Author Labels Minutemen as Latest
in Long History of Anti-Minority Vigilantes
By Ioana Patringenaru | May 22, 2006
| Mike Davis
The Minutemen who now patrol the U.S. border with
Mexico are the direct descendents of the various vigilante
groups that have targeted minorities in the United
States since the 1800s, author Mike Davis told an
audience of about 100 at UCSD Thursday night.
Davis was giving a talk tracing racial strife in
California, from present-day rhetoric on immigration
to the mid-19th century committees that meted out
terror to many non-Anglo and non-Protestant groups.
The California Cultures in Comparative Perspectives
program sponsored the event.
Reading from extensive notes laden with dates and
body counts, Davis gave his audience a crash course
in the history of vigilantism, in the United States
in general and in California in particular. In this
state, vigilantes often acted on behalf of businessmen
who were trying to keep their workers from unifying,
“California’s golden hills too often
have been irrigated with the blood of its workers,”
Up until the 1960s, conflicts often pitted farm workers
against armed men working for landowners. Many groups
were targeted, including immigrants from Oklahoma,
China, Japan and Mexico. Since then, unions have made
some headway, but most farm workers remain disorganized
and desperately poor, Davis told his audience.
Today, illegal immigrants are the vigilantes’
new target, he said. Interestingly, the Minuteman
movement enjoys strong support in former citrus-growing
areas, where clashes between vigilantes and farm workers
took place in the past, Davis said. He cautioned that
the Minutemen should be taken seriously.
“The Minutemen helped radicalize the debate
about immigration in the Republican party,”
Davis’ talk was interesting, especially when
he talked about the Minutemen, student Denise Chavez
“It can be looked at as laughable, but it affects
us all,” she said.
Davis was born in Fontana and raised in Bostonia, Calif.
He worked as a meat cutter and truck driver and was
a member of the Teamsters. He now teaches history at
the University of California, Irvine. He has written
many books, including “Planet of Slums,”
“Under the Perfect Sun: The San Diego Tourists
Never See,” and “City of Quartz: Excavating
the Future in Los Angeles.” He is a longtime activist
dating back to the late 1960s. He currently writes about
the aftermath of Hurricane Kathrina for The Nation
and several European newspapers. He also is working
on a book about the history of car bombings.