The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC), the Arizona-based anti-illegal-immigration group whose members keep watch on the border, is disbanding as a national organization, after its leader asked for volunteers to come "locked, loaded, and ready," then got more than she bargained for.
On March 16, Minuteman president Carmen Mercer sent out an email to members, urging them to come to the border "locked, loaded and ready," reports the Arizona Daily Star. She added: "You are strongly encouraged to exercise your rights and duty as an American citizen to carry a long arm and if challenged use it to defend the United States of America." Mercer also suggested changing the group's rules to allow members to track illegal immigrants and drug smugglers, rather than just reporting them to the Border Patrol.
Mercer told the Daily Star that the email had been prompted by anger at the federal government over health-care reform, and over the Department of Homeland Security's claims that the border was secure.
It appears that Minuteman members responded enthusiastically to Mercer's call to arms -- maybe too enthusiastically:
Mercer said she received a more feverish response than she expected and decided the group couldn't shoulder the responsibility and liability of what could occur, she said.
"People are ready to come locked and loaded, and that's not what we are all about," Mercer said. "It only takes one bad apple to destroy everything we've done for the last eight years."
In other words: When I told people to come locked, loaded and ready, I didn't mean locked, loaded and ready.
So she and the board's two other directors voted to dissolve the Minuteman corporation.
Reached Friday, Mercer said she was unavailable to speak to TPMmuckraker, and did not respond to subsequent efforts to reach her. But the fear that some Minuteman members could go too isn't far-fetched in the least. Cheryl Forde, a former Minuteman activist, was charged with first degree murder after she and two accomplices allegedly forced their way into the home of a Mexican immigrant near the Arizona-Mexico border last May, shooting and killing him and his nine-year old daughter, as part of a plan to rob drug cartels.
It sounds like Mercer's overheated email wasn't the only reason for the demise of MCDC, which launched in 2005 and gained widespread media attention for its "musters" -- actions in which volunteers camped out at the border with deck chairs and binoculars, on the lookout for illegal immigrants. Other Minuteman leaders have said that financial problems and lagging recruitment also contributed. "Many people didn't want to continue to do the musters because they were so damn boring," one activist told the Daily Star.
Still, the local Minuteman chapters likely will continue, despite the roll up of the national group. Advocates for the rights of immigrants say that could make violence even more likely. "They are still an incredibly dangerous group of people," one told the paper. "We should be even more concerned than in the past. We know less about them and what they are doing."