Minutemen Retreat In Costa Mesa Immigration Battle, Community Organizes

by John Earl Tuesday, Mar. 28, 2006 at 9:08 PM

Jim Gilchrist and his Minutemen proved that they can retreat from battle on a minute's notice by withdrawing Friday night from the front lines of Costa Mesa's immigration war started by Minuteman Mayor, Allan Mansoor.

Minutemen Retreat In...
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By John Earl

Jim Gilchrist and his Minutemen proved that they can retreat from battle on a minute's notice by withdrawing Friday night from the front lines of Costa Mesa's immigration war started by Minuteman Mayor, Allan Mansoor.

The pullout follows a surge of immigrant organizing across the country that led to massive strikes by high school students and more than a half-million immigrants and supporters protesting in Los Angeles in solidarity with tens of thousands of others across the country.

Gilchrist and a handful of supporters arrived on two previous Fridays in front of El Chinaco restaurant to protest its owner, city council candidate Mirna Burciaga, for opposing local police as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and to retaliate for weekly protests occurring in front of City Council member Gary Monahan's beer bar, a popular Minuteman outpost.

Gilchrist fired off an email accusing Burciaga of being a racial supremacist and a member of racist groups. No proof of that was offered, but in a flyer Gilchrist cast his own racist net over all undocumented immigrants:

Does MIRNA BURCIAGA envision Costa Mesa as a criminal haven sanctuary city, infested with drug dealers, murderers, child molesters, robbers, and rapists wandering freely without any interference from law enforcement?

Gilchrist's urged followers to bring bright flashlights to El Chinaco to flash in the faces of the adversaries when they approach.

Armed with a mag flashlight outside of El Chinaco, Gilchrist said that his band of border patrolling baby boomers would protest there every Friday until she [Burciaga] orders her operatives to stop harassing Monahan. But Burciaga is not involved with the Monahan protests, which are organized by a community group called the Colectivo Tonantzin.

But last Friday the Minuteman brigade couldn't be found, at least not at Chinacos, which offered the $1 minuteman taco that increased business during Gilchrist's St. Patrick's Day appearance.

The only Minuteman found was at Monahan's, holding out against 50 noisy protesters marching and debating immigration law with customers. Offending customers and protesters alike, he singly defended the Minuteman creed, speaking without benefit of militia or musket and with only a single Guinness to fire up his patriotic blood, but with the power of three six-packs of Guinness flowing through his veins and a flask full of dry powder loaded up his muzzle.

He gave me the middle finger as I video taped, then pleaded with me to talk American with him.

Does anyone speak English, he asked the crowd.

In Hebrew, I answered (transliterated) Ani medabaer evreet, which means I speak Hebrew. He ignored me, perhaps because he thought I was speaking Spanish.

Some of Monahan's regular beer drinking clients claim that the weekly protests have increased businesspointing for proof to the influx of Minutemen who have come to drink since protests began.

But a nearly equal number of clients have walked away from Monahan's bar after learning from protesters about his anti-immigrant political agenda. Others have been observed driving off after seeing Minuteman counter demonstrators in the bar's main driveway. And turnout for the Monahan protests has generally increased, while Minuteman counter-demonstrations, marked by Gilchrist's rude but hilarious antics, have steadily declined.

As immigrant rights protests surge, the Colectivo has grown through grassroots organizing. It has regular meetings in Costa Mesa's immigrant community and held two fruitful community forums on immigrants rights, including one attended by Gilchrist. It also sent a three buss caravan of protesters to the Los Angeles rally.

Growing protests will cut Monahan's profits and, combined with other efforts, will help change the local political landscape before the next election when Mansoor is expected to run again and Monahan will be termed out.

Costa Mesa business owners are also organizingover forty held a press conference announcing their opposition to ICE. The city's 489 member Chamber of Commerce also opposes the proposed plan.

Very little organized support for ICE has come from within the city. Even when Minuteman contingents show up in force at city council meetings most of them are from outside of Costa Mesa. At the last council meeting, for example, 21 people spoke in favor of ICE, but only seven of them said they lived in Costa Mesa.

Minutemen also have a hard time gathering members for their regular protest raids on day labor sites, where they harass employers and workers. Often far out numbered by counter demonstrators, their protest power peaked last summer when, joined in Laguna Beach by white supremacist groups waving swastika banners and confederate flags, their numbers reached into the 40s at most.

Increasingly unwelcome in Orange County, Gilchrist's Minuteman members were recently banned from a Laguna Beach parade and denied entry into another parade in San Juan Capistrano. Even Orange County Republican party heads, who have adopted the Minuteman agenda as their own, and who are reportedly grooming Mansoor for party ascendancy, want nothing to do with insurgent Gilchrist, who they see as an annoying and unstable amateur standing in their way.

For the moment, however, the Minuteman agenda is determining Costa Mesa's future.

For photos, videos and links to related ocorganizer.com stories, go to http://www.ocorganizer.com/html/monahan.html