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Minute Man Project: the Take in Tombstone
by Mark Poepsel KOLD News-13 Reporter
posted 3/29/05

They have been called everything from vigilantes to heroes, and this Friday volunteers with the Minuteman Project are heading to Tombstone.

Organizers say 1300 will arrive this week to patrol the border with Mexico, especially around Douglas and Naco. That would nearly double the number of people in the historic Southern Arizona town just a 30 minute drive from the border.

Townspeople disagree whether the coming volunteers represent justice in the hands of private citizens or a return to the wild west.

"A lot of the citizens here in town are scared this is coming to our little community here," said Larry Noyes, a Tombstone resident who drives tourists in his stagecoach around historic streets, past landmarks highlighting the days when Wyatt Earp was the law.

Chris Simcox, one of the organizers of the Minuteman Project, shares his vision of how it will take shape.

"If you can imagine, cars parked a half-mile to a quarter-mile along a long stretch of the border with people sitting in lawn chairs flying their state flags," he said, "That's what I see."

Simcox describes the event as a monthlong peaceful demonstration meant to attract national attention.

So far, that has succeeded with comments from President Bush and plenty of national media coverage.

Simcox describes how the volunteers will work. No rifles are allowed, but handguns are. Groups run the risk of encountering drug runners as they stage the road along the border.

"They'll drive out to a specific location, set up their lawn chairs and camping chairs, put on floppy hats and sunscreen, watch with binoculars and report people who cross illegally with their cell phones, that's it," said Simcox.

Simcox finds support with many Tombstone resident. He has editorial control over one of the town's newspapers, the Tombstone Tumbleweed.

Ronald Vidican, a naturalized American from Canada reads the paper and agrees with Simcox.

"I don't foresee violence because it's not the answer, but if our troops can be on the borders of Korea, Bosnia, them places, then why can't they be on our borders here?" he said.

Many store owners in Tombstone are not willing to talk with reporters. Some say they fear retaliation from people in town if they speak out against the project.

Noyes says, although people are reluctant to talk about it in Tombstone, many are worried.

"They agree something needs to be done with illegal immigration, but they're a little nervous about this Minuteman thing because a lot of these guys seem to be ex-military. They're afraid something's going to blow up here in town."

But Simcox disagrees. "This is a peaceful political protest," he said.

Vikki Bryant doesn't speak for the Minuteman Project. She lives in a house in rural Cochise County not far from Tombstone. She says immigrants often threaten her home, and she supports any effort to stop them.

"As far as i'm concerned, they shouldn't be in this country. We should put up a big long fence and shoot 'em as they come over the border," she said.

Simcox says that's not what it's about.

"It's wrong to say we're racists, wrong to say we're out here because of hate. These are all gross inaccuracies," he said.

The people of Tombstone anxiously await the Minuteman Project whether they think it threatens violence or not.