“Minutemen, go home!” Chants and drums reverberated across the Capitol mall on the Fourth of July, as a few hundred Minnesotans gathered to celebrate the Independence Day by protesting the visit of an anti-immigrant motorcycle caravan.
The multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-generational crowd of Minnesotans listened as a speaker denounced the Minutemen as “part of a long tradition of racism.” Green Party candidates and supporters worked the crowd, looking for signatures on nomination petitions. Longtime activists stood shoulder to shoulder with young anarchists.
Below them, in the parking lot, about a dozen motorcycles stood at the curb. The riders call themselves “brave men and women on modern day iron steeds.” and they are riding cross-country warning, “The Mexicans are coming!” One of the young Minnesotans observes, grinning, that the motorcycles are imports.
While Minnesota may have mounted the biggest counter-demonstration to date, the cross-country anti-immigrant caravan has failed to generate much enthusiasm anywhere. Typical turnouts for their rallies have been about two dozen people, including the half-dozen riders – in Yakima, Washington, on June 7, in Oklahoma City on June 27 and in Des Moines, Iowa, on July 2. (Minutemen supporters claim “large” turnouts of 175-200 people in Oregon and California.) Few in middle America seem alarmed or inspired by their anti-immigrant message.
Finally, the white-haired leader of the anti-immigrant crew pulled up, revving his bike for maximum noise. He is the showman who has hyped this as a “Paul Revere Ride,” and he has been upstaged by the multi-ethnic Minnesota enemy. Drastic times, drastic measures – he reclaimed the media spotlight with a little dance that ended with him turning his back to the Capitol steps to waggle his butt at the Minnesotans.
“What do we want? Legalization! When do we want it? Now!” “El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!” In two languages, the Minnesota counter-demonstrators chanted their solidarity and confidence. Political rallies are as much a part of the Fourth of July, as immigrants are a part of America. These Minnesotans embraced both politics and immigrants.
The small anti-immigrant caravan left by 3:15, to a derisive chorus of “Hit the road, Jack, and don’t you come back no more!” And the Minnesotans dispersed to celebrate with hot dogs or spring rolls or tortillas. A very Minnesota Fourth of July.