Los Angeles, CA - On May 20, a lively crowd of over 100 supporters gathered in front of the Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles to denounce the recent home invasion and arrest of Carlos Montes. Montes is a veteran Chicano activist and member of the Los Angeles Committee to Stop FBI Repression. The crowd represented a diverse range of local activist groups and movements – including LAUSD teachers and parent activists, members of the immigrant rights movement, anti-cutback activists from the University of California, organizers against police brutality and representatives from international solidarity movements.
The afternoon rally was also a press conference, convened in response to the May 17 morning raid conducted by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department SWAT Team and members of the FBI. At around 5:00 a.m. that morning, agents armed with automatic weapons broke down the door to Montes' home while he slept. The agents seized computers, cell phones, current and historical political documents and left Montes' home in shambles. Montes was arrested on one charge dealing with a firearm code and released on bail the following morning. His first court appearance is set for June 16.
At the rally, activists expressed outrage over the raid and arrest. Many speakers compared the operation to a COINTELPRO tactic, where trumped-up criminal charges provided the pretext for suppression of political activities critical of the government.
Prior to the raid, Carlos Montes was active organizing against the FBI and Grand Jury witch hunt being conducted against 23 anti-war and international solidarity activists in the Midwest. Montes was also named in the search warrant for Sept. 24, 2010 raid on the Twin Cities based Anti-War Committee, and like many of the 23 called before the Grand Jury, he helped organize the massive anti war march on the opening day of the 2008 Republican National Convention. The fact that FBI agents were present to question him about his political associations while he was arrested makes it clear that his own visit from law enforcement was not a coincidence.
Bev Tang, of Anakbayan Los Angeles, compared the repressive tactics used by the police and the FBI against Montes to the treatment that political activists in the Philippines often received from the U.S.-backed government there.
Nativo Lopez, a leading member of the Los Angeles immigrant rights movement who has also been targeted with criminal charges, spoke about the two-tiered justice system in Los Angeles: one tier for the rich and the political elite that allows them free reign to do what they like, and another one for the ordinary people of the city, where trumped-up charges and police misconduct are the norm.
A number of speakers stressed the need for continued unity in the face of the attacks on Carlos Montes and other leading members of the progressive movement in Los Angeles and committed to showing up to demonstrate at the June 16 court date.
The Los Angeles Committee to Stop FBI Repression will continue to organize in defense of Montes and the other 23 activists who have been targeted by the U.S. government for their political views. More local actions will be announced shortly. For information about upcoming meetings and actions, please visit stopfbila.net.