Los Angeles, CA – Chanting, “Drop the charges now,” more than 60 supporters of veteran Chicano leader, Carlos Montes, rallied outside the LA Courthouse here, September 29, for a protest that coincided with a preliminary hearing, where the government outlined their case against him.
“I am being attacked for my anti-war and international solidarity activism.” Montes told the crowd. “It’s great to see so many of you from the labor, immigrant rights, and Chicano movement out here today.”
At the instigation of the FBI, in the early morning of May 17, the LA Sheriff's Department executed a search warrant on the Montes home. SWAT Team members smashed down the door and seized Carlos’ computer, cell phone and documents related to his political activism. Charged with trumped up violations of firearms laws, Montes was taken away at gun-point, jailed for one day, and released with a 35,000-dollar bail.
Speaking in front of the courthouse Charla Schlueter, of the LA Committee against FBI Repression said, “What is happening in this courthouse is a real injustice. Carlos Montes is a nationally respected leader in the immigrant rights and anti-war movements. He is an example to me, and so many others, who are fighting to make this world a better place. The charges against him are nothing more than a pretext to put a man who has dedicated his entire life to peace, justice, and liberation in prison.”
Following the rally outside, supporters of Montes filled every seat in the courtroom, where Judge Rehm presided. Montes and his Attorney Jorge Gonzalez took their seats in the front of the courtroom. The District Attorney called his witnesses and introduced ‘evidence’ while attorney Gonzalez pushed back every step of the way.
Gonzalez dropped a legal bombshell when he pointed out that the legal documentation introduced into evidence by the District Attorney failed to support the basis of the entire case against Montes.
The charges against Montes are based on the government’s allegation that he has a felony conviction, stemming from a protest 41 years ago, which would prevent him from legally buying or owning a gun. At this 1969 protest for Chicano studies, hundreds of cops invaded East LA community College. Montes was accused of throwing an empty aluminum can that bounced off a sheriff’s arm. Gonzalez told the court that the legal documents from that case do not back up the government’s claim that this matter was sentenced as felony.
“In a nutshell, the government has no case at all,” says Montes supporter Charla Schlueter. This matter will be revisited in future court proceedings.
Gonzalez also raised some basic questions about who was behind the prosecution of Montes.
When the DA called Sheriff Detective Donald Lord to the stand, Gonzalez asked him how many law enforcement personal were involved in the raid on Montes’ home, Lord answered that 15 to 20 were present. When asked which agencies participated in the raid, the DA objected. This issue came up again when Gonzalez asked Detective Lord if he knew Carlos Montes. Lord said no. Then Gonzalez asked, given that Lord had signed the affidavit for the search warrant on Montes’ home, which stated that Montes has an “anti-government ideology,” how did Lord know this? Again the DA objected, with the judge siding in his favor.
This issue is important because the raid was instigated by the FBI as a part of their ongoing campaign against anti-war and international solidarity activists. During the raid on Montes home, FBI agents attempted to question him about Freedom Road Socialist Organization. In an interview with the Pasadena Star, a spokesperson from the LA Sheriff Department confirmed the involvement of the FBI. This matter will come up in future court dates.
At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, the arraignment court appearance was scheduled for October 17.
Standing in front of the LA courthouse, Mick Kelly of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression put the case in context stating, “On September 24 of last year, the Justice Department launched a series of attacks. Using FBI raids and grand jury subpoenas, anti-war, international solidarity, and labor activists were targeted. When the offices of the Minneapolis-based Anti-War Committee were raided, one of the names listed on the search warrant was Carlos Montes. Carlos, like many of the others raided, helped to organize the massive 2008 demonstration at the Republican National Convention.”
Kelly, who was among those raided by the FBI continued, “Every progressive person needs to understand that what is happening to Carlos Montes can happen to anyone who stands up against injustice and war. An injury to one of us is an injury to all of us. We can not afford to rest one day until the charges are dropped.”