FREMONT — The East Bay Coalition for Border Security has been called many things — some good, some bad — by onlookers during its anti-immigration protests this year.

Soon, the coalition may add "Minutemen" to the list.

The Fremont group's members voted this week to send an application — and a $150 fee — to the Minuteman Project in hopes of becoming the national group's Bay Area chapter.

The San Diego-based national organization differs from other Minutemen groups in ways that appeal to the local activists, said Charles Birkman, co-founder of the East Bay Coalition for Border Security.

"They tend to be more political; their objectives include getting (more) involved in local politics and less about patrolling the border," said Birkman, 35. "Fremont is not a border city, so it makes more sense for us to do rallies and be involved with local governments."

If approved, the local chapter may call itself the Golden Gate Minutemen, Birkman said. The Fremont group has about 15 active members, but counts about 250 people on its e-mail list, he added.

The Minuteman Project aims to raise awareness of what its founders critically describe as the U.S. government's "careless disregard ... of effective immigration law enforcement," according to its Web site.

The anti-illegal-immigration activistsstarted rallying on Fremont streets in May, when pro-immigration protests erupted nationwide in support of granting amnesty to people living on U.S. soil without citizenship.


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The heated rallies occasionally grew violent, as East Bay Coalition members clashed a few times with members of the International Socialist Organization at the corner of Fremont Boulevard and Mowry Avenue, near the Fremont Hub shopping center.

Another violent confrontation took place July 28 at the Five Corners in Irvington, where police said four Irvington residents physically attacked anti-amnesty protesters. East Bay Coalition members shifted their modes of operation after the incident, holding fewer protests and communicating more privately with each other.

Now, as they await formal acceptance to the Minuteman Project, group leaders say they will lobby local city councils and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors on immigration issues. For example, the group wants cities to adopt a free-speech ordinance allowing opposing groups at a rally to protest at a designated distance from each other.

"That way, both sides could practice free speech in a safe, peaceful manner," said Birkman, a Fremont resident who works in Livermore. They also want cities to deny permits to businesses that knowingly hire and "grossly abuse" illegal labor because it is cheap and only increases profit, he added.

If the fledgling Minutemen find that local politicians are unresponsive to their ideas, they say they may start to field their own candidates.

They also have begun networking with like-minded local organizations and chapters of national groups, such as:

-Illegal Immigrant Protest.

-Immigration Reform Network of Silicon Valley.

-Bay Area Coalition for Immigration Reform.

-Federation for American Immigration Reform.

The nearest Minuteman group is the Napa-based Minutemen Headquarters, which has focused more than other groups on stopping illegal border crossings, Birkman said.

East Bay Coalition members say they are trying to start similar branches in Pleasanton and Castro Valley, using the momentum forged from recent get-out-the-vote efforts to build their political network.

"We want these groups to get organized before the amnesty debate starts again in Congress," Birkman said. "We expect (the debate) to restart in January or February."

Staff writer Chris De Benedetti covers Fremont issues. Contact him at (510) 353-7002 or cdebenedetti

@angnewspapers.com.