On March 31, 2007, the Minutemen held a protest outside the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant in Costa Mesa, which had planned to host the mobile consulate that Saturday afternoon. Church pastor Tim McCalmont says the congregation agreed this was a good way for the church to help out the Hispanic community living nearby.

"We had talked to the Costa Mesa police, and they felt that was a good idea because it gives them a way of identifying people," he says of the matriculas. McCalmont says he received some angry phone calls and a visit by a local Minuteman prior to the event. A few days before the event, the consulate notified McCalmont that they would not be sending the mobile consulate after all because there was word that police would be there to supervise and they were worried people would not show up, McCalmont says. The church arranged for transportation to the Santa Ana consulate for those who arrived.

On the day of the event, "the Minutemen came, and the police came and stood at a safe distance and made sure things were safe," says McCalmont. "They kept order; the Minutemen did their thing, made some noise, caused a lot of cars to honk. It really went off without incident."

Minutewomen display their demands in front of Capistrano unified school district headquarters Feb. 11
Daffodil J. Altan
Minutewomen display their demands in front of Capistrano unified school district headquarters Feb. 11
Patricia Mariscal
Courtesy the Minutemen
Patricia Mariscal

According to the Minutemen's version of the event, which was circulated nationally via a Web dispatch titled, "Minutemen Scare Off Mexican Consulate," the consulate left at 1 p.m., two hours before their scheduled departure of 3 p.m. "The consulate wasn't even there," says McCalmont. The dispatch also claimed "the church leaders stated they had been mislead [sic] about the nature of the event, and members of the congregation expressed concern over the presence of the mobile Mexican consulate."

"We weren't misled at all; we knew exactly what we were doing," McCalmont says. "We did a lot of background study on this . . . and wanted to make sure we weren't doing anything illegal." He says the church would consider hosting the consulate again.

"We just kind of got caught in the middle. The Minutemen have an agenda," McCalmont says. "I don't think they really understood what was happening. They felt we were giving people who were here illegally an opportunity to duck the system. And that certainly was not the case. The police wouldn't have been here if it was."

Former Mexican consul Ortiz Haro, who left his post in early January, says the Minutemen have not stopped following him since the incidents at CUSD and at the Teamsters office, protesting regularly during his last days at the consulate, as well as at a recent Orange County Hispanic Bar Association dinner, at which he was honored. He says he was out of town at the end of December and did not have the conversation with the school district that terminated all future use of the adult school.

"I don't know what the status is now, but I hope the permanent termination of services there isn't a reality," he says. "I hope the consulate does not stop going because many people down south need them."

"One has to act. This is an issue of attending to the community," he says. "What were there, seven or eight people protesting? How can they put a stop to a service that helps 500 people at a time?"

daltan@ocweekly.com

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