"Balance" by Chicana Muralist Judy Baca (used by permission)

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Minutemen Target Children: The Attack on Academia Semillas del Pueblo

Minutemen Target Children: The Attack on Academia Semillas del Pueblo

by Juan Santos Wednesday, Jun. 07, 2006


Minutemen Target Chi...

When the bomb threat came that morning it targeted 250 Chicano children and their families in a deliberate act of political terror.

For a month, KABC in Los Angeles had focused an unrelenting attack against their school - Academia Semillas del Pueblo. KABC is an ultra-right talk radio station that carries Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, one that specializes in xenophobia and a thinly disguised hate-talk format aimed at the paranoids who think George Bush is a sell out liberal and who accuse Sen. James Sensenbrenner of not going far enough to rid the nation of Mexicans and other descendants of the indigenous peoples of North and Central America. Let’s make it plain: these are minutemen with microphones, and with the billion-dollar backing of Disney.

Under the laws of hate, speech leads to action; it was only a matter of time until someone took matters into their own hands. KABC knows it audience, and although the station’s website continues to place a strong focus on the imagined sins of the Academia, it breathes not a word of the bomb threat. To do so would be to implicate itself and its listeners.

KABC and its morning host, Doug McIntyre, are more than upset with the East LA school.

They want it shut down: if it were a book, they’d burn it.

One minutemen supporter wrote, “This BS pisses me of so much I'll die fighting it.” 97% of McIntyre’s listeners say they support Minutemen founder Jim Gilchrist.

The imagined offense is, fundamentally, that the school exists. One can all but feel the shudders when one hears them denounce the existence of “La Raza's Own School in LA.”

No one would or should think twice if Blacks had their own school, and, of course they do – not just elementary schools like the Academia, but a whole network of historically Black colleges which have produced the most important Black intellectuals of our times. And no one, not even the most openly racist elements, would publicly challenge the right of these schools to offer a Black-centered curriculum or to teach African languages, dance, religion and politics.

That the Academia teaches the Native American language Nahautl and Mandarin Chinese instead of Latin, French or ancient Greek; that it teaches Tai Chi and Aztec Dance, it would seem, is not only un-American, but subversive, an affront not only to the spirit of “English Only,” but to the premise that all education must be aimed at integrating children into a specifically white American culture and its values. One minuteman supporter called the school “illegals run amok.”

An informal poll of McIntyre listeners rates the school this way:

Del Pueblo Charter school is:
an honest attempt to educate children : 15%
an enclave for lunatics to perpetuate their world view : 33%
racist : 47%
a form of child abuse : 5%

Worse yet, McIntyre and his ilk view the school as a breeding ground for what they (and no one else) call the “Reconquista.”

Fear of the so called “Reconquista” – the white fear that Brown people will reconquer the lands stolen by the US under the mantle of Manifest Destiny – is the prime driving force, the wild conspiracy theory that drives the extreme right toward extremes like HR 4437, the House bill that would deport 12 million brown people and authorize local police to become minutemen themselves, hunting down migrants in every corner of every city and town.

One minuteman supporter said shutting down the school means “saving those kid's eduation (sic) really. They are being groomed for reconquista.” Daneen G. Peterson, Ph.D., writes of the school, “their intent is to indoctrinate these students… so that they will become the future balkanizers of America!”

A quick look at any Minuteman email list will show that the conspiracy to reconquer the US Southwest is run by the dreaded “La Raza.”

“La Raza,” and the “Reconquista” seem to be run by Mexican President Vicente Fox, and migrants are the advance guard, to hear many Minutemen tell it, of the Mexican Army itself. The Academia is considered “La Raza’s “own school.”

Many thought the recent May Day demonstrations were the planned onset of an insurrection. People were instructed to stay near their homes, to arm themselves, and to maintain communication with other “Patriots,” a term the Minutemen borrowed from the Militia movement, along with most of their ideology.

According to this logic military action is in order, and another look at the Minutemen email lists will show that this is a force getting ready for the fateful moment. “Lock and Load” is the order of the day. One minutemen supporter wrote, “I think [we] should go down there a put that school under seige.” Another says, “The time for talking is over.”

The quasi-military rhetoric has been matched by an increasingly violent and militant activism.

