Omar Rosario, a good friend of mine in Northern Virginia by way of the Boogie Down Bronx , recently had a verbal confrontation with a group of Minutemen members outside of a local 7-11.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Northern VA , the Latino immigrant community and how 7-11 plays a role in it all this is how it is; since there are no bodegas or neighborhood stores (or real neighborhoods for that matter) and the lack of a real white working-class in Northern Virginia, day-laborers ( who are 99% Latino in that area) get up early in the morning and stand in front of 7-11’s for mostly white men in pickup trucks and vans to pick them up for construction, plumbing, landscaping, carpentry, roofing, moving and any other kind of work you can think of. It is the common belief that these men work for pennies and that is really not the case; some do get ripped off by greedy exploiters but because there are so many jobs in that area even these day-laborers can afford to be choosy and negotiate payment.
If you haven’t spent time in Northern VA it is almost impossible to describe how heavily saturated this are is with immigrants. There is a huge Latino population made up primarily of Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Bolivians and Peruvians. Along with that there is a large East African, Arab, Afghan, Asian, South Asian and West African population. You can go to the supermarket and it is like Brooklyn or Queens in that you may walk up and down the aisles and not find any native-born Americas.
VA may be cosmopolitan in these areas; but it is still America and it still has that strong southern influence. Because of this there has been a major anti-immigrant sentiment building in Northern VA. The Republican candidate for governor recently tired to exploit these concerns to no avail in the gubernatorial election, but those sentiments are still present. Out of this feeling a local chapter of the anti-immigrant militia the Minutemen has been founded (along with an anti-Muslim website called NorthernVirginiastan). This group has been hanging out in front of 7-11’s and taking photos of the day-laborers and of the license plates numbers of those picking the workers up and generally harassing people.
For those of you unfamiliar with their arguments the anti-immigration movement argues that an over saturation of immigrants drive wages down for American workers, pollutes the culture because these immigrants refuse to fully adapt to white American cultural norms and creates an overcrowded environment. Pro-immigrant groups argue for looser borders where there can be a free flow of people back and forth betwen borders and where immigrant workers can fill the void in the job market. They also argue that America is a nation of immigrants and it is hypocritical for any American other than a Native American to be anti-immigration and I fall into this camp. Furthermore I will say that as much of the anti-immigrant is also anti-labor; I will say that the immigration issue is really not about immigration at all but is about race and about the fear of the browning of America.
When Omar saw these Minuteman taking photos of the day-laborers he decided that he would take photos of them. He then had them get in his truck and ride around the block with him and had the Latino day-laborers take photos of the Minutemen.
Omar yelled to the minutemen that he had just arrived to VA himself and the Minutemen snarled at him and asked where he came from. “The Bronx muthafucka” was his response.
It reminded me of my experience in St. Louis in front of the International Institute building when I arrived to protest against an anti-immigration rally. This rally was co-sponsored by the Council of Conservative Citizens and the National Alliance. As this is St. Louis they where mostly protesting against Bosnians and other Muslim immigrants and I felt the need to show up. When I walked up to the crowd one of the neo-Nazis approached me and said “hello, brother” and I said “Man, I aint your brother, I’m here to protest.” The thing about it was I was the only counter-protester there and the National alliance members were taking my photo and trying to intimidate me but I had my own chants like “More immigrants and less rednecks” and “GED convention on South Grand”. But, I was able to recruit several pedestrians to join my counter-protest which I considered a success.
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