Border watch in Pinal worries officials

Man heading event called a 'neo-Nazi'
2010-06-19T00:00:00Z Border watch in Pinal worries officialsBrady McCombs Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 19, 2010 12:00 am  • 

A Phoenix man described as a neo-Nazi is calling for people to bring "plenty of firearms and ammo" to a border watch operation in Pinal County that he is promoting as the "Minuteman Project on steroids."

The man behind the rally call is Jason "J.T." Ready, who is identified as a "nativist" an "outright neo-Nazi" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization that monitors hate groups.

In an e-mail titled "Border action alert," Ready calls for a "show of force and solidarity of concerned patriots ... to stand the line near Interstate 8 to show the world that the line in the sand has been drawn."

The operation is set to take place today in the Vekol Valley, located about halfway between Casa Grande and Gila Bend. It's the same area that Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu has said is now controlled by drug smugglers, and where a deputy from his department got into a gunfight with suspected smugglers on April 30.

Ready specifically invites militias, motorcycle clubs, National Guard, constitutional groups and the National Socialist Movement. The NSM is one of the largest neo-Nazi hate groups in the country with 61 chapters in 35 states, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Reached by phone, Ready said he's a member of the group but said it's not a neo-Nazi hate group. Asked to describe it, he said it's a national socialism group. He said the Southern Poverty Law Center is among a group of organizations that is out to destroy America.

Ready said he and volunteers will shut down the major drug smuggling corridor for 24 hours by putting snipers on observation points and patrolling in vehicles and on foot. He declined to estimate how many people he expected. He and others were already out in the valley Friday doing work, he said.

"We've got assault rifles, we've got military equipment," Ready said. "This is a serious situation we have coming into Phoenix."

The proposed operation and the people Ready's recruiting makes it a potentially dangerous situation, said Heidi Beirich, director of research at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"This is like the worst case scenario," Beirich said. "Whatever you want to say about the Minutemen, there was some responsibility about the fact that it could be a dangerous situation. J.T.'s like the opposite: 'Come on down every crazy person on the planet and bring your weapons and we'll take 'em on.' "

Sheriff Babeu said in an e-mailed statement that he appreciates the support and the offer to take up arms and patrol, but discourages the operation.

"This would not be helpful and would only cause a strain on already strained resources, and their safety needs to be a priority," Babeu said. "It will only complicate our concerns to have untrained and armed citizens, who are not from Pinal County, patrolling our desert areas. We currently have operations that are ongoing and advised to not take law enforcement matter into their own hands."

The Pinal County Sheriff's Office doesn't have enough resources to dedicate a team of deputies to monitor the operation, but the regional commander of the area is aware and has instructed his deputies to monitor the area, said sheriff's spokeswoman Lt. Tamatha Villar.

The Vekol Valley is about 85 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border and about the same distance northwest of Tucson. At a June 11 news conference in Casa Grande about suspected drug smugglers who were shot in the valley, Babeu said drug cartels control the area.

In this e-mail call to action, Ready describes the situation that prompted the effort: "Armed narco-terrorists are bringing in loads of chemical warfare into our nation. These incursions should be treated no less serious than Al-Qaeda terrorists smuggling Sarin nerve agent into our population centers."

He asks for people to wear camouflage or earth-tone clothing and says bandannas, balaclavas or other identity-concealing items are allowed and encouraged. Military-related gear is a plus, he writes.

The e-mail says people will need to carry valid identification and emergency contact information, that there will be a firearms safety briefing and that rules of engagement will be covered for participants.

At the end of the e-mail, he writes, "This is the Minuteman Project on steroids!" In caps, it says, "The invasion stops here."

Ready's past is littered with conflict. He is an ex-Marine who was twice court-martialed and received a bad-conduct discharge, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. He was arrested in Florida in 1992 for aggravated assault with a weapon and damage to property, according to a 2006 Arizona Republic story.

In 2008, three Arizona Republican legislators called for Ready's removal from a party precinct committee in Mesa's legislative District 18 because of his ties to the National Socialist Movement. Ready has regularly pitched the idea of putting minefields along the U.S.-Mexico border as a security solution.

A photo that has been widely circulated on the Internet shows Ready with Arizona Sen. Russell Pearce, the Republican legislator from Mesa behind Arizona's new immigration enforcement law. But Pearce has distanced himself from Ready.

In a recent interview with the Arizona Republic, Pearce acknowledged his relationship with Ready but said he has severed his ties with him. And he said he couldn't do anything about extremist groups that use illegal immigration to make their own toxic political hay. "There is no room for hate in this debate, and there is no room for hate groups in this debate," Pearce said. "They do great damage to the cause and the rule of law."

Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or bmccombs@azstarnet.com.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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