They had the motorcycles. They had the flags. And they had some people eager to protest child refugees coming over the border. What they didn’t have was a real plan.
That was the upshot of a failed effort by extremist radio host Pete Santilli and a group of bikers to shut down the Tijuana border crossing, south of San Diego, on July 5th.
The plan, as described by Santilli on his show, was for his antigovernment “Patriot” listeners to join forces with his biker friends to protest immigration policies and the imprisonment of U.S. Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi in Mexico. So many bikers and “Patriots” would turn out, Santilli hoped, that the resulting traffic jam and commotion would shut down the border.
Except, that didn’t happen. Not even close.
One day before the planned border shutdown protest, Santilli was protesting in Murrieta, California, where he shouted at police officers on the scene, calling them “domestic terrorists.”
The next day, having met up with his biker buddies who have been rallying for Tahmooressi’s return, Santilli and his crew set out southbound on Interstate 5. About ten miles from their destination, however, a California Highway Patrol officer pulled over Santilli’s vehicle.
All of this was caught on Santilli’s live-streaming broadcast of the “event.” As Santilli’s car pulls off to the shoulder with the officer behind them, the bikers cruise on by and keep going.
It was the last that Santilli, or his supporters, were to see of them that day. That begs the question of whether the bikers are, in fact, working closely with Santilli or whether he’s simply trying to piggyback on their activities.
In the meantime, a smattering of protesters drawn by the Patriots Information Hotline website, and led by a conspiracist named Larry Murdock, had gathered in Tijuana to try to join Santilli’s protest. They too posted video of the non-event, comprised largely of two men wandering around trying to find a protest that wasn’t happening.
Murdock joked as he walked toward the Tijuana crossing plaza: “There’s people waiting to see what goes on in the world. They’re like, ‘Hey, you didn’t have sex with a hooker, did you? You idiot! That’s Mexico! That’s nasty!’ ”
In the meantime, Santilli’s traffic stop took 38 minutes – Santilli’s car had expired plates, though it was a rental, and he was ticketed for failure to carry proof of insurance – and he was left to fume for the rest of the way about the looming “police state” and to wonder paranoiacally if it had been part of a plot to disrupt the protest.
By the time Santilli arrived at the scene in Tijuana, the bikers were nowhere to be found (assuming that they were in fact headed toward the border). He and his crew could only find a couple of protesters. So they pulled the plug on the protest, got in their cars and went home.
One of the few protesters who showed up – Ernest “General” Lee of Santilli’s Guerrilla Media Network – was left to file a bitter report about the day’s “nonevent”.
“Was it not enough publicity?” he wondered. “Was it a bad weekend choice?”
Lee shook his head. “From a great event, to a non-event. I hate even filing this update.”