The idea of organizing a rally against amnesty floated around patriotic immigration reform groups inside the Beltway during the 2006 and 2007 amnesty debates. The American people were overwhelmingly on our side. Pro-amnesty forces brought out hundreds of thousands of marchers. Why shouldn't we organize a march?
Personally, I thought it was not worth the resources.
Unions, churches, left-wing organizations, and businesses pay hundreds of thousands of dollars (never reported, of course) to bus pro-amnesty marchers from across the country. The patriot side's money is already stretched too thin. Despite doing "the jobs Americans won't do", many of these illegal aliens seem able to take time off work—sometimes their employers even give them the day off, paid—to march in favor of breaking our laws, whereas our people have real jobs. Nor did I want to get mixed up in the unfortunately extremely factional politics involved with grassroots groups like the Minutemen.
I also thought that the pro-amnesty marches, despite their large numbers, were more of a liability for our opponents than an asset. The site of Mexican "Americans" marching in our streets, waving foreign flags, laying claim to US territory, and demanding their crimes be pardoned did them no favors.
I still believe this was the right strategy in 2006 and 2007. Grassroots phone calls alone managed to defeat amnesty twice. And at that point Middle Americans simply did not want to take to the streets.
But the times they are a-changin'.
Of course, the Tea Parties were organized, at least ostensibly, mainly in opposition to Obamacare. And many neoconservative and libertarian operatives are desperately trying to co-opt the movement before it begins to turn against immigration too. Thus corporate lobbyist and self-appointed leader of the Tea Party movement Dick Armey has bemoaned the fact that Tom Tancredo was speaking at Tea Parties, citing his "his harsh and uncharitable and mean-spirited attitude on the immigration issue." [Dick Armey Wants Tom Tancredo Out Of His Tea Party Tent, by Andrea Nill, Wonk Room, March 10, 2010]
But with Arizona's SB 1070 putting immigration back at the center of national debate, grassroots Middle Americans are ignoring Armey. Case in point: they came across the country to rally with Tom Tancredo in favor of SB 1070 at the "Phoenix Rising" rally last Saturday, June 5.
Phoenix Rising was organized by Dan Smeriglio and his group Voice of the People, neither of which I had heard of beforehand despite years following the patriotic immigration reform movement. Smeriglio hails from Hazleton, PA and helped organize grassroots support for Lou Barletta and the city's heroic fight against illegal immigration.
This rally had essentially no Beltway involvement other than co-sponsors Numbers USA and Team America—which held a fundraiser for J.D. Hayworth immediately following the rally. When NumbersUsa's Rosemary Jenks spoke, reading a statement written by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and signed by another dozen or so congressmen, the organizers introduced her by telling the crowd not to hold the fact that the fact that she works in DC against her.
In addition to Tancredo and Jenks, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and SB 1070 author State Senator Russell Pearce also spoke, along nearly two dozen other patriots before the crowd of two thousand. Some of the attendees were apparently disappointed with the size, but I certainly was not: it was vastly bigger than any other rally against amnesty, and managed to come together with very little money or backing.
And there was the weather. Temperatures rose above 105 degrees and there was absolutely no shade. I will confess that a few of my friends and I missed over an hour of the rally just sitting in our air-conditioned rental car.
For this reason, I missed many of the speakers. But for the most part, it was pretty simple red meat What Part Of Illegal Do You Not Understand-type stuff. At any mention of the names of John McCain, Eric Holder, Janet Napolitano, Barack Obama, or Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, the crowd erupted in boos. Jan Brewer and J.D. Hayworth got cheered.
Anderson warned for everyone to be wary of the "F Word"—"first", as in "Secure the Borders First". He put John McCain, Newt Gingrich, and Bill O'Reilly in this group, who make secure borders as a pre-condition to amnesty rather than an end in of itself.
DeAnna quoted George Orwell's line that "in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act" and drew the corollary: that in a time when the president supports the interest of Mexico above the American people, enforcing our laws is a revolutionary act.
DeAnna made the point that we can recover from a recession or rebuild from a lost war, but if we lose the illegal immigration battle, the nation is literally replaced.
