By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Valley anarchists have never had it easy. At nearly every public demonstration they sponsor or attend, they find themselves confronted by mounted police with pepper spray as undercover cops snap their photos and beer-guzzling frat boys hawk loogies on their heads from the balcony of Hooters.
Yet feds and frat boys, as well as the inevitable smattering of arrests when their marches spill off the sidewalks and into the streets, are something anarchists take in stride. These are predictable and familiar adversaries.
But now, a self-proclaimed anti-protestor militia has anarchists and other war protestors in its sights.
Radical peace advocates are the targets and sworn enemies of the Victory Policy Center, according to the VPC Web site, www.gunpolicycenter.com. The site, which supports gun rights and opposes federal gun legislation, is apparently run out of Glendale and registered to Bruce Watson, according to Internet registration records. The site also includes a local Glendale weather chart.
The VPC describes itself as a militia coalition of 82 members, armed with "night vision equipment as well as illuminated low light scopes," provided by an unnamed corporate sponsor.
The militia's stated mission is to "Eliminate" protestors who have stepped across the line and – in the group's opinion – abused the constitutional right to free speech. "Eliminate" is a word VPC spells with a capital E.
Strategy meetings to determine "locations for surveillance and target marking" are being planned by the VPC militia, they say. "The fun will begin soon," the Web site promises, "just be patient."
The Web site labels anti-war activists as cockroaches, targets of opportunity, drug and child abusers, and pathetic losers. Both Phoenix and Glendale police say they are unaware of any anti-protestor militia activities.
The VPC also has devoted a section of its Web site to tasteless jokes about anti-war advocates. ("How do you tell a good protestor from a bad one? The good one already has a bullet in their head.")
But the "Protestor Jokes and Facts" don't end with the Web site. Victory Policy Center has also left menacing messages on Arizona's Indy Media comments page, a Web site devoted to anti-globalization activism and journalism.
And some peace activists are starting to get worried.
"This is something that requires serious discussion," writes a member of the Phoenix Anarchist Coalition on that group's message board. "Now might be the time to seriously consider what measures should be taken in defense of ourselves."
Anarchists have posted the VPC's first statement on their message board, and members are concerned. Says one post: "It's tempting to just write it off as some lonely loser living in his parents' basement, but it's better to be safe than sorry.... Remember, Hitler's SS started out as basically a vigilante street gang, so you can see what happens when people don't organize against fascists at their early stages ..."
Activists are also troubled by the VPC's animosity. The Web site includes a New York Post story about a 23-year-old American activist, Rachel Corrie, who was crushed and killed by a bulldozer in Gaza while protesting the Israeli destruction of a Palestinian home in mid-March.
Photos of the young woman's bloodied body cradled in the arms of her friends inspired the following comments from VPC: "This Bitch thought she could step in front of a Bulldozer and live through it. This shows the mentality of radical extremists and their will to control people by force. It also shows that sometimes, and with a little luck, these Idiots get their just reward. It was an act of God. Apparently he had other plans for her – as soil."
"This is a very scary thing that our government needs to be looking into," says Dave Wells, one of the founding members of Arizona Alliance for Peaceful Justice, a pro-peace group organized after September 11, 2001. "While [the government] is trying to protect us from foreign terrorism, these people are quite publicly engaging in domestic terrorism."
In an e-mail to New Timesresponding to questions about the group, signed only "VPC," the Victory Policy Center says its interest in "this group of Anti-American subversives" began last summer. "We have a number of people who have infiltrated this group," the VPC claims, and the information received from the infiltrators "is what will drive us to fulfill the missions that we seek to accomplish."
The VPC states that protestors "have crossed the line between use and abuse of their Constitutional rights."
"To us they have yelled fire' in a crowded theatre," the e-mail to New Times says. "We feel it is time to Eliminate this element from our society. We feel it is our Patriotic duty."
"We have a right to protect ourselves and our property," the VPC says in a second e-mail. "This is where vigilantism and militias are an Important element of our society. They cost the taxpayer nothing and achieve things the police and state do not always have the manpower or funds to accomplish. We do this all out of our own pockets.
"To your Question of Eliminate. That is a decision they' will have to make. We do NOT intend on shooting anyone. Unless of course through an act of self defense of one's person. A legal and justifiable act.
"To Eliminate Social Ignorants' such as the Anarchist' one must first find out who they are. Understand their Agenda, then infiltrate their organizations and groups. This, not always being the most effective way, can and has provided other useful information. Hell, ask the FBI about that one."
The e-mail describes the VPC members as "law abiding, socially productive, citizens."
"We're just a little more serious and aggressive than the average citizen when it comes to issues of Patriotism and National pride. Values the Anarchist Protestor just does not comprehend."
The author says the group originally started in Buckeye before World War II with "a rebirth" in the early 1990s. It is more vigilante than "militant militia," the author says. "We communicate via social and work venues, when out shooting etc. I guess similar to a Guys Gun Club or whatever."
"Most of us have a great love for Guns and exercising our Second Amendment rights on a daily basis as well as working to keep Dangerous people out of our Country, away from our borders and off of our Streets.... We go out armed every day of our lives to every place you could probably imagine. I myself never leave home without a weapon, and many times, more than not, take along my favorite AK. Most, if not all of us do."
The VPC says it has already been active in its own form of patrolling and guarding the Valley. A few months ago, the e-mail says, the VPC, after hearing about a Department of Public Safety officer who was shot by a suspect who took off toward Wickenburg, "quietly set up a surveillance and what you might call a sniper op in the desert north and west of Buckeye for almost 2 days just waiting and watching."
"We were there not to become involved in or disrupt a police operation but were there to make sure this Asshole didn't get past them and into town. We were prepared to cuff and effect a citizens arrest, actually in that case would have been a Citizens Legal detention of a Felony suspect. Our civic duty."
The e-mail author denied he is Bruce Watson, the Glendale man to whom the site is registered. The writer says his name is "Geoff" and that Watson just owns the site.
Wells says he and other peace activists will be careful at demonstrations and vigils, but will not be intimidated into inaction. "I think it's really important, especially in a time of crisis, to exercise the freedoms this country's supposed to stand for. If you allow groups like this to intimidate you, you might as well be living in a police state."
For the most part, Wells says, protestors and supporters of war have co-existed without strife at demonstrations. "The counter-protestors have not engaged in any activities that are dangerous yet." Wells pauses, then adds: "But the backdrop for the guy's Web site is a machine gun."