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Utah Minutemen protest Vicente Fox's visit to SLC

Published May 24, 2006 12:35 am

'Go back to Mexico': Some demonstrators blame the president for Mexicans coming across the U.S. border illegally
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Toting American flags and waving large banners, about 100 people assembled in front of the Governor's Mansion on Tuesday night, yelling and chanting at Mexican President Vicente Fox's motorcade as he arrived for the State Dinner.

"Go back to Mexico, Fox, we don't want you here!" one man yelled. "Take care of your own people, Fox! Take care of your own citizens so they don't have to come here!"

Standing behind yellow police tape near the edge of the sidewalk, the demonstrators, most of them Utah Minutemen, cheered as drivers on South Temple honked their horns and waved, signaling their support.

Other drivers crept along, their windows rolled down, and waved - with one finger.

Upset by the Utah Minuteman Project's protest, Troy C. Gottfredson showed up with a flattened Corona beer box with his own message scrawled on it: "Welcome President Fox."

"They [the Minutemen] want them [undocumented workers] lynched. They want them dragged out," said Gottfredson, who saw the Minutemen protest on TV and rushed to the Governor's Mansion to stage his own protest - against the Minutemen.

"There's just no positive; it's angry," he said. "It's unfortunate. It's just too angry for me."

Utah Minutemen, however, said their message is not imbued with racism or hatred. Securing the borders, and deporting undocumented workers here, is a matter of national security.

Wally McCormick, a Utah Minuteman who visited the U.S.-Mexico border in April 2005, said American families there carry guns on their hips and live in constant fear. Mexicans knock on their doors in the middle of the night, demanding food, water and liquor.

McCormick and Darrel Wood, another Minuteman who visited the border, said they're angry Fox is in Utah, dining with Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and initiating political dialogue.

"He's a socialist dictator oppressing the lower class, so much so that they [Mexicans] are forced to leave their country," Wood said. "I think he is responsible for a lot of deaths on the border."

Close to Wood, Salt Lake City police officers ushered some Minutemen off the sidewalk and toward the street for security reasons, a move that raised the ire of Land Reay, a Taylorsville man who showed up to support the Minutemen's cause.

"He [the police officer] should have that much spine at the Rio Grande!" Reay yelled through cupped hands.

Vicki Smith, who is not a Minuteman but supports the group's cause, said her family is fighting wars in two countries.

While her son is disassembling explosives in Ramadi, Iraq, Smith says she is battling illegal immigration on her home soil. Undocumented workers, she said, are a drain on social services and American taxpayers.

"When my ancestors immigrated here they didn't do it on the backs of other Americans. There was no welfare or bilingual education," she said. "We need to be defending the border, and we need to be doing it faster, harder and long before now."

lrosetta@sltrib.com