The Main Stream Media accounts of the rally were relatively positive.[Thousands rally in Phoenix heat to support Arizona's new illegal immigration law By Michelle Price, AP June 5th, 2010] Since the disastrous pro-Mexican Marches of 2006, amnesty advocates specifically instruct their marchers not to bring foreign flags and hand out American flags, which newspapers dutifully put on the front page, while ignoring the Che Guevara T-Shirts, Reconquista slogans, and foreign flags that the marchers still bring.
I expected the Main Stream Media to do the opposite—finding one skinhead in attendance to focus on. But they were given no such opportunity.
The most "offensive" signs I saw was someone calling MeCHA and La Raza the Hispanic version of the KKK and another with pictures of Chavez, Castro, and other Hispanic leaders warning of what the fate of self government is in a Hispanic country. They were far outnumbered by dozens of signs claiming to welcome legal immigration and insist that the rally was not about race.
Were it not for the signs, this could be mistaken as a Fourth of July Picnic.
Demographically, the crowd was pretty evenly divided between men and women. I would guess around 30% of the people were under 40. With everyone in Arizona dressing much more casually than they do in the East Coast, it was tough to gauge the socio-economic characteristics of the crowd based on the clothes. In the parking lot, there were a lot of SUVs, motorcycles, and pickup trucks, but few jalopies or luxury cars. I spoke to a truck driver, a housewife, the owner of a software company, a Border Patrol agent, a retired doctor, and school teacher. So the attendees seem to have pretty much crossed from the lower to upper middle class spectrum.
Racially, the crowd was overwhelmingly white. Perhaps reflecting Arizona's demographics, the only African Americans I saw sold water or were speakers, but there were a number of Hispanics, both speaking and in the crowd. While they made up no more than five percent of those attending, that is certainly a lot more than I've seen at any Tea Party.
One should avoid two extreme conclusions based on this fact. While we should applaud these patriotic Hispanics for standing up against the race-baiting lobbyists who claim to speak for them, the fact remains that the more Hispanics are in this country and voting, the harder it will be to fight for patriotic immigration reform. However, the fact that there were more Hispanics than attend Tea Parties should dispel the notion that that taking on the immigration issue will somehow alienate Hispanics who otherwise would be appearing in droves.
There only half a dozen protestors. Two were the usual Hispanic activists yelling "we didn't cross the border, the border crossed us". More interesting, and depressing, was that the rest had donned Ron Paul rEVOLution shirts. They would speak in fake German accents, presumably to associate the law with Germans, who of course are all Nazis. With typical nerdishness, one wore a mask from the left wing -wing graphic comic V for Vendetta and their banner included a massive picture of a Star Wars storm trooper with the words "Your papers please".
Ron Paul has occasionally said good things about immigration and he is not to blame for all his followers. But this spectacle should dispel some of the illusions that the Ron Paul rEVOLution is necessarily a positive force for patriotic immigration reform.
Unfortunately, the Phoenix Rising event did not totally avoid infighting among grassroots groups. William Gheen of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC attempted to derail the protest by parroting absurd guilt-by-association claims made by the violent left wing group One Peoples Project against organizer Dan Smeriglio. The extent of the accusations involved the fact that Smeriglio had accepted Facebook friend requests from people who turned out to be alleged white supremacists. Of course, nobody pointed to anything objectionable that Smeriglio had said or done.
Whatever Gheen's motivations—personal and/or ideological—his smears have no place in the patriotic immigration reform movement. And they did him no favors. In fact, they led the Left to look at his own Facebook friends and find supposed neo-Nazis as well. Gheen's smears did, however, open the door for the SPLC and Main Stream Media to run pieces such as Anti-illegal immigration ALIPAC breaks with Tancredo over neo-Nazi organizer, [By John Tomasic, Colorado Independent, May 21, 2010]and Arizona immigration law rally loses group due to neo-Nazi links.[ By Dan Nowicki, The Arizona Republic, May. 22, 2010]
To their credit, Tancredo and all of the co-sponsoring organizations of Phoenix Rising stood firm against these ridiculous attacks But it is essential that patriotic immigration reformers continue to fight against both factionalism and Political Correctness.
All in all, Phoenix Rising was a tremendous success, and a huge step forward in mobilizing the silent majority in favor of immigration enforcement. Dan Smeriglio deserves a great deal of credit.
Smeriglio says he plans on a second rally at San Antonio's Alamo in August (If Phoenix in June isn't hot enough!) When the details emerge, I will post them. I hope all VDARE.COM readers will try to attend.
"Washington Watcher" [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.