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Minutemen: Push comes to shove

by Repost Friday, Jan. 26, 2007 at 6:39 PM

Both sides escalate protest by screaming profanities This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press on Sunday, January 21, 2007. By TITUS GEE Valley Press Staff Writer

PALMDALE - A protest Saturday at Four Points rapidly devolved into a profanity-laden shouting match as passers-by and protesters butted heads.

When the shoving started, deputies stepped in to defuse the conflict.

By that time, a roiling crowd had engulfed a gas station at the corner of Pearlblossom Highway and Fort Tejon Road, with fuel customers leaving their vehicles to join the fray. Profanity and insults flew from both sides. At one point a protester with a bullhorn asked a laborer he referred to as "Fisheye" to "run and get me some tacos." He went on to give a detailed order over the loud speaker. Moments later, a teenaged girl jumped from an SUV and confronted him, first shouting and then shoving the man with the bullhorn. Then deputies intervened.

The event began as the latest in a series of protests by the Antelope Valley Independent Minutemen. The Independent Minutemen are not affiliated with the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps or similar organizations. The Antelope Valley group opposes illegal immigration by protesting the presence of day laborers and by lobbying local city councils to enact and enforce ordinances that make hiring illegal immigrants more difficult.

Early this month, the Palmdale City Council banned vehicles from stopping near the Four Points intersection, which has been a popular gathering spot for day laborers looking for work.

On Saturday, about 30 protesters started the day lining the east side of Fort Tejon Road, waving flags and toting banners bearing octagons and the slogan "Stop Illegal Immigration."

Across the street, 25 day workers stood in the shade near the Mobil gas station, presumably waiting for work.

Deputies in a trio of squad cars looked on from a distance.

At past protests, the Minutemen groups kept largely to the east side of the street, sometimes shouting across to the laborers on the other side but directing their message primarily to passing cars.

This time they crossed the street.

First in ones and twos, and finally en masse, the protesters made their way across the traffic-clogged intersection for a face-to-face encounter with the men they believe to be causing a communitywide problem.

About midway through the migration, Frank Jorge, the leader of the Antelope Valley Independent Minutemen, used a megaphone to call across the street.

"We do not approve of illegal immigration," he said. "We are not against anyone. We simply want the laws of our country enforced."

One of the workers shouted back, "Shut up!"

"Why don't you go back to Mexico and say that?" Jorge responded. "You'll have to shout a little louder. … Don't tell me to shut up in the United States. Go home!"

"We know that some of you are very good people who don't have enough work, but we don't have employment either," Jorge said. "What I want is (a) cop to come over and pick you up. … We're going to make sure that no one hires you here."

By the time Jorge reached the other side of the street, a line of Minutemen had formed between the dwindling group of day laborers and the road. One held a sign facing the street that said, "Hiring Illegals is Illegal."

Chelene Nightingale , of Palmdale, had engaged a cluster of four laborers. As she spoke, she held a sign over them that read "Save the American Worker. No Amnesty!" Nightingale told the silent men that people like them were responsible for taking jobs and even lives of American workers and that problems in their nation of origin did not excuse them from entering the United States illegally.

"You guys are cowards. You should have a revolution in your country," she said. "We're not lazy. That's propaganda. We were picking fruits and vegetables before; we were working construction before. … You people are being used for cheap slave labor."

Nightingale later said that she recently returned from El Paso, Texas, where U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone sentenced two Border Patrol agents to more than 10 years of prison time for allegedly injuring a drug smuggling suspect during an attempted arrest. The suspect, Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila , a Mexican national, reportedly received full immunity and government payment of his medical treatment at an El Paso hospital.

"I'm angry now, after seeing those two turn themselves in," Nightingale said. "There is going to be a revolution. … Outside the federal courthouse in El Paso, we started yelling 'Revolution!' That was the first time those words came out of my mouth and I meant it."

Over the next two hours, Nightingale confronted one person after another, punctuating her sentences by holding out the sign.

Sergio Maria , one of the laborers, listened to her silently for perhaps 15 minutes. When asked, he indicated that he did not know enough English to respond. Later, he found a patron at the gas station to translate his feelings.

