With American flags, pamphlets, a naturalized citizen, a "Don't Tread on Me" poster and a man in a tri-cornered hat, local members of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps picketed the State House yesterday in hopes of stopping what they've deemed "the Illegal Alien Invasion."
About a dozen people gathered around lunchtime for the rally, which was organized by Exeter resident Ron Oplinus, director of the New Hampshire chapter of the Minutemen. He spent about a month organizing the event in response to Cinco de Mayo, Mexican independence day, and the pro-immigration rallies held throughout the country earlier this week.
"It's a serious problem," he said, squinting beneath the brim of a Minuteman baseball cap. "It's not an easy problem, but we are losing this country. They don't want to become American citizens. They want to reclaim the southern states for Mexico."
Nationally, the Minutemen are increasingly prominent in the debate over how the United States should regulate its borders. The group's mission is "to secure United States borders and coastal boundaries against unlawful and unauthorized entry of all individuals, contraband and foreign militaries."
Visitors to their website, minutemanHQ.com, may watch a running tally of undocumented immigrants, fax their concerns to Congress, read the Minuteman Pledge - which states that the group doesn't tolerate racism or bigotry - or read the latest on the fence that members are building along the Mexican border.
Oplinus's health prevents him from fence-raising, but he's taken on more sedentary tasks in the Southwest. In April, he was part of a group that he says identified 1,500 illegal immigrants in Arizona. The experience renewed his disgust for human trafficking and his worry about what he calls "OTMs" - Other Than Mexicans.
They come from "terrorist-related countries," he said. "You don't hear much about it."
Yesterday's scene was small but interesting. Supporters of U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo - a Colorado Republican with upcoming presidential campaign activities that include a Barbecue on the Border in Arizona - passed out pamphlets and stickers. A knot of men debated welfare policies throughout the last decade while schoolchildren leaving the State House snapped pictures.
Next to a bright yellow "Don't Tread on Me" poster stood Diane Lothrop, a native of Liverpool, England, who took her citizenship oath five years ago and plans to run for the Legislature in 2008.
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