The Minuteman Project, a month-long series of events, including armed vigilante border patrols, designed by anti-immigration extremists to draw attention to the issue of illegal immigration, began April 1 along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona.
Organized by Arizonan Chris Simcox, founder of the Civil Homeland Defense border vigilante group, and Jim Gilchrist of Orange County, California, the Minuteman Project claims that over 1,000 volunteers will gather in Arizona to watch for illegal border crossers.
During the Project's first weekend, several hundred volunteers showed up, many armed, to engage in the volunteer "border patrols." Some volunteers unintentionally set off sensors that alert Border Patrol agents to intruders, according to a U.S. Border Patrol spokesman.
Highly publicized among right-wing extremists ranging from militia groups to white supremacist organizations, the Minuteman Project has attracted a variety of extremists and anti-immigration activists of all types. A number of neo-Nazi National Alliance members showed up for the first weekend of events.
Shawn Walker, spokesman for neo-Nazi National Alliance, earlier indicated that members of his group would take part in the project. "We're not going to show up as a group and say, 'Hi, we're the National Alliance….But we have members of ours that will participate," Walker said.
Before the project began, National Alliance fliers, describing illegal immigration as an "invasion" that will cause white people to be "a minority within the next 50 years," were circulated in several communities along the Arizona border, including Douglas, Nogales, Bisbee, Tucson, Tombstone, and Yuma. Similar fliers have also been distributed in Phoenix and Mesa.
National Alliance chairman Erich Gliebe said that local members distributed the fliers to help the Minuteman Project. "We have found that a lot of people in the area are sympathetic to our message, but won't admit it," Gliebe said.
The Minuteman Project has been advertised on various extremist Web sites. For example, an Aryan Nation Web site links to the Minuteman Project, proclaiming "a call for action on part of ALL ARYAN SOLDIERS."
Over the past few years, armed vigilantism and anti-immigrant intimidation along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona have created an atmosphere of fear.