[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]
A self-described coalition of antigovernment groups is hoping to organize yet another attempt at shutting down the U.S.-Mexico border at major commercial crossings this weekend, calling the event “Shut Down All Ports of Entry”.
Previous attempts at shutting down traffic at key border crossings this spring have ended in spectacular failure—notably radio host Pete Santilli’s attempt to shut down the crossing in Tijuana with bikers, as well as the “Border Convoy” last month, which culminated in a only a brief interruption at Brownsville, Texas.
But this particular attempt, scheduled to take place Saturday, has set off warnings among law enforcement personnel, including a local sheriff’s office in Texas and Border Patrol officials, who say they are prepared for just such an attempt.
A spokesman for event told Hatewatch that, despite concerns, the protest will not be violent or involve any radical behavior. “We have told everybody that’s called, keep your military gear, your rifles, and that stuff at home,” Rob Chupp said in a phone interview. “This is not a military operation, this is a peaceful protest.”
The group’s Facebook page details their plans:
We are a representation of Americans who are unsettled and deeply concerned with our current Administration, in all branches of Federal and State governments. Our mission is to Shut Down, every United States’ Port of Entry on the Southern Border, until our Goals are met.
The website and a message at the group’s hotline asserts that the protesters will remain in place until their demands are met. There are eight “non-negotiable” demands, including the termination of all medical and financial for non-documented immigrants.
According to a report from Robin Abcarian of the Los Angeles Times, both the California Highway Patrol and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency are aware of the planned protest.
“CBP has contingency plans ready to put into place in the event of any protest or a temporary blockage of traffic at our international border crossings,” CBP spokesman Ralph DeSio told the Times.
A report from a southern Texas TV station also warned that “militias” were planning to block traffic on the international bridges this weekend, and quoted Rio Grande Mayor Ruben Villarreal as he voiced his concern.
“What can we expect? I don’t know. The unknown becomes an issue that we really got to prepare for,” Villarreal said, noting that any shutdown would have significant impacts on businesses: “If they’re here to block traffic, to be a hindrance between traffic and the port of entry, that causes a problem. It’s a huge safety issue.”
However, Rob Chupp, an Indiana man who participated in the border militia watch at “Camp Lone Star” in Texas last month, insists that there are no militias directly involved in the protest.
‘We are not a militia group,” Chupp told Hatewatch. “None of the organizers or the event staff is part of a militia. We have housewives, I’m a business owner. That’s who we have. We don’t have militia.”
Chupp claims that authorities are well aware of their plans and have actually been supportive: “We’ve talked to Homeland Security, Border Patrol, Texas Rangers, and for the most part, everybody’s on board with us,” he said. “Border Patrol is happy that we’re doing it. We have sheriffs that are telling us, ‘OK, here’s where you’ve gotta go, this is what you’ve gotta do. Don’t worry about this port, this is a better port.’ So we have a lot of support across the board.”
The shutdown protest appears to be the brainchild of a California woman named Stasyi Barth, a self-described 41-year-old disabled housewife and mother of three from Lake Elsinore, who says she has become increasingly concerned about immigration and decided to organize citizens to stop it.
However, while they describe themselves as “coalition” of Patriot groups, Chupp could not name any other organizations that have actually signed on to support their Saturday protest. Instead, he indicated that people involved in other Patriot groups such as the Oath Keepers and anti-immigration groups such as Overpasses for America would be there as participants.
“We’re coming together as The People,” Chupp said. “We’re not coming together as any particular group. We don’t want to say, OK, here’s this group and this group and this group. … Because once you start naming this person or that person, it becomes about them. We want it to be about our national security and our sovereignty. It’s about the people in general.”
Barth said that the plan is for participants to simply arrive at the border, get in the requisite traffic lanes, and then turn off their cars and walk away.
“You get out of your car and take your keys with you,” she told Abcarain last week from her home. “You stand there and wave your American flag and try to get the message to D.C. that they need to close our border.”