Supporters accuse FBI of targeting peace activists like they did during the 1960s and 1970s.
By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer
A longtime community activist was arrested recently after a search warrant turned up a firearm in his possession. He alleges the FBI is targeting him for political reasons and the search warrant was just an excuse to enter his home and take personal items.
At 5 a.m. on May 17, Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputies executed a search warrant at the Alhambra home of Carlos Montes, 63. He was arrested for being a convicted felon in possession of a gun, according to Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the LA County Sheriff’s Department.
Montes says he is innocent and told EGP he had registered the World War II era gun with the Alhambra police department.
Montes claims his front door war destroyed and a SWAT squad ransacked his home taking numerous personal items and other mementos of his activism.
An FBI agent accompanied the SWAT squad and questioned him regarding his political activities, Montes said.
“This is political persecution taking place. The fact that the FBI was there with the County Sheriffs’ SWAT squad on a minor violation of the penal code, where they tore down the door and ransacked my house, took my computer, took my computer files, took my cell phone. They looked at my family albums from the movement, from the Chicano Moratorium, the Community Service Organization, May 1st Southern California Immigration Coalition. It’s political persecution,” Montes told EGP on May 20.
Montes declined to comment on his prior conviction, but during an interview with Telemundo’s Rubén Luengas he said the conviction was related to a 1979 student rally at East Los Angeles College after which he was charged for assaulting an officer.
READ THIS STORY IN SPANISH: Activista Chicano Denuncia la Ejecución de una Orden Judicial y su Arresto
Numerous organizations gathered in front of the Los Angeles Federal Building on May 20 to show solidarity and support for Montes. Other longtime activists vouched for Montes’ good character.
Rudy Pisani, a drafted Korean War veteran, said Montes is an honest man and the whole incident is a frame up.
“He is a very patriotic Chicano. What they are doing is an embarrassment. It is a crime, not just against him, but also against the entire community. It is a crime against the progressive community because we stand for justice for peace, we are against the war and against immigration raids,” he said.
Erick Gardner, a young activist and writer for Fight Back News!, said citizens like Montes are being targeted throughout the country.
“Carlos has now been swept up in an attack that includes 23 other people in Minneapolis, Chicago and they might extend further,” Gardner said. He asked Montes’ supporters to sign a “pledge of resistance” and to join an Emergency Response Network.
Ron Gochez, of the Southern California Immigration Coalition (SCIC), said the raid of Montes’ home and his interrogation was an effort to intimidate him and others.
“I just wonder if the FBI goes and kicks down the door of the executive directors of some of these non-profit organizations. They don’t go and kick down the bed of some of these folks who are in bed with the Democratic Party,” said Gochez. “… They know that Carlos Montes represents a threat to the system, and that’s why all of us are here to back him up.”
The FBI would not comment and referred all media questions to the LA County Sheriff’s Dept. “The arrest and search warrants were filed with the state, not federally, so I’ll defer to LASD for any comment,” Laura Eimiller, FBI Press Relations, told EGP in an email.
Montes has for years been vocal on a gamut of national and local issues, including the Chicano Movement, anti-war and anti-police brutality activities, pro immigration reform efforts, and solidarity with activists in Columbia who have denounced human rights violations and the killing of peace activists. Most recently, Montes helped lead protests denouncing the LAPD’s role in the death of Manuel Jamines in the MacArthur Park area, and in support of UTLA teacher proposals for school reform in East LA.
His supporters are demanding the charges against him be dropped. They plan to protest out side the Alhambra Court House on June 16 when he has his first court appearance, according to the recently formed Los Angeles Committee to Stop FBI Repression.