Flush against the gaping void of Ground Zero, Minuteman Project co-founder Jim Gilchrist and Jerome Corsi, co-author of the John Kerry-smearing book Unfit for Command, addressed members of the media in the midday heat July 26. The two were promoting their new book, Minutemen: The Battle to Secure America’s Borders. Their choice of the "sacred ground" of 9/11 was calculated to intertwine the threat of terrorism with undocumented immigration. Corsi wasted no time dedicating the book "to the victims of September 11, and our determination to oppose illegal immigration."
In recent months the Minutemen have embarked on a publicity campaign drawing attention to their radical approach to immigration, including a run for political office by Gilchrist and a current effort to build a border fence in Arizona. Politicians and pundits, such as Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (who has since distanced himself from his earlier statements) and CNN’s Lou Dobbs, have voiced support for the group. The Ground Zero dedication marked a heightened emphasis on linking illegal immigration and the "war on terror" in Minuteman rhetoric.
"Terrorists have used the Mexican border to infiltrate this country," said Corsi, citing the case of a Dearborn, Michigan, man who has been accused of tax evasion and money laundering for Hezbollah. "September 11 was the result of not enforcing immigration laws, of not securing our borders," he added, drawing approval from the twenty-odd Minuteman supporters, mostly unionized construction workers and plumbers. "We are doing the job of the President, the United States military and Congress." Gilchrist stood quietly at Corsi’s side, visibly uncomfortable with the presence of the media and content to act as a foil for his outspoken partner.
Recent anti-immigration events in Fremont, California, and elsewhere in the state that have drawn Minutemen participants have been marked by occasionally violent confrontations. In the past, camouflage-clad Minutemen supporters have sent an intimidating message at some events. But for its "border watch operation," which will run from September 11 to November 7, the date of the Congressional midterm elections, Minuteman volunteers will patrol the Mexican border. Gilchrist aspires to craft a "good, wholesome, all-American image" for his organization, according to a report in the Sacramento Bee. "This is not a war…. Lose the cammies. Lose the weapons." At Ground Zero, however, his message was overtly belligerent: "If it’s a war [pro-immigrant groups] and our political governors want, we will fight them!"
Soon, a group of 120 counter-demonstrators, organized by pro-immigration groups like the New York May 1 Coalition and the Tepeyac Association, set up on the opposite corner. They attracted immediate attention from the assembled press corps, chanting, "Racists out, immigrants in!" This, in turn, prompted Corsi to shout over the tumult. There were a number of verbal exchanges between assembled bystanders and Minuteman supporters, one of whom had given a Nazi salute to pro-immigration demonstrators earlier on. But the tourists and native New Yorkers were largely unimpressed by Gilchrist’s and Corsi’s rhetoric. "This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life," a young woman remarked as she passed by the Minuteman supporters.