"He says they just want to work like everybody else," the customer said.

As the number of Minutemen outside the gas station grew, the day laborers executed a staged retreat, falling back from the curbside to the shade of the building, then around the front of the minimart to the far side of the building.

Customers left the fuel nozzles stuck in their gas tanks and joined the tumultuous crowd of bodies and automobiles filling the gas station's east entrance.

Jose Martinez, of Palmdale, and several of his friends engaged the Minutemen in heated debate. The four young men, who are bilingual, said they are citizens of the United States.

"Are you people going to be out here building your homes? Are you going to do it?" Martinez asked the protester.

"No. You're too lazy!"

After several more heated exchanges, including repeated obscene shouts and hand gestures on both sides, Martinez and his friends returned to their van.

"Gang bangers," muttered several of the Minutemen.

As he put the gas nozzle back on its hook, Martinez said, "They're making such a big deal. They ought to just let us be. (The day workers) are out here looking for a job."

Meanwhile, Don Silva of Encino, a coordinator for saveourstate.org, had taken over the bullhorn.

As Martinez returned to his car, with middle finger extended, Silva finished leading the Pledge of Allegiance and began asking one of the day laborers to fetch him a dozen tacos. He referred to the worker as "Fisheye" and gave a detailed description of the food he wanted.

The taunt spurred Sheryl Morales , of Palmdale, to confront Silva. Morales said she was of Irish descent.

"I'm married to one of them," Morales said, pointing to the day laborers. "You guys would get a lot further if you didn't mock these people. … This country was built on the back of immigrants."

Nightingale and a half dozen others confronted Morales with cries of "Traitor!" and "You're not American!"

"This is nonsense," Morales said, as she finished pumping her gas.

When the protesters had moved away, she said, "I believe in free speech for everybody … but it's a disgusting display when they would get up in those people's faces. Especially when they have a megaphone. There's no need for that."

Scott Jodice , also of Palmdale, joined her in that argument.

"Instead of attacking the poor people for coming here, why don't you attack the politicians?" Jodice said. "This is not aimed at the government. This is aimed at the immigrant."

When Morales left, an SUV took her place. Four teenage girls jumped out and immediately joined the shouting match.

Silva, who stood with three young children in tow, greeted the Hispanic girls with the words, "Look, some ghetto trash."

He then alternated between repeating the words "Shut up, shut up" and "Ghetto trash," while the girls shouted back at him and one shoved his bullhorn.

When the girls returned to their vehicle, Silva followed, talking to one through the window as they pulled away.

One of them reached out, grabbed his shoulder and started shaking him, then opened the door and got out.

Just then, the deputies arrived with their lights flashing. Silva turned away from the girl with his arms in the air.

After interviewing Silva and the girl, deputies let them all go and began dispersing the crowd.

Within 30 minutes, the gas station was nearly empty and the Minutemen had packed their signs and gone.

Jorge summarized the fervor of the Minutemen group, which has become increasingly vehement in recent months.

"We are going to keep pushing. … 2007 is going to be a decisive year," he said.

An hour after the Minutemen departed, 20 day laborers gathered on the sidewalk near the gas station at Four Points. A man in a cowboy hat stood talking to them and motioning toward a nearby pickup truck.

tgee@avpress.com

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Don "the Donkey" Silva V Friday, Jan. 26, 2007 at 8:49 PM
reply Jammer CC Saturday, Jan. 27, 2007 at 2:41 AM
Linke to Video chido Saturday, Jan. 27, 2007 at 6:41 AM
Link to Video chido Saturday, Jan. 27, 2007 at 6:44 AM
Like what you said before Blah Saturday, Jan. 27, 2007 at 12:49 PM
SOS--Save Our Shipwreck 1st hand source Saturday, Jan. 27, 2007 at 12:58 PM
reply Jammer CC Saturday, Jan. 27, 2007 at 1:39 PM
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reply Jammer CC Sunday, Jan. 28, 2007 at 12:34 AM
Shame on you Don Pachuco Monday, Jan. 29, 2007 at 4:13 PM

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