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Anti-Heroes

Is it possible this nutty nightingale actually had fun at a nativist hoedown? Specifically one where half the crowd would've loved to tear this toucan a new one?

What can The Bird say? It was a hoot crossing swords with all the anti-illegal immigrant types present at a recent fundraiser for imprisoned Border Patrol agent Ignacio Ramos at New River's Roadrunner Saloon, which reminded this rooster of the Boar's Nest. You know, the drinking spot where Bo and Luke Duke were always hangin' in The Dukes of Hazzard?

For the record, this tenacious tweeter thinks the several hundred bikers and others who attended the event are full of the brown stuff when it comes to the right-wing cause celebre of "Nacho" Ramos and his fellow Border Patrol agent Jose Compean, who were convicted in 2006 of shooting an unarmed marijuana smuggler in the butt as he fled on foot toward the U.S.-Mexico border in West Texas. Wing-nut presidential candidate Tom Tancredo and CNN's Lou Dobbs are always ranting about the case, but the more we read about it, the more the Texas Two look as guilty as Tony Montana in Scarface.

Nativist nimrods cry that Ramos and Compean are "heroes," persecuted for defending the border against illegal alien invaders. They demonize U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton for pursuing charges against the two men, sometimes referring to him as "Johnny Satan." The reality is, Ramos and Compean were damned by their own testimony. They fired 15 rounds at fleeing suspect Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila after he had abandoned his truck full of pot, nailing him once in a buttock. Compean watched him limp as he emerged on the other side of the Rio Grande. But neither agent made a report of the incident, as required, and Compean did his best to destroy the crime scene, removing his handgun's spent shell casings from the area.

Ramos admitted on the witness stand that he did not report the incident. And in a handwritten sworn statement made after he was arrested, Compean confessed he did not report it because "I was afraid I was going to get in trouble." Both tried to justify the shoot, saying they thought they saw something shiny in the suspect's hand. But a jury did not believe them, and neither does this dodo. Aldrete-Davila was not armed, and Ramos and Compean did not act in self-defense. It was a bad shooting, and the charges were deserved, especially considering that both defendants sought to cover the whole thing up.

Still, the popularity of their cause cannot be denied. About 350 people showed for the shindig at the Roadrunner, with parking for the sea of motorcycles and other vehicles spilling over to the opposite side of the road. Do-ragged Harley lovers listened to a lineup of anti-immigrant speakers, from MILF-y firebrand Michelle Dallacroce of Mothers Against Illegal Aliens to William Gheen of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC), whose shtick is raving about the extremist bugbear of a "North American Union" with Mexico and Canada.

The event was hosted by conservative radio MC and former San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock. Shredded mystery meat sloppy joes were served, and cover band Resonation cranked out versions of such tunes as the Violent Femmes' "Blister in the Sun," which (oddly) got the biker chicks dancing. Folks paid $20 a head to get in, and, along with a raffle and direct donations, more than $38K was raised for Ramos' wife, Monica, according to David Heppler, one of the event's organizers.

As this worm-wrangler canvassed the crowd, Budweiser in hand, it spied a who's who of the nativist movement, from Minuteman leader Chris Simcox and his deadly enemy, Jim Gilchrist, to former goober-natorial candidate Don Goldwater and reactionary radio lip-flapper Terry Anderson. Why, even PHX mayoral hopeful Steve "Loser" Lory was workin' the crowd. And this beak-bearer finally got to meet colleague Linda Bentley of the way-right Sonoran News, who disapproves of Sheriff "Nickel Bag" Joe Arpaio nearly as much as this magpie.

Although this pugnacious pelican was despised by many in attendance, was occasionally referred to in colorful terms, and was once asked to leave by anchor-baby-basher Dallacroce, he was afforded safe passage by American Freedom Riders founder Danny Smith, whose biker group sponsored the wingding. This cunning kite used his powers of persuasion to win over Dallacroce and others to thinking that The Bird was at least worth arguing with. Civil, though heated, political discussion in a biker bar? Hey, it happened, people.

There was an absence of skinheads, unlike at other nativist hayrides. Maybe neo-Nazis don't mix well with Easy Riders. Or maybe they just knew they weren't welcome. The American Freedom Riders may be wrong about Ramos and Compean, but at least they throw one helluva party.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons