By Ray Stern
By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
And another part of him is tired of carrying the party's banner. "I'm the Libertarian poster boy," Vazquez complains after party officials gave out private information about him--a telephone number he wanted kept unlisted--to the Arizona Republic. Apparently, the party, which considers the right to privacy about as sacrosanct as anything, even AK-47 ownership, didn't see a contradiction.
Vazquez participates in a small, no-name militia which meets to discuss political issues and doesn't do much in the way of the paramilitary stuff. Mostly it's for recreation, for the handgunning at the range rather than preparing for disaster. "But we're cognizant of the fact that any day we might have to be," he says. "One day it will be too late for anything other than a revolution. And that wouldn't be beneficial to anybody.
"The militia is pictured as a bunch of bloodthirsty white supremacist trash. And yes, you certainly do have your share of it," he says. "I've run into other Hispanics who question what I'm doing. But I've never run into anyone who's said to me that I'm on the wrong side. In my life, there's no room for racism."
The people in his cell don't include racists or neo-Nazis, says Vazquez. But he admits that at larger militia gatherings, the potential for conflict is greater. He's run into openly bigoted militiamen at shooting matches who wanted to know what someone with his complexion was doing there. He's also had to explain that he's been shaving his head for 17 years, long before he'd ever heard of skinheads.
Occasionally, the encounters are weirder. At a larger militia meeting Vazquez describes as having a "religious-right feel," he was approached by a tall, thin man with a large hunting knife strapped to his waist. The man began telling him about secret U.N. forces stationed in the Superstition Mountains. The man claimed to have seen the soldiers taking deliveries of sex slaves as they waited for the word to attack Phoenix. And, in a Lost Dutchmanesque touch, the man said that he'd been the only witness to these things who had lived to tell about it. He offered to take Vazquez on a private tour, but Vazquez says he didn't like the looks of that hunting knife.
He says he asked the fellow to draw him a map.
"You try to reach these people," he says. "But then you write them off and let them know you don't support them."
A yuppified coffee house on a weekday morning. Students and professors from nearby ASU are bent over copies of the New York Times and tall glasses of mocha java. It doesn't seem like a particularly dangerous environment, not the kind of place a person would feel uncomfortable without a sidearm.
In the militia movement, however, eternal vigilance, even among the peaceniks at Coffee Plantation, is the price of freedom.
Liz Andreasen, militia member and converted Jew, won't confirm she's packing heat in the large purse sitting next to her on the floor, but she says so with a knowing look. "Let me put it this way," she says, "the element of surprise is always better."
She's an Orthodox Jew and says that thejeans she's wearing shouldn't give theimpression that she's not strict. It's just that she's made a few concessions to modernity. Rather than wearing the traditional wig, for example, she likes to show her dark, shoulder-length hair.
She and her husband take part in two small, nameless militia cells. They meet informally to train with weapons, learn mapping techniques and coordinate resources. In a separate interview, Eric Andreasen says that the militias' activities are mostly mundane, but essential. "You're dealing with the potential of civil war," he says.
Unlike Kristina Sanchez, who doesn't train with the militia and doesn't allow her children to, Liz Andreasen considers it a family affair.
"I train," she says. "And I give my kids the ability to train with me."
"My wife's a better shot than I am," Eric adds.
Told about Sanchez and her "women's auxiliary," Liz shakes her head. "If somebody comes to her door and hubby isn't home, will she go for a gun herself or call 911?"
Before letting the kids near weapons, however, Liz says they need to understand the terrible force they're dealing with.
She recommends taking children out to private land to show them the power of firearms. With .22-caliber rifles, they plug water balloons and milk jugs filled with water. Even the small-bore weapons make the objects explode and get the message across. Then, with larger-caliber weaponry, they take aim at pieces of fruit. The key, Liz says, is to bring over the orange that you've just put a big whole through and show it to the kids.
"We tell them this could be your brother's head, or your sister's head," she says.
It's an effective education. "I can leave my semiautomatic out on the table and they won't touch it," she says.
Later, she admits that the children still manage to get into the guns and have to be punished. "But it's no different than them touching the steak knives or my meat cleaver."