America’s civil rights legacy has been “hijacked” by blacks, and revisionist history unfairly denigrates “English-speaking white citizens” even though they freed the slaves and ended segregation, according to a group that had planned a “civil rights conference” on the floor of the Arizona House of Representatives.
But upon learning more about the group, House Speaker David Gowan’s spokeswoman announced Gowan was canceling the event he had authorized, saying the group had misrepresented itself.
The notice that the event was canceled came about 30 minutes after the Arizona Capitol Times published an article on its website detailing the event organizers’ controversial views.
The organizers, the American Unification Movement, are an anti-immigration group headed by Los Angeles-based activist Ted Hayes. He teamed up with local conservative activist Ron Ludders to host the all-day event at the statehouse, which was planned for May 21.
Shortly after the Capitol Times wrote that the group would be taking over the Arizona House of Representatives floor for the full-day conference, House Republican spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham announced the event had been canceled.
Further, Grisham said the event had never actually been confirmed. However, in an earlier email, she said that Gowan had “approved it.”
“It was presented to the speaker as a ‘14th Amendment Conference’ which had been done in the Senate in the past. They didn’t run their marketing materials past us and as soon as we saw them, we had a meeting and expressed our concerns,” Grisham said in a text message.
“Based upon many factors, including potential security issues, costs, and appropriate use of state resources, we will not be granting access,” she added.
Ludders disputed the assertion that the group misrepresented itself to the House, and said the event had been confirmed for weeks. The group already had more than 140 RSVPs, he said.
The first that Ludders heard of any potential problems came on May 11, when the House staff called a meeting with the group’s organizers to discuss some concerns. Ludders said that when the meeting concluded the House had not revoked the group’s access to the building.
“There’s been no secret about this. We’ve been working on it a long time,” Ludders said when the Capitol Times informed him that the event had been canceled.
Ludders surmised that the event was “too much of a hot potato” for the House speaker, who is running for Congress in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District.
Hayes could not be immediately reached for comment on the event’s cancelation, but Ludders said the group is still hoping to host the conference, though they’ll have to find a new location.
The true heroes
The topics were definitely controversial.
Ludders and Hayes, who is black, argue that the true heroes of the country’s darkest days – from slavery through the civil rights era – weren’t Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass or Martin Luther King Jr., but the white soldiers and politicians who ended slavery, abolished Jim Crow laws and propped up figures like Tubman, Douglass and King.
The fact that the group would have been seated on the chamber’s floor, rather than out on the lawn where most rallies are held, was “very concerning” to Democratic Rep. Reginald Bolding of Laveen.
“It looks like you have a group of individuals who are not representing the cultural diversity we need in this state,” Bolding said. “A group who I believe is trying to hijack the sacrifices that were made by those who actually fought in this country to ensure there are equal rights. It’s definitely concerning.”
But he said the most disturbing part was that House Speaker David Gowan, who authorized the event, was allowing the event to use state resources. He said there are all kinds of groups advocating for issues around the Capitol, and handing over the House to a group implies that the state is backing the group’s platform.
“That’s something which our speaker and the Republican majority need to answer to. Any time you have a group that’s clearly not representing diversity, that’s clearly attacking populations of people, and you’re giving them an open forum to use the House floor and House resources, that’s a problem,” Bolding said.
Bolding, the only black lawmaker in Arizona, said he had alerted his fellow Democrats and community leaders about the event in hopes of getting it canceled.
But in the end, that wasn’t necessary, as Gowan canceled the event himself.
House Majority Leader Steve Montenegro issued a statement saying the Republican caucus was neither informed about this conference nor took any part in the group’s initial planning or marketing materials.
Signs of trouble
Even before the House officially canceled the event, there were signs that the “civil rights conference” might not go off as planned.
Shortly after the American Unification Movement issued a press release publicizing the event, Grisham said that Gowan “does not agree with a good portion of the language” the group used.
The group’s press release declared that “the Civil Rights Legacy DOES NOT belong to black Americans… Rather, the American Civil Rights Legacy belongs to Anglo-European Americans, English speaking, ‘white citizens.’ Former black slaves however, are the sole beneficiaries of America’s Civil Rights Legacy.”
