ALHAMBRA, Calif. - Approximately 60 demonstrators gathered in front of the steps of the Alhambra Courthouse July 6 to protest the arrest, allegedly carried out in cooperation with the FBI, of Chicano anti-war activist Carlos Montes.
During the pretrial on the third floor of the court building, Montes', appearing for the second time in court since his arrest on May 17 at 5 a.m., entered a plea of not guilty. Supporters and members of the media packed the courtroom.
"This attack on me is a pretext [that] they're using to attack me because of my political activity, denouncing U.S. intervention in Colombia, in Afghanistan, in Iraq [and] Palestine," Montes said at the demonstration.
The demonstration was organized by the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, of which Montes is a member, as a response to his arrest and the raid of his Alhambra home. The group believes that the raid was carried out because of Montes' political activities. Since the fall of last year, the FBI, working with local law enforcement agencies, has been targeting political activists throughout the United States, most notably in Chicago and Minnesota.
The District Attorney is using a 42-year-old conviction to prosecute Montes, according to his lawyer, Jorge Gonzales, something which Montes and his attorney are convinced is a sign of "selective enforcement" by the FBI.
Montes is being charged with four counts of perjury relating to documents, one count of possession of a handgun by a convicted felon and one count of possession of ammunition by a convicted felon.
"We think the FBI was involved. We believe the FBI initiated it," Gonzales said.
In 1969, Montes was charged with felony assault of throwing a coke can at a Sheriff in East Los Angeles.
Present at the demonstration was Mick Kelly, a long-time anti-war activist from Minneapolis. The FBI raided his home Sept. 24, 2010.
"I'm one of the folks in the Midwest that was raided by the FBI September 24," Kelly said. "The FBI SWAT team came into my home, used a battering ram, took down my front door [and] then proceeded to ransack my home. Computers, cell phones, political documents - sounds a lot like what happened to my friend Carlos."
"Carlos and I worked to organize the march on the RNC [Republican National Convention] in the 2008," Kelly continued. "Many of us who have been subpoenaed in Chicago also worked on that very same march. The FBI is completely and entirely behind this case and it is entirely linked to the activists that have been subpoenaed in the Midwest. There is 23 in the Midwest plus one in the West Coast. We stood up against U.S. wars. We stood up against discrimination and inequality. We work to make this world a better place and we will continue to do so."
According to reports, many of the activists targeted by the FBI were members of a section of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, as well as Students for a Democratic Society, the Palestine Solidarity Group, the Colombian Action Network and the Twin-Cities Anti-War Committee, National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera (a Colombian political prisoner).
Although the FBI has neither confirmed nor denied its role in Montes' case, several local law enforcement officers have told reporters that the FBI is involved.
According to Pasadena Star-News, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Sergeant Miguel Mejia said that such action was the work of the Sheriff's terrorist unit or the emergency operations bureau, with the help of the FBI.
Montes' lawyer, Gonzales, is optimistic that he will win this case.
"We have a very multi-dimensional defense that we're preparing in this case and we're looking at a lot of issues," Gonzalez said. "You have to ask yourself the question: When in the past have you heard about them using a 42-year-old conviction to try to prosecute someone? That's what we're talking about, so it's very clear to me and other people that there's a reason why prosecution has been brought against Carlos; they're targeting him because he's one of our leaders."
Photo: Montes addresses demonstration. Luis Rivas/PW