Free the Anti-Minutemen 5!

Email us at: antiminutemen5(at)yahoo.com. Visit our blog at www.antiminutemen5.tk Right now we see increasingly vicious attacks on immigrants, justified in the name of the “War on Terror”. When people step out to oppose these outrages, they must be supported. And when they are attacked, they must be defended. A group of five young people – white, Latino, Muslim – are facing up to four years in jail for a protest against the racist vigilante group the Minutemen.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Anti-Minutemen Defendants Defeat the State's Efforts to Put Them in Jail... and the Battle Continues from Here!

On Tuesday, April 25, in Rolling Meadows, IL, the Anti-Minutemen defendants defeated the attempts of the state's attorney's office to put them in jail and convict them on trumped-up charges stemming from a peaceful protest against the Minutemen para-military vigilantes.

The Minutemen are the semi-official shocktroops of the viciously anti-immigrant agenda coming down from the top levels of government right now. Like the brownshirts in Nazi Germany, they act as the mostopenly rabid enforcers of a fascistic agenda, who both gain praise from people in their camp (including Congresspeople and Governors), while at the same time are sometimes distanced from important leaders (like the President), in tactical maneuvers of a very strategic alliance. Distancing yourself is quite different than opposing the Minutemen. Part of the goal here is to make draconian laws like the Sensenbrenner Bill, or others that greatly expand the grounds for mandatory detention and deportation, legalize indefinite detention, expand detention capacity, and further militarize the border, look like the rational "middle ground" between the vigilantes and those righteously calling for amnesty.

On Oct 15th, 2005 the Minutemen held an "America First National Summit Bootcamp" at Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights. A Confederate flag, with its legacy of slavery, lynchings, and Jim Crow oppression, hung prominently at the America First Summit. This conference brought together national leaders of the anti-immigrationvigilante movement, white supremacists, politicians (Congressman Tom Tancredo was on the "invited" list) and ex-military personnel to strategize on how to round up and hunt down undocumented immigrants on the borders and throughout the country.

At the request of the Minutemen, the police attacked this protest, singled out five activists, and filed false charges of resisting arrest and battery. On Tuesday, the state's attorney, after a conference in which he was pressured by our lawyers and the judge, threw out thecharge of resisting arrest, and we took a plea bargain on the charge of battery. We were given one year of court supervision; have to complete 240 hours of community service by April 2007, and if we are arrested for any reason within that year, we risk returning to court for these charges.

With these charges, we faced the combined forces of the State's Attorney, the police, and the Minutemen, all of whom were working together to try and make us spend time in jail for opposing this dangerous and well-connected hate group. The intimidation was clear:The Assistant State's Attorney gave subpoenas to media that had covered the protest or that had written articles about us. He threatened to subpoena one of our press volunteers, and harassed our supporting organizations. On the Friday before the trial, a support rally at Arlington Heights City Hall was met with an absurd geared-up police force triple their size and hounded by cameras at every move. They wanted to make an example out of the Anti-minutemen defendants and make everyone around the country afraid to oppose the Minutemen.

According to the State, the Minutemen can arm themselves, take the law into their own hands to hunt down human beings like animals and whip up hatred of people who are or look like immigrants, and that's supposed to be "legitimate". But when people link arms to protest one of their meetings, they are met with snipers on the roof, and the police attack the protesters and then force them to take responsibility for "battery" on the cops. This is a profound injustice, and even unjust within the rules of this system.But it is also true and important that the Minutemen and the State did NOT get what they wanted. We turned this case around on its head; we mobilized many supporters to defend us and we brought the opposition to the Minutemen onto the national stage. The news coverage we received finally brought the other side to the repeatedly one-sided media coverage of the Minutemen. It even featured one of our lawyers, Jed Stone, saying that the Minutemen are the "new Ku Klux Klan."

