A fruitcake of nativist rage and looniness baking in the Arizona sun: That's what was generally to be found at Wesley Bolin Plaza this Saturday, June 5 for the pro-SB 1070 Phoenix Rising rally, which drew around 2,000 mostly white participants to the state Capitol.
Not everyone was as nasty as I anticipated. I had contacted the Capitol Police ahead of time and learned that the organizers would not be able to keep me off the property. Aside from the occasional disparaging comment, and the more than occasional weirdness, I was left alone.
Videographer Dennis Gilman, however, was threatened more than once at the event. One time a biker touched his camera repeatedly in a childish challenge. This biker had also apparently thrown water on Gilman's camera. It almost turned into a fight, but fortunately did not.
Interestingly, one of the many bikers there along with everyone else in the 107 degree heat wore a shirt with SS lightning bolts and a skull that read "White Boy Society." The T-shirt also bore the white supremacist shorthand of 14/88, with 14 representing the white nationalist motto of dead neo-Nazi David Lane, and 88 standing for a double-H (the eighth letter of the alphabet), or "Heil, Hitler!"
WBS defines itself as a "white brotherhood aimed toward bikers." You can check out their white-separatist Web site, here.
There were one or two other white power mugs in the crowd, and I'm currently working on identifying them.
To be fair, I would have anticipated more than just a couple of obvious white supremacists, as neo-Nazis and nativists have similar views on immigration. But it seems some local neo-Nazis were in Las Vegas for an NSM rally there.
Also, William Gheen, the head of the North Carolina-based Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, had alleged on his organization's Web site that the rally's organizer Dan Smeriglio had ties to a white supremacist by the name of Steve Smith.
Gheen based his conclusion on screenshots of Smeriglio's Facebook "friends" and of video of Smith and Smeriglio at a previous rally. Ironically, Gheen also had a Facebook "friend" who was neo-Nazi, which I wrote about in a previous blog post.
But Smeriglio vociferously denied the allegation to me when I spoke to him at the event.
"Steve Smith?" said Smeriglio. "Don't know the man personally. I don't do background checks on people that come to the rallies. I don't have connections to these people, because they threaten my life just as much as anyone else."
Smeriglio said he's part Jewish, and so the allegations are ridiculous in his eyes.
Of Smith, he added: "Don't know who he is, don't care to know who he is because I think he's scum. Anyone who has racist beliefs, believe it or not, I think is scum."
He doesn't think too highly of William Gheen either, or of Gheen's pulling ALIPAC out of Phoenix Rising.
"That comes down to someone who can't be in control of everything," he said, "and can't make money off of people. We don't bow down to him, he doesn't run the show."
Although Smeriglio said he was against amnesty and the DREAM Act, he offered a conciliatory note, saying that it should be easier for immigrants to come to this country.
"Everybody who comes to this country illegally, they're not gangbangers," stated Smeriglio. "they're not drug addicts, they're not pushing bad things. Some of them are coming here for the right reasons. But you know what? It's still a matter of breaking the law upon arrival. I understand why some people do it. But what it comes down to is that our immigration laws are broken, and they need to be fixed. They need to be more well put together...All those people who want to come and bring something to this nation, we should let them in. We need them in this country because immigrants built this country. My family came here from Italy. My family came here from Ireland. I'm proud of that."
He also suggested that it was "a little wrong" to break up families that've been together in the U.S. for as long as 20 years, even though there are some on his side of the fence that demand that the U.S. government "send them all back right now."
Actually, I would argue that most of those at Smeriglio's rally want exactly that.
One speaker, Los Angeles radio host Terry Anderson, informally polled the audience from the podium on this very subject.
"How many of you would be willing to amnesty all illegal aliens in this country if the border is secured?" he asked, receiving a chorus of boos in response.
Then he asked, "Once that border's secured, how many of you would be willing to deport every one of them?" He received thunderous applause as an answer.
Former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and state Senator Russell Pearce were the star attractions. I missed Tancredo's speech, but Pearce and Arpaio were pretty boring, sticking to their pat points and verbiage, though the crowd ate it up.
Arpaio whined that Obama's never invited him to the White House, and that no U.S. Senator has ever asked for his advice on immigration or border-related issues. (Can't imagine why not, Joe. Could it be because you're under investigation by the Department of Justice and a federal grand jury?)
Pearce blathered bogus statistics, like he usually does. For instance, he suggested that "61 percent of Hispanics" support SB 1070, while all the polls out there state the contrary. A Rocky Mountain Poll found that 69 percent of Hispanics in Arizona oppose the law, and a survey done by the group Latino Studies found that 70 percent of Latinos in Sand Land are strongly opposed to the new law.
