A veteran Los Angeles Chicano activist is speaking out today after what he says was a joint Sheriff’s Department and FBI raid on his Alhambra home on Tuesday morning.
Carlos Montes is one of the original Brown Berets who was a key leader of the Chicano Power movement of the 1960’s and 1970s.
He says his current activism in the immigrant rights and international workers solidarity movement has put him back in the crosshairs of federal agents.
Montes was arrested in his home during a pre-dawn raid in which authorities confiscated countless photos, documents and even two kaffiyehs. He says the authorities have charged him with illegal possession of a firearm.
Pacifica’s Ernesto Arce visited Montes at his home today. He files this report from Los Angeles.
ACT :06 fade to bed [ambient sound]
Carlos Montes was jolted out of bed before sunrise on Tuesday morning.
About a half dozen armed and helmeted members of what he describes as a military-like SWAT team broke down his front door , pointed rifles at him and ordered him out onto the porch.
“And then they start yelling ‘Carlos Montes, Carlos Montes’ and I’m like ‘Yeah, who are you?!’…”
Montes says he was barefoot and in pajamas, dazed and confused about what was going on.
Handcuffed and thrown into the back of a patrol car, he was first questioned by a Detective Lord with the LA County Sheriff’s Special Operations Bureau.
ACT :09 “He says ‘Do you want to talk to me or remain silent?’…”
Montes says the search warrant allowing federal and local agents to forcibly enter his hillside Alhambra home was for illegal possession of a firearm. But he thinks it was just a pretext since the one gun he owns is legally registered.
His supporters suspect he’s the 24th member of a national, anti-war coalition which has been harassed by the FBI since last September.
In 2010, the FBI launched a federal investigation into the material support of terrorism.
Agency spokesperson Steve Warfield said its first target was an anti-war coalition based out of Minnesota. The charges: aiding and abetting groups on the U.S. State Department list of terrorists including PFLP, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
Authorities say Montes is an associate of the coalition.
Montes calls the pre-dawn raid and backseat interview a political witch hunt by federal agents who want to silence dissent in the U.S.
ACT :20 “‘I’d like to talk to you about the Freedom Road Socialist Organization’ and I didn’t say anything…”
The Freedom Road Socialist Organization is a Marxist Leninist political group that works with numerous anti-war and social justice coalitions across the country.
Last year, 23 members and associates of the FRSO in the Mid-West received subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury. Their cases are still pending.
Hatem Abudayyeh, is a member of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression. He’s an activist with the U.S. Palestinian Community Network whose home was raided during the FBI investigation.
ACT :29 “Free, free Palestine. End the Occupation Now...”
Abudayyeh spoke at a committee rally last month in New York City to demand that US Attorney General Eric Holder drop all charges against the 23.
He says the attacks against Montes are a continuation of decades-long state repression against activist groups.
ACT :20 “People here from all social justice movements …”
After the raid, Montes was booked at the East LA Sheriff’s Station, rekindling unpleasant memories of the 1960s. He spent the night in jail before being released. He has a June date in a local Alhambra court.
If it was just about a gun, Montes says they didn’t need a SWAT team, and didn’t need to take apart decades of files, documents and mementos. They even took two Kaffiyahs, or Arab head scarves, souvenirs from Palestine.
ACT :13 “That’s why I’m sure it’s a witch hunt…”
The Committee to Stop FBI Repression is asking civil liberty supporters to call and email Attorney General Holder to demand hands off U.S. activists.
In Los Angeles, I'm Ernesto Arce, Pacifica Radio, KPFK
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