The state's attorney first attempted to throw us a "deal" of 30 days in jail, and then a "deal" requiring an apology under oath! We refused to take these so-called "deals", and stuck to our principles, even though taking them would have meant getting the case over with quicker.The plea bargain that we took on April 25 did involve a compromise, and it's not without potential problems. At the protest on October 15th, we were singled out for arrest based on passionately speaking out against the Minutemen, and now, under supervision, we are living under the threat of again being singled out for attack by the police, and being forced to go back to court for these original charges. And the Minutemen, who have photographed our supporters at demonstrations and sent us threatening emails, are furious that we were not jailed. The cofounder of the Illinois Minuteman Project called for us to be jailed for ten years. Despite what happened in court, we refuse to compromise on opposing this hate group, and we will need our supporters to be prepared to defend us if we come under further attack.

We understand that we do not deserve these hours of forced and assigned community service, and we do not deserve the year of court supervision. But, we did not deserve to have been arrested on the 15th either, and we did not deserve being brought to court, either. We made a tactical decision to take this deal, because we knew we faced a very difficult battle to defend ourselves against these false charges. In particular, the charge of resisting arrest is notoriously difficult to defend; it is often used by cops to attack protests, because it is very easy to convict someone of this charge and then supervision isnot an option.

We have spent the last six months battling the Minutemen in the courts. The battle for the rights of immigrants and against the Minutemen will be won by taking to the streets and organizing with the people. Sometimes in the course of this, people can be made to defend themselves for opposing injustice and must fight in the courts. However, we definitely do not make the rules, in the courtroom, everything is stacked against defendants, and innocent people get convicted all the time. In a perfect world, we would not have had to take this deal, but in a perfect world, we would never have needed to be at the protest to begin with.

We give our deepest thanks to our friends, our supporters, and our lawyers Jim Fennerty, John Curnyn, and Jed Stone. If it had not been for their many efforts, hard work, and sacrifice, we would not have made it through and won the victories we were able to achieve- including further laying the basis to get the Minutemen out of our communities altogether.Many people have been afraid to stand up against the Minutemen. And many people also hold illusions that the Minutemen are "just a bunch of crazies" or do not hold much power, hoping that if we ignore the Minutemen they will just go away. But everything we have learned in these last 6 months shows us that not only are the Minutemen a seriousgrowing threat that must be exposed, confronted and stopped, but that the struggle of the people can defeat this hate group. We hope that everyone takes these lessons to heart.

We believe that people should be willing to take risks to fight for what is right and in these times of extreme attacks on immigrants, what is needed is courage. We always knew that we might be punished severely for standing up for the right thing and for defending those who come under attack. We will continue to risk our freedom and oursafety for a better future but we will also continue to fight fiercely against any effort to punish anyone for standing up for what's right. Just because people are willing to be unjustly punished for their actions in support of justice, does not mean we accept that punishment or grant any moral ground to those who would punish us.

The protest on October 15th is one we will always remember. Not just because it started us on a long legal battle, but for something else. That day was one of the most beautiful displays of unity amongst diverse groups of people from different communities and different backgrounds. For us, this spirit of solidarity did not end there. The Anti-Minutemen defendants- white, Latino, Muslim- were a microcosm of that day. Only two of us knew each other from before, but we worked together, bonded by our similar convictions, seeing everyone's fate as linked together. We see our broad mix of nationalities and backgrounds as an incredible strength, and helped bring togethermany different communities of supporters. Together with our supporters we prevented the State from jailing us and helped to reveal the true nature of the Minutemen, their connections all the way up, and to the whole anti-immigrant agenda, into the media and into public discourse.It is this solidarity between different groups that is needed if we are to stop the Minutemen and stop the attacks on immigrants. Together we fight for a better future for immigrants and all people. As the defendants prepare to march proudly with our sisters and brothers from many different nations on May 1st, we will look at the people around us joined in solidarity, and see the seeds of a much brighter future.

In struggle,

The Anti-Minutemen Defendants:

Kara "Penny" Norlander
Rehana Sabah Khan
Cynthia Linda Gomez
Eric Zenke

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