Frances Semler received a hero’s welcome Friday night at the anti-illegal-immigration Minuteman Civil Defense Corps’ first regional conference.
At least 310 people filling the Uptown Theater — according to a Star reporter’s count — stood and applauded the Minuteman member, who had faced strong opposition from civil rights groups after Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser appointed her to the city park board.
Minuteman opponents accuse the group of using racist language and harassing Hispanics.
“I have a new hero: Frances Semler,” said Minuteman founder Chris Simcox. “Thank you, Frances Semler, for your courage.”
The Minuteman conference itself came about because of the controversy over Semler’s appointment. When Funkhouser wouldn’t ask her to step down after he learned about her anti-illegal-immigration activism, the National Council of La Raza took its 2009 convention out of Kansas City.
In response, the Minutemen decided to hold a regional leadership conference in Kansas City, kicking it off Friday night with a public meeting. The conference continues today with members’ leadership training.