Ed Hayes came to Hutchinson recently, hoping to be heard.
As president of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps' Heart of America chapter, Hayes traveled from Johnson County to present his group's side of the illegal immigration issue during the Project Aware meeting Oct. 28 at Hutchinson Community College.
After the meeting, Hayes said he had his chance, but not before he was "blindsided" by what one of the organizers, Kansas City-based immigration attorney Angela Ferguson, said.
"I mean, there's always people that are against the Minutemen," Hayes said. "Some of it is they've just been told the wrong things. And that's what she was doing. That was the purpose of that meeting, to poison people's minds in regards to the Minutemen."
The Minutemen Civil Defense Corps bills itself as a group aiming to prevent and reverse illegal immigration at America's borders.
Lila Fritschen, the city of Hutchinson's human relations officer, said Ferguson did make it clear she considered the Minutemen a hate group, "which did not go over well with some of them."
Fritschen also helped organize the Project Aware meeting. She said about 55 people attended, including Hayes and about 10 others with the Minutemen.
Ferguson did not return telephone messages left at her office by The News.
Hayes introduced himself to Fritschen before the meeting began, and she told him she was glad to have him there. She also said Hayes made it clear what the group's focus is.
"They're very open that they're wanting to remove all illegal immigrants," Fritschen said.
Hayes agrees. But he said some characterizations, by Ferguson or others, are false.
They don't make contact with people crossing America's borders illegally. And they aren't racist, he said.
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