At the invitation