By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Dressed in an orange jump suit, his red hair slicked back, he smiles patiently from the other side of a glass panel inside a second-story "visiting module" at the Orange County Men's Jail in Santa Ana. At the height of his glory days as an anarchist street revolutionary, Matt Lamont went by the nom de guerre "Rampage." He wore black, put on a hood to protect his identity, and protested police brutality and global capitalism in downtown Long Beach.
For the past year, Lamont has had a different identity: Orange County Men's Jail inmate No. 2057039. A deputy locks the door behind him, so nobody can attack him while he's on the telephone. It's a rare break from being locked in his cell all day to keep him away from the rest of the jail's population, especially the white inmates—many of whom, Lamont says, are Nazis who want to kill him.
It's not just that Lamont, who is white, has violated the Aryan Brotherhood's ban on hanging out with black inmates. It's not just that to ensure his protection while in jail, he converted to Islam, although that alone would be sufficient to put him on the Aryan Brotherhood's shit list. And it's not just that Lamont calls himself an anarchist, a member of a movement that has a reputation for getting into fistfights with skinheads.
No, these Nazis want to kill Lamont because, prosecutors allege, Lamont tried to kill a whole building full of Nazis. On April 20, 2002, the La Habra Police Department arrested Lamont on suspicion of attempting to blow up that city's Moose Lodge, where Aryan Nations members were planning to celebrate Adolf Hitler's birthday.
To his supporters, most of whom know the wiry 21-year-old through the Long Beach anarchist collective where he used to live, Lamont is a political prisoner. They say his arrest and subsequent incarceration is proof that Long Beach police conspired to destroy their collective, the Info-Shop. They say police accomplished that by spying on activists like Lamont and taking advantage of post-Sept. 11 terrorism concerns to put them behind bars on trumped-up charges.
One thing that is obvious is that Lamont didn't get attached to anarchism by reading books by Goldberg or Chomsky. Instead, as seems to be the case with the rest of his cohorts, believing in anarchy simply meant rejecting all forms of authority—parents, teachers and especially cops. It translated his vague sense of frustration with capitalism and law enforcement into a way of life. Think of Mikhail Bakunin's description of a government-free society in which harmony would emerge from "free agreements," then add punk rock and a visceral hatred of cops and skinheads.
According to police, at least, it was enthusiasm for anarchy that led Lamont from Long Beach to La Habra on that April day.
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Being accused of trying to kill Nazis may have boosted Lamont's credibility among some of his anarchist friends, but these days it could get him killed. Exactly how he ended up in such a predicament is a story that only he knows, and it's a tale that, for the most part, he refuses to tell. Last month, he received a three-year sentence after he pleaded no contest to charges of possessing a destructive device—a plastic jug full of gasoline that police found in the car he was in. (Since he has already been in jail for a year, however, he's likely to serve only eight more months behind bars.)
Because he's appealing the case, he won't say much, just that police pulled over the car he was traveling in because they were spying on his anarchist collective and that the traffic stop—as well as the subsequent search of his car—was illegal.
On that first point, a Long Beach Police Department incident report confirms Lamont's suspicions. The report details how police discovered that members of Aryan Nations were planning a birthday party for Hitler at La Habra's Moose Lodge. An anarchist group called the Anti-Racist Action found out about the event on April 19 and posted an Internet alert calling for activists to protest at the Moose Lodge. The report also shows that police monitored Internet conversations being carried out by "members of a small anarchist collective known as the Southern Kalifornia Anarchist Alliance (SKAA)."
The police apparently traced several of those conversations directly to the Info-Shop, where Lamont was living. "The postings were violent in tone and caused us to believe that members of SKAA were planning a violent confrontation with Aryan Nations members attending the event," the report states. The Long Beach police began watching the Info-Shop the following day.
"At approximately 1800 hours, a white Acura . . . parked in a lot near the Info-Shop," the report continues. "Two white male subjects exited the car and walked toward the Info-Shop, where they met a member of SKAA we know as Matthew Lamont (a.k.a. Rampage). . . . Matthew Lamont left the Info-Shop with the subjects in the white Acura and when he walked from the Info-Shop to the car, he was carrying what appeared to be an empty one-gallon plastic milk-type jug and a three-gallon plastic water-type jug."