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Arizona Park a ‘No-Go’ Zone for American Citizens

The Sonoran Desert National Monument is so overrun with drug gangs that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has warned Americans not to enter the park.

by
Annie Jacobsen

Bio

June 25, 2010 - 12:00 am
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Ready told Stephen Lemons, who blogs for the Phoenix New Times, that his group is ready to pick up where law enforcement cannot and is encouraging his white supremacist brethren to bring their “assault rifles [and] military equipment” down to the Vekol Valley, as well as “identity concealing items like bandanas, balaclavas,” and camouflage. Ready says his group has its own rules of engagement, which will be explained to anyone who joins their mission, provided they can show a valid ID. “Our statement to law enforcement is to support us with choppers … with SWAT teams and so forth. We’re telling them to come down,” he says.

Sheriff Babeu has declined help from the vigilantes. “Securing our international border and fighting these heavily armed smugglers is the responsibility of the federal government,” Babeu says, reiterating that he needs help. “Local law enforcement can’t handle this on our own,” he says, “yet it will only complicate our concerns to have untrained and armed citizens, who are not from Pinal County, patrolling our desert areas.”

According to my conversation with a white supremacist affiliated with “Border Ops” through his newsletter “White News Now,” the vigilante mission is moving forward with or without the endorsement of local law enforcement. “One way or another the invasion must stop,” I was told.

The sentiment is growing in Arizona. Earlier this week a second, seemingly less radical group launched a second vigilante operation called “Operation Line in the Sand.” This mission was run by a group calling themselves the “Vekol Valley Illegal Immigrant Patrol,” which spokesman Harry L. Hughes III says began keeping watch last weekend. “Although we were ‘armed for bear,’” Hughes says, “I would like to think the primary intention of this show of force was to raise public awareness when it comes to the drug trade and human smuggling.” Photos of the group posted online seem like they might be able to fight off a small army of bears while raising that public awareness. Interestingly, Hughes also wants the issue of destruction of public lands addressed.

With the current administration deaf to the pleas of local law enforcement, perhaps Hughes’ group should call on President Clinton?

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Annie Jacobsen writes the "Backstory" blog (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/back-story/) for the Los Angeles Times Magazine.
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