CHARLENEM and Anissa Muhammad
LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) – Demonstrators protested July 6 in front of an Alhambra courthouse where immigrant rights and anti-war activist Carlos Montes pleaded not guilty to charges to a firearm code violation.
They demanded that all charges stemming from a federal grand jury subpoena targeting more than a dozen activists across the U.S. be dropped, including charges against Mr. Montes.
“Today I want to declare my innocence. I am not guilty and this is an attack against me, the anti-war movement and also the immigrants’ and Chicano rights movement that I’m a part of,” Mr. Montes told The Final Call before entering the courthouse.
The peaceful demonstration by his supporters, many of them members of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, was part of a national day of protest that included 19 other demonstrations across the U.S., and coincided with the hearing, according to activists.
The group is circulating an on-line petition calling for dropping the charges against Mr. Montes, an end to FBI attacks on the Chicano and immigrant rights movement, and end to FBI repression of anti-war activists.
Mr. Montes feels the attack on him is part of a wider attack by the FBI and used a federal grand jury to initiate last September when it raided properties of more than 23 anti-war activists.The FBI gained federal subpoenas by claiming it was investigating individuals or organizations that were providing material support to terrorist groups, he said.
Mr. Montes’ further said his name was on one of the search warrants served at the Minnesota-based Twin Cities Anti-War Committee.Activists there were ordered to appear before a Chicago grand jury Jan. 25 but refused.
Mick Kelly, spokesperson for the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, and whose home was also raided, traveled from Minnesota to show support for Mr. Montes.The raids are stressful, surprising and intended to harass and intimidate but the reality is the government is trying to criminalize those who have also stood in solidarity with the people of Colombia and Palestine, he said.
“What they’re saying is because we speak up and we oppose U.S. foreign policy, we should be treated as criminals and face 15 years a count,” Mr. Kelly told The Final Call.
After demonstrating in front of the courthouse under careful but seemingly minimal sheriff supervision, Mr. Montes’ supporters filled the Department 5 courtroom for the proceeding.Many wore red and black t-shirts that read “Hands Off Carlos Montes.” Deputies prevented them from carrying any posters or banners inside the building.
During the very quiet, routine court hearing, Atty. Gonzales petitioned the court for a return of his client’s personal items. After saying he needed to check with the arresting officer about their potential use for trial, the district attorney acknowledged at a preliminary glance, it appeared some of the items should be returned.
Afterward, the judge transferred the case to criminal court in downtown L.A.The next hearing is scheduled for Aug. 12.At that time, the case will basically be assigned a permanent courtroom, Atty. Gonzales said.
The Alhambra hearing was the first in this case for Mr. Montes, whose home was raided May 17 by the FBI and a L.A. County Sheriff S.W.A.T. team.
Officers smashed his front door and pointed semi-automatic weapons at his head, according to Mr. Montes.
After ransacking his home, he said they took his computer, cell phones, pictures, discs, and decades of historical documents related to his activism.
At press time, Mr. Montes told The Final Call that approximately three weeks earlier, the district attorney produced a police incident report from the Sheriff Department showing the FBI had contacted local authorities, “letting them know that Carlos had guns and they believed I was a former felon, so that’s why they came after me.”He is seeking all communication between the sheriffs and the FBI.
Longtime anti-war activist John Parker said the move against Mr. Montes concerns the entire anti-war community because it’s a blatant attack against the right to protest, “whether it’s injustice here in this country or the injustice by the U.S. government’s economic and physical wars against countries worldwide.”
Anyone involved in the social justice or anti-war movement must stand in solidarity with Carlos Montes, Mr. Parker said.
Hector Perez-Pacheco, of the Aztlan Mexican Nation Harmony Keepers, said, “He stands up for oppressed people around the world and when one does this kind of work, we need to stand alongside of them to help, support, and provide assistance so they can continue to do that work.”