Thing is, I could write a book on all the prevarications and shibboleths Pearce has put out there on immigration. Sometimes, I feel like I already have.
The lesser known speakers were far more bizarre. Eddie Munster-lookalike Ray Herrera claimed that Pearce is "my new daddy," and went on to assert that, "to be an American is to be an Anglo, Protestant core culture society member."
This, despite the fact that Herrera is Hispanic.
Ted Hayes, who has been linked to the hate group FAIR (the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which wrote SB 1070), acknowledged the mostly Anglo makeup of the crowd at one point during his rambling address.
"I am not an African-American," he intoned from the podium. "I am an American. I happen to be black. You happen to be white."
A moment later, he caught his mistake, saying, "or brown or red or yellow..."
To the delight of his audience, Hayes called the Rev. Al Sharpton "a treasonous traitor that needs to be arrested," and promised to arrest Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson by "citizens' power" by summer's end.
He also absolved the crowd for the ills of slavery, and offered a unique apology.
"White people did not start slavery," he advised them. "It started in Africa. That's where it started. We are just as responsible anybody else, and I would say to you, that you my white brothers and sisters have come closer to us black people than we have come to you. And I apologize for that."
California wackjob Lupe Moreno in her address called CNN's Anderson Cooper a "traitor" who needs to be taken into custody. The "traitor" theme was repeated often. Some dude manning the table of the cultish Constitution Party said I was a traitor just because we disagreed on the interpretation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees citizenship to those born in the U.S., save for the children of diplomats.
So if you choose not to agree with most of these wingnuts, you're a traitor and should be thrown in the hoosegow, or worse.
Nativist Chelene Nightingale, a candidate for California governor on the American Independent Party ticket, called on the crowd to boycott Hollywood and Los Angeles County. Good luck with that, Chelene.
You should know that the nutty Nightingale apparently buys into the insane conspiracy theory concerning what Alex Jones types call "chemtrails." Hence her new nickname, "Chemtrail Chelene."
Golden State Hispanic-hater Barbara Coe, who is on record as having referred to Mexicans as "savages" and "barbarians," advised her fellow Tea Party types to "lock and load," to defend themselves.
In the blistering 107 degree heat, she excoriated illegal immigrants as "invaders" who are,
"...taking jobs that rightfully belong to our citizen and legal immigrants, bringing deadly diseases into our country which kill and disable Americans, literally destroying our welfare, medical care and educational system, and most importantly having 25 to 30 innocent victims every day, over three times the number of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan put together."
That statistic is an oft-repeated nativist lie that has been debunked numerous times, and still gets regurgitated no matter how many times it's disproved. You can read more about that myth and its origins, here.
I was happy to see the Libertarians out protesting the event, even though their tribe included Chris Broughton, the dude famous for bringing a loaded assault rifle to an event in Phoenix last year where President Obama was speaking. He's been associated with Pastor Steven Anderson, the Tempe preacher who's prayed for Obama's death.
(Note: I may not agree with Broughton's other actions, but when it comes to 1070, he and his fellow Libertarians have been solidly in favor of truth, freedom and the American way. You know, just like Superman. You go, guys.)
Towards the end of the rally, Dennis Gilman and I were approached by this lady Alice Novoa-Benson, who said she's running for Justice of the Peace in Douglas, Arizona. Novoa-Benson proceeded to inform us that a conspiracy that includes pro-Aztlan forces, the Catholic Church and radical Muslims intends to take back the Southwest and get rid of all white people. The Pope, too, is involved, she explained. She learned of the conspiracy through the (ahem) Internet.
The best local color was provided by an elderly gent on horseback carrying an anti-SB 1070 sign. He showed up just as a barbecue for U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Hayworth was getting under way, one that was guarded by nativist bikers, BTW.
Initially, the Capitol Police wanted him to give up his sign -- something to do with the permit-holders for the rally objecting. But the cops ultimately relented on this, with the blessings of the rally's sponsors.
The man identified himself as Bud Hart and his horse as "Biggun." Smoking a cigarette and wearing suspenders and a cowboy hat, he seemed sent straight from central casting.
"These laws are already on the books," he contended regarding SB 1070. "They can arrest these Mexicans if they want to, but I contend that if they're going to arrest Mexicans, go after the big wheels. The Mexican Mafia, the Sinaloa cowboys, get after those dogs. They're the ones that control the drugs and all the goddang crime. It's not the dishwashers and the landscapers."
If the Dems had a lick of sense, they'd hire this guy pronto to do anti-SB 1070 ads for them. But of course, they don't. Have a lick of sense, that is.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.