows overlook the Port of Everett, which MAD deems a high-profile terrorism target.
In the summer of 2007, Forde shared the podium at the Everett Elks Lodge with Minuteman Project co-founder Jim Gilchrist. Around 100 people attended the Illegal Immigration Summit at which Forde described her nativist awakening. "I was in the mall one day and, hey-- –– nobody's speaking English. I realized we had a serious problem. I just got tired of pushing one for English. I decided to do something about it," she said.
Forde's belief that in two years undocumented immigrants will "outnumber real Americans" is mild compared to other statements on MAD's website, such as a claim that Al Qaeda terrorists are recruiting U.S.-based members of the violent Latino street gang MS-13. A photo of the Ford Foundation's New York building is captioned, "This is where La Raza gets money to help destroy the U.S."
Forde has made two failed forays into local politics. In 2006, she started a MAD spin-off group to gather signatures in an unsuccessful bid for a ballot initiative that would cut off any state aid to undocumented immigrants. Then, in the fall of 2007, she ran for Everett City Council on an anti-immigration platform. She received nearly 5,900 votes but lost.
Her candidacy was tarnished by a well-publicized August 2007 shoplifting conviction for stealing $3.18 worth of chocolate milk from a grocery store. Forde claimed she walked into an adjacent Starbucks to meet a friend and simply forgot about paying. She nonetheless pleaded guilty, claiming she could not attend the trial while filming along the Mexican border. "The only reason I settled is because I'm shooting a documentary for my country," Forde told reporters. "I don't care [about the charges]. I am way too busy nationally to worry about this."