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Posts for June, 2009

Extremist Watch: Minutemen In Arizona

Jim Burroway

June 14th, 2009

Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider in Wichita, Kansas was shot and killed in his church by a right-wing extremist on May 31. The murderer, Scott Roeder, had extensive ties with militant anti-abortion groups, some of whom see Roeder as a hero. Stephen T Johns, a security guard at the Holocaust museum was gunned down on June 11 by James von Brunn, an avowed racist and Holocaust denier. Von Brunn is being lauded as “a hero and a martyr” by many who share his beliefs.

I saw yesterday in the Arizona Daily Star that an arrest was made in a May 30 home invasion in Arivaca, Arizona, a picturesque little village south of Tucson barely ten miles from the border with Mexico. It’s a rough-and-tumble place populated by aging hippies, artists, and Mexican-American families who trace their deep roots in the region from before the Gadsden Purchase in 1853. Entering the town is like simultaneously crossing the border and a couple of centuries. It is so out of the way, the locals have a saying: “When you’ve found Arivaca, you know you’re lost.”

Arivaca, Arizona (Photo by Jim Burroway/BTB)

Arivaca, Arizona (Photo by Jim Burroway/BTB)

My partner and I have enjoyed spending a few afternoons at a small rural coffee shop just outside of town, sitting outside on the porch with the stray dogs and the hummingbirds. The idea that a home invasion could occur there is quite unsettling. One in which father and nine-year-old daughter were killed is even more out of place in such a tiny little place. As rough as Arivaca may be, this is the sort of thing that happens in Tucson and Phoenix, not in an out-of-the-way village in the Sonoran desert.

Shawna Forde (Arizona Daily Star)

Shawna Forde (Arizona Daily Star)

So who would pull off such a thing? Well, it turns out that the ringleader of the three-person assault force was Shawna Forde, the leader of tghe Washington-based Minutemen American Defense. Also participating was Jason Eugene Bush, who serves as operations director for the group. (There are at least three different groups operating in the area calling themselves Minutemen.) This gang of extremists allegedly targeted the home on the suspicion that the father, Raul Flores, was dealing in drugs.

Regardless of whether Flores was dealing in drugs or not (news reports are ambiguous on that), this is just one more example of right-wing extremists not just taking the law into their own hands, but seeking to become a law unto themselves. And just as there are racist extremists, anti-immigrant extremists, and anti-abortion extremists, there are anti-LGBT extremists out there as well. And some of them may well be goaded by some of the more inflammatory rhetoric among more well-known opponents to LGBT equality.

This country has changed in many remarkable ways in the past decade, and the changes that LGBT people have experienced have been especially significant in the last five years. In just this year alone, five new states have added marriage equality, while more than a third of all Americans live in states allowing at least some form of recognition for same-sex couples. This must be galling to many of our more extreme opponents.

There are crackpots out there who would do us harm, and they are becoming increasingly desperate. This is a time for vigilance and a time for all of us to be very careful about our personal safety. But our prudence must not come at the expense of squelching our voices or halting our steps.

Let’s be careful out there.