Cities fear violence as militia groups threaten to shut down border crossings
Border militias are threatening to block international ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border later this week to protest the jailing of a former Marine on Mexican weapons charges, and authorities fear the protests could spark violence.
Law enforcement officials and city leaders in the region have met with officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to discuss the planned demonstration.
Organizers said they would block indefinitely bridges and other ports of entry beginning Saturday to protest illegal crossings by undocumented migrants and the jailing in Mexico of a former U.S. Marine, Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, on weapons charges.
The protest was launched by Stasyi Barth, a 41-year-old married mother of three from Lake Elsinore, California, who said she has been angry for years about illegal immigration but decided to take action after the Marine veteran’s arrest “kind of pushed it over the edge.”
She connected on Facebook with Rob Chupp (pictured above), an Indiana truck driver active in the border militia movement, to organize the “Shut Down All Ports” protest.
Organizers say they plan to continue their protest until U.S. and Mexico can agree on “a permanent and legitimate solution for dealing with the Illegal Immigration issue, [to] enforce our rule of law,” and the release of Tahmooressi.
Conservative media outlets have highlighted the Marine veteran’s case, and Fox News frequently hosts his mother to put pressure on the Obama administration to seek his release.
Barth and Chupp — who spent time in April at the Bundy Ranch and claims connections to the Oath Keepers, Militiamen, Three-Percenters, and other right-wing “patriot” groups — will take part in protests along the California and Texas borders.
Barth, a former computer programmer who has been on disability for most of the last decade, isn’t sure how many people will take part in the protest, which she hopes will cause so much chaos governments will be forced to act on both sides of the border.
“I don’t want to inconvenience people,” she said. “I want to make a point. People protest all the time and it affects other people’s lives. Airline pilots go on strike, transportation workers go on strike constantly and they don’t get any flak for that.”
Barth, who also took part in anti-immigration demonstrations in Murrieta, California, insists that any militia members who take part will be doing so simply as concerned citizens.
Ruben Villareal, mayor of Rio Grande City, said militia members have a right to express their views, but he is concerned about their intent.
“If they’re here to block traffic, to be a hindrance between traffic and the port of entry, that causes a problem,” Villareal said. “It’s a huge safety issue.”
He said hundreds of millions of dollars in commerce come through the ports of entry – not just immigrants.
“If their intent is to cause a disruption at a port of entry, it’s not only a matter of people, it’s a matter of commerce as well,” Villareal said.
The mayor said officials in his town would prepare for the possibility of violence, saying state law allows the open carry of firearms.
“I’m not going to lie to you — it’s going to make us nervous,” Villareal said. “We’re not used to seeing firearms being openly displayed.”
Barth is not a member of any Tea Party groups and claims to be a political independent, but her concerns about the country slipping away from people like her echo those voiced in conservative media.
“I have watched our Country disintegrate, slowly but surely, since Reagan left office,” she said. “This disintegration has sped up under Obama, but it’s been happening long before him.”
Although illegal immigrants are not entitled to public assistance, Barth said she is willing to be jailed to prevent that from happening.
“I’m not against anyone coming here,” Barth said. “I just want to know who you are and I want you to work. I don’t want your first stop to be the welfare office.”
[Image via Facebook]