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Case Study: Time’s up for the Minutemen

At the border vigilante end of the Nativist Establishment, an examination of Minuteman organizations also reveals a sharp decline. Two factions, the Minuteman Project and the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC), drove much of the local growth during the years 2005 to 2008.

In 2010, MCDC had 38 local chapters. In 2011, after MCDC officially shuttered its national headquarters, only 19 of the local groups with which it was formerly associated showed any signs of activity.[18]

The other faction, Jim Gilchrist’s Minuteman Project continues to operate, but at a reduced level. Of the 77 local chapters active in 2010, only 34 remained active in 2011. Several factors, including negative in-fighting and lawsuits, have contributed to the Minuteman Project’s decline. One incident seemed to have had an outsized impact. In June 2009, Shawna Forde, who had been one of Gilchrist’s local chapter leaders, and two of her cohorts, broke into the home and brutally murdered Arizonan Raul Flores and his nine-year old daughter Brisenia. The murders created a lot of negative publicity for the gun-toting border vigilantes of the Minuteman groups, not unlike the way the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal office building in 1995 damaged the public reputation of the militias.[19]

Following the murders, Gilchrist wrote a year-end fundraising letter in which he worried about the loss of volunteers, and confided, “It has been a hard year for me here at Jim Gilchrist’s Minuteman Project.”[20] Former Minuteman Civil Defense Corps vice president Al Garza told Giutra Bahadur of the Nation Investigative Fund, “A lot of people felt, well, you’re a Minuteman, you’re a killer. The name Minuteman has been tainted by organizations that didn’t want us at the border, that say we’re killers, that we’ve done harm.”[21]

In total, of the 115 groups connected to MCDC and the Minuteman Project in 2010, only 53 showed any signs of activity in 2011, a 54% overall decrease in local groups in one year.

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Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind

Author Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind

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