In Southern California a Mexican restaurant burns at the border; two migrants are shot nearby, in the vicinity of a Minutemen encampment;

The Chicano mayor of LA and Lt. Governor of California are threatened with death;

A Minuteman leader and a Nazi openly assault a counter-protestor, shoving and dragging him 20 feet in a choke hold in the presence of police, and walk free;

Minutemen march through LA’s Garment District - principle shopping district for migrants, in a deliberately provocative move akin to the Klan marching through Harlem;

In South Central, Minutemen protest a conference that highlights Black/ Brown Unity;

In San Bernardino, voters are considering a ballot initiative that would make it illegal to rent an apartment to a migrant, and fine anyone who gave so much as a ride to someone undocumented;

The Nation’s largest urban farm – the South Central Farm which serves some 350 mostly migrant families is under siege, with police helicopters constantly circling overhead – the land itself is locked down and occupied by over 100 resistors.

The threat of mass deportations hangs in the air like the copters over the South Central Farm, and ICE escalates its raids.

Southern California’s Brown community is a community under siege.

A recent report by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that tension over illegal immigration has contributed to a rapid increase of hate groups and hate crimes. A spokesperson said the immigration issue is being used as a recruitment tool for racists. A Nazi group has released a new video game; players shoot brown-skinned migrants crossing the border and the game splatters their blood when blood they are hit.

It was in this climate, and after a month of on-air harassment by the radio station, that KABC sent in a reporter to demand an interview from the Academia. According to La Opinion, the Spanish language daily owned by the LA Times, he walked into the charter school insisting that he would interview its principle. Told he had no appointment and that he would not be granted an interview, he then insisted on interviewing schoolchildren and their parents on school grounds. Refused permission by a security guard, he nonetheless persisted.

The reporter, Sandy Wells, who later admitted on-air that the school had reason to be suspicious of him, claims that next he was assaulted and a tape taken from his recorder, although there were no witnesses, no bruises, and although reports of just what is supposed to have happened are conflicting.

One report claims he was attacked by a crowd; another says a van drove straight toward him and a single driver cursed and manhandled him. Supposedly the driver – or the van full of youth, depending on which version you read - then followed Wells, although the reporter got no license plate number. The reporter, who has nothing but his word and an obvious axe to grind, works for a Disney-owned station that takes migrant bashing to the bank – whether the migrants are children or not.

The result was predictable. The mainstream white press, which pounded its collective chest over the alleged assault, has remained silent over what came next; a bomb threat to a building full of schoolchildren and an instant evacuation of the premises.

After the threat, minutemen lurked in a café across the street, shouting slurs at the Mexican school kids and taking their photos. A demonstration against the school was called by a local group of racists, “Save Our State” (SOS) - the same group spearheading the drive to forbid migrants from renting in San Bernardino. One SOS supporter wrote, “If blood is spilt then we will surely get it on film and share it with y'all.”

On seeing an aerial photo of the school, one member of the racist group had written, “That is such a nice picture, I only wish it was from the view of a GPS-guided 500 pound bomb. BTW -- is that the school or just the registration offices?”

The bomb threat is under investigation by police.

And the parents of the school are standing up. Thirty of them protested at the KABC studios at 5 in the morning. They’ve unleashed a campaign to pressure Disney and have every intention of protecting their children from harm.

In a recent essay summing up the impact of the anti-migrant climate created by like the minutemen attacks and racist and xenophobic measures like the Senate’s recent English Only push, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette wrote,” I understand this much: As the national mood on immigration reform turns vile and even in some cases violent, there is the very real possibility of a backlash by assimilated, U.S.-born Hispanics.”

“Something significant is happening in the Hispanic community. People say the immigration issue woke the Sleeping Giant. But mark my words: It's not just the giant whom immigrant-bashers should worry about. It's his familia.”

And now the minutemen have launched an attack on lo mas sagrado – the most sacred thing, our families, our children; the children they despise and who they demean with the term “anchor babies.” No human being would endure it. No one allows their children to be threatened.

One SOS member, after patrolling the area around the school, wrote, “Please take my word for this, I recently spent some time on the streets on and near the school and the locals have got their eyes open. Nuff said.”

Yes, now they’ve done it: Not only is the Sleeping Giant awake, but his family has awakened, too.

As I write, Save Our State is talking publicly about abandoning its planned demonstration against the school on Wednesday morning.

Investigators from the Los Angeles Unified School District have refuted minutemen claims that the curriculum and practices of La Academia are “racist” and “anti-white,” and also refuted claims that the school has violated its charter.

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