Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Missing funds cause rift in vigilante group

Last summer news of missing funds initiated a near meltdown within the ranks of the Minutemen. When financial statements showed that much of the $1.6 mil dollars raised to build barricades along the border was unaccounted for, Minuteman Civil Defense Corp founder, Chris Simcox, faced numerous defections and challenges to power from disgruntled fellow vigilantes.

Now his former partner, and Minuteman Project co-founder, Jim Gilchrist, has been ousted from the leadership of his group amongst allegations of the misappropriation of $400,000 in donations intended to fund border patrol activities.

Although Gilchrist denied the allegations, saying the controversy "could very well bring an end to the entire Minuteman Project", the case has now moved to a California courtroom where a judge will be making a decision that could very well determine if Gilchrist will remain the public face of the vigilante movement.

A behind-the-scenes power struggle over control of the Minuteman Project spilled into an Orange County courtroom Monday with ousted co-founder Jim Gilchrist asking a judge to give him back control of the citizen border patrol group.

Superior Court Judge Randell L. Wilkinson said he would issue a ruling within a few days.

Gilchrist, 58, a national figure in the fight against illegal immigration, was removed as president of the Minuteman Project this month by its board of directors, which accused him of abusing his power and leaving more than $400,000 of the organization's money unaccounted for.

Gilchrist, a retired accountant from Aliso Viejo, denied the allegations but said the controversy "could very well bring an end to the entire Minuteman Project. There are groups around the country with the name, but we are the most well known and the most powerful."

Gilchrist said in an interview that his opponents were motivated by "a greed for power and a false perception of an endless stream of money."

Gilchrist said all money raised by his organization was accounted for and that his critics had leveled false allegations to gain control of the organization.

LA Times Feb. 27,2007

Yet, Gilchrist's opponents see things a little differently.
Deborah Courtney, the group's recently appointed treasurer, said in an interview that a direct mail company helped raise $750,000 for the group in 2006, but that she believes the Minuteman campaign received only $311,000. Courtney said she and others had been unable to trace the rest of the money.

…opponents also allege in interviews that he used Minuteman funds to promote the book he co-wrote — "Minutemen: The Battle to Secure America's Borders" — but kept the royalties.

LA Times Feb. 27,2007

Additionally, a complaint against Gilchrist was recently filed with the Internal Revenue Service by opponents who alleged that he never obtain nonprofit status for the group and that he used another organization's nonprofit status to receive discounted nonprofit postal rates.

Infighting, power struggles and questions of financial misconduct are nothing new in the world of the Minutemen. The Minuteman Project has been plagued by controversy from the start. The question is; will Gilchrist survive this newest round of rebellion from within?

The Minuteman Project has never been too particular about who they associate with and has a long history of association with far-right fringe elements like the neo-Nazi National Alliance, Joe Turner's Save Our State, and Barbara Coe of the CCIR (California Coalition for Immigration Reform.)

Since the split between Minuteman Project co-founders Simcox and Gilchrist that left Gilchrist at the helm of the original organization with Simcox running the rival Minuteman Civil Defense Corp, Gilchrist has been forced to compete with a growing number of new vigilante groups for members, funding, media attention and allies. Currently there are about 200 loosely affiliated Minuteman groups operating across the country – with new ones starting all the time. This added competition has left Gilchrist vulnerable to attacks from both the fringe right and those wishing to move the group into the mainstream.

Opponents state that Gilchrist has outgrown his usefulness to the "movement" and it's time for its chief spokesman to take a powder.
Robert Vasquez, a former county commissioner in Idaho who sued companies that hired illegal workers, said top conservative Minuteman leaders turned against Gilchrist, including Barbara Coe. She heads the California Coalition for Immigration Reform and co-wrote Proposition 187, the ballot measure that sought to deny undocumented immigrants certain public benefits.

"Sometimes a position becomes bigger than the man," Vasquez said. "It's unfortunate that it has reached this point." (1)

"It is absolutely traumatic," said Coe, of Huntington Beach. "I had total loyalty to him, and I reassured Jim many times. I pleaded with him, I begged him to [work] with us who were trying to resolve the problems with the Minuteman Project."(2)

(1)LA Times

(2) LA Times Feb. 27,2007

Marvin Stewart, who to replace Gilchrist in February after a vote by board members, said Gilchrist's charisma "is what got me on the team. It attracted people across the nation to come aboard…. But when we talk about the rule of law as an organization fighting illegal immigration, we too as an organization must be in compliance with the rule of law, when we allow these things to occur with any organization, we send a message to the public."

As a centralized Minuteman movement slowly unravels, to be replaced by a loose-knit amalgam of vigilantes and cazamigrantes (immigrant hunters) around the country, it is inevitable that we will see an increase of violence and racially motivated attacks.

In the fall of 2005, when there were only approximately 40 spin-off groups (as opposed to today's 200), the Southern Poverty Law Center chronicled the growing violence in these spin-off groups.
Trigger happy," Goliad County, Texas, Sheriff Robert DeLaGarza thought to himself. It was early July and DeLaGarza was meeting with members of the Texas Minuteman Corps, a new vigilante border patrol outfit that started recruiting in DeLaGarza's county in June.

"They kept talking a lot about shooting illegals, and what they could and couldn't do to make it self-defense of life or property," DeLaGarza said. "One woman kept asking, 'Well, what if they reach for a rock, can we shoot them then? What if they're on private land? Can we shoot them for trespassing?'"

DeLaGarza gave the vigilantes a stern warning: "My community doesn't tolerate racism or racist violence in any form. I told them that if they step one inch out of line, I'm going to hammer their ass."

Later that month in California, two Mexicans were wounded in separate shootings the same night along a 14-mile stretch of the border between Campo and Tecate, Calif., that was being patrolled by the California Minutemen, another new vigilante border patrol group.

…snip…

Inspired by the Minuteman Project, … more than 40 anti-immigration "citizens border patrol" and "internal vigilance" groups have formed since early May. The original Minuteman Project's leaders, Jim Gilchrist and Chris Simcox, have little or no control over most of these splinters, spin-offs and imitators.

SPLC

More recently we've seen increased violence aimed at migrants. This past month alone there were three separate incidents along the Arizona border, two resulting in deaths. We cannot be sure if these attacks were the actions of border vigilantes, or other criminal elements, but whenever there is a growing movement like that of the Minutemen, with it's mix of racism, militarism, and xenophobia, conditions are ripe for violence. When this is coupled with a lack of any real centralized leadership or accountability, violence is all but inevitable.

The original Minuteman Project was already the home of numerous far-right white supremacist and neo-Nazi deviants. Like a cancer, the further break-up of the group will only send these infected cells out to further metastasize and spread their message of hate and violence to infect the nation.

Related:
San Diego Union-Tribune
Washinton Times


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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

IT is very clear that the poster of the article on Minutemen group quoted those news organizations who intentionlly lie about the groups and their intentions. Quoting the SPLC is equal to expecting the truth out of the militant and violent La Raza organization.

LaVerdad said...

I have a remedy for Gilchrist it's called "time" at maximum security for embezzelment, a Class 2 felony.