It also noted that “740,000 young, innocent white boys and men” died in the Civil War, as did about “38,000 blacks and President Abraham Lincoln.”
Hayes says he expected the event to be shocking to some. In fact, that was the point.
He says his goal in bringing up the topics is to “shut a lot of mouths and end a lot of racist talk from the blacks in this country.”
And the things he says are sure to shock. Hayes calls President Barack Obama “the worst disaster since slavery,” and he generally argues that the black community has hurt itself by forgetting the good deeds that white people have done on their behalf.
White people waged a war to stop slavery, he told Arizona Capitol Times. White people ratified the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, ending slavery and allowing black men to vote. A white U.S. Supreme Court decided the Brown v. Board of Education case, and a white president enforced the decision.
In the 1960s, white people’s money – specifically “Jews’ money” – funded the civil rights movement, Hayes said.
Hayes also disregards the fact that white people enacted those policies against blacks in the first place. Instead, he argues that black people in Africa started slavery by enslaving their own and selling them to white traders.
Even the idea that the United States should liberate slaves wasn’t thought up by “black folks sitting around in the cabin. That was white people,” he said.
Hayes said there were some black people, like Frederick Douglass, who the whites consulted with, but the movement toward freedom and racial equality, from the ratification of the 13th Amendment through the end of the Jim Crow era, has been fought by white people.
“You white boys in the U.S. have done something that no other race has ever done. You white folks went to war with yourselves over another race of people. No one had done that before. And you white guys need to realize that and stop running around with your chins on your chest,” he said.
Hayes started out as an activist on homelessness in Los Angeles before coming around to anti-immigration activism. He has formed several anti-immigration groups aimed at repealing the 14th Amendment, or, as Hayes puts it, properly enforcing the amendment to apply to former slaves, and not immigrants.
His anti-immigration activism first reared its head with Choose Black America, a defunct anti-immigration group financially backed by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, according to a 2007 article in the Los Angeles Times. Later, Hayes formed his own offshoot of the Minutemen and has joined in anti-immigration rallies, tours and other speaking engagements.
In 2010, he first got together with then-Senate President Russell Pearce for a summit at the Arizona Capitol to discuss illegal immigration and the 14th Amendment. Hayes calls Pearce “a modern day Abe Lincoln,” and said when the former senator first came under fire for racist comments, he knew he had to come to Pearce’s defense.
In fact, Pearce played a role in this year’s planned American Unity Movement civil rights conference.
Pearce, the sponsor of Arizona’s controversial 2010 anti-immigration legislation SB1070 and the only state lawmaker to be recalled from office, put on a similar event in the Senate during the heyday of Arizona’s anti-immigration fervor.
This year, Pearce connected the group with Gowan, who offered to let Ludders and Hayes take over the House floor for their conference, including letting attendees sit at lawmakers’ desks, according to Hayes and Ludders.
Hayes’ fiery speeches and the company he keeps have put him on the radar of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups in the U.S.
The SPLC calls Hayes a “front (man) for a campaign orchestrated and funded by white anti-immigration leaders.”
“The campaign aims to convert black Americans to their cause, and simultaneously to provide groups like the Minuteman Project and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) with cover against accusations of racism,” the SPLC said in a report. The SPLC has labeled FAIR a hate group.
Hayes’ American Unity Movement claims to be nonpartisan, but resolutions posted on its website are decidedly conservative. The group proclaims that “illegal aliens,” “anchor babies” and “foreign usurpers” are destroying the country.
In a resolution, the group writes that “the Democratic Party has deceptively usurped ownership of the Civil Rights Legacies and its movements via the agency of unsuspecting, bamboozled, mind-enslaved, black, U.S. citizens, i.e., chattel slave descendants and Jim Crow survivors.”
But Hayes sees his mission as a healing one, and thinks that, by bringing his message of black and white unity against illegal immigration, he can repair the wounds of black and white racism.
And he was slightly amused that the Arizona House of Representatives, which has a reputation as a home to racist sentiments, would have been ground zero of his healing project.
“Who would have thought that the remedy (for racism) would come out of Arizona, of all freaking places, that redneck state?” he said. “If Arizona gets it, what’s the problem with everybody else?”