- The Washington Times - Friday, April 1, 2005

TOMBSTONE, Ariz. — More than 100 Minuteman Project volunteers clapped, shouted, waived American flags and stomped their feet during an old-fashioned revival-style meeting yesterday called to denounce President Bush and formally kickoff a 30-day blockade of the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona.

“I’m proud of every single one of you,” Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, told the cheering crowd inside the city’s 120-year-old community center, once frequented by Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday.

“You are not vigilantes. You are heroes,” said Mr. Tancredo, founding chairman of Team America, a political action committee dedicated to electing legislators sensitive to defending U.S. borders and protecting American jobs.

Bay Buchanan, chairwoman of Team America and sister of former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, received a standing ovation as she berated Mr. Bush for failing “our country.”

“You have failed us, and you have failed our children, by continuing to let criminals and drugs come across this border,” she said.

The rally, described as an orientation meeting, capped off a day of registration for the Minuteman volunteers, who will begin patrols of the border south of here on Monday to protest the lax immigration-enforcement policies of the administration and Congress.

The daylong event saw counterprotesters line the street outside the hall, American Indians dancing in native custom to a steady drumbeat and “Lady Liberty” twirling through one lane of the city’s main street — all under the watchful eye of dozens of Arizona police, rangers and sheriff’s deputies.

Members of the press, many of them from Mexico, outnumbered the volunteers, with satellite trucks lining the street leading to Big Nose Kate’s Saloon. “Legal observers” hired by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also patrolled outside the hall.

The volunteers will gather again today and tomorrow for rallies at the U.S. Border Patrol stations in Naco and Douglas, where — according to Minuteman organizer James T. Gilchrist — “we will show our support for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect our country despite a lack of manpower and resources.”

The weekend rallies are a prelude to a monthlong border protest by more than 1,000 Minuteman volunteers that formally begins Monday and will focus on a 20-mile stretch of the San Pedro River Valley west of Naco and a remote border area west of Douglas.

The two regions have become favorite corridors for illegal aliens headed into the United States. Last year, Border Patrol agents in the Tucson sector, which includes Naco and Douglas, accounted for more than 40 percent of the 1.15 million illegal aliens apprehended nationwide.

The volunteers, many of whom will camp out in recreational vehicles and tents along the border, registered here yesterday and received their assignments, including guidelines prohibiting them from confronting illegal aliens they encounter on the border.

“We will not tolerate any confrontations by our members,” Mr. Gilchrist, a retired California certified public accountant and a combat-wounded Vietnam veteran, told The Washington Times. “This protest is about the rule of law, and there will be no exceptions.”

Several civil and human rights organizations have hired legal observers and teams of lawyers ready to file lawsuits against the volunteers if the illegal aliens’ rights are abused.

But Mr. Gilchrist, during an interview at his border command post, said he expects that the volunteers are more likely to be the ones abused and has asked the FBI in Phoenix to ensure that their right to demonstrate is protected.

In a letter to the FBI, Mr. Gilchrist said efforts by the volunteers to conduct a peaceful political protest and rally have been threatened by the counterprotesters, adding that the ACLU has a “witch-hunt mentality.”

FBI officials this week said they are committed to ensuring that no laws are violated during the border vigil, by either the Minuteman volunteers or those opposed to them.

The ACLU in Arizona could not be reached for comment.

Yesterday’s registration saw numerous glitches, with Minuteman volunteers being asked to file new registration forms after a computer failure.

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