By Michael Martinez
Los Angeles FIST
The sun had not dawned yet on the cold, crisp morning of May 17 in Alhambra, a neighborhood east of Los Angeles. It was hard to believe spring had arrived that morning when at 5 a.m. the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department SWAT team assembled in front of Carlos Montes’ driveway and front yard. The silence was shattered along with Montes’ door as the officers rammed it down and then sprang into his home bearing automatic rifles.
May 20 protest at Federal Building in Los Angeles.
WW photo: John Parker
Montes is a member of Freedom Road Socialist Organization. He has been a long-time activist for immigrant rights and Chicano liberation in southern California. He was a founder of the Brown Berets and a fighter with Chicano Moratorium.
A leader in the Southern California Immigration Coalition, Montes has led the big May 1 immigrant marches in Los Angeles since 2006, along with many other fighters like BAYAN USA, Union del Barrio and the International Action Center.
Although the LASD claimed they raided Montes’ residence over an illegal weapon’s charge, the true nature of the raid was revealed when they ransacked his house and took historical political documents dealing with more than 40 years of his activism, photos, his computers and his cell phones.
Stop the witch-hunt
Montes is not the only activist who has been targeted by the FBI for his solidarity work. Last September the FBI raided 23 anti-war and international solidarity activists’ homes. Many of them belong to FRSO, the same organization to which Montes belongs. They were subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury.
After these subpoenas were issued, Montes became active, along with many other supporters, among them Workers World Party and Fight Imperialism, Stand Together, in opposing the government’s witch-hunt against FRSO members in the Midwest.
Montes was also named in the FBI’s subpoena which was left in the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee’s office on Sept. 24. Like many of the 23 activists called before the grand jury, he had helped to organize the mass march there on the opening day of the 2008 Republican National Convention.
Building the fightback
On May 20 a crowd of more than 100 activists gathered in front of the Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles. What was originally set up as a press conference became a raucous rally supporting Montes against the FBI charges.
This writer opened the rally, as the crowd chanted, “FBI: Hands off the movement.” Montes thanked everyone for being there for him and showing support.
John Parker, West Coast regional coordinator of the IAC, spoke in Montes’ defense. He denounced the FBI raids and called for solidarity, evoking Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by stating, “An injury to one is an injury to all.”
Terrie Cervas of Gabriela USA compared the FBI raid against Montes to the treatment faced by political activists in the Philippines at the hands of the U.S.-backed and -trained government.
A truck displaying a large banner in solidarity with Montes stopped traffic in front of the rally. Soon, two Homeland Security SUVs showed up and the truck moved. The government agents chased down the truck and stopped it toward the end of the block. Half a block away, those at the rally could see the agents harassing the truck driver.
The demonstrators rushed over to the truck and pressured the agents to release the driver. The angry crowd chanted, “Let him go! Let him go.” Feet began to move off the sidewalk and into the street. The agents were being surrounded, and feeling the crowd’s pressure, let the truck driver go.
The demonstrators returned to the Federal Building to hear others speak who had been recently targeted by the state, like Alex Sanchez, leader of Homies Unidos, and Nativo Lopez, a long-time immigrant rights advocate.
More local actions will be announced. The FBI raids against Montes and others are unacceptable. The only thing that will stay the hand of the state from repeating another wave of fascist-like McCarthyist incarcerations and COINTELPRO-style repression will be the people’s fightback movement.
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