Heated Dispute Arises at Organizational Meeting of Minutemen Civil Defense Corps

AUGUST 30, 2006 - Posted at 4:14 p.m. CDT

HOT SPRINGS, AR - Opponents of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps have shown up at a chapter organizational meeting to dispute the need for a branch of the group at Hot Springs, and to dispute the group's aims.  Nationally, the group is known for its citizen patrols of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Greg Thompson of Oklahoma City, national training director for the organization, spoke to a crowd that packed a meeting room of the Lake Hamilton Fire Department.  Those who came to the get-together organized by retiree Bill Riggins of Hot Springs included both supporters and opponents.

Thompson compared the work of the Minutmen to that of a neighborhood watch program.  Someone from the audience asked what authority they have to conduct their operations, and that led to a heated exchange.  A man shouted out "We've got the right to defend our property."  A woman responded "The Mexican border is not your property!"  The man replied "We're Americans, and that's our property."

Thompson told the crowd that the meeting was for people who wanted to join the Minutemen, and if anyone present wasn't interested in doing that, they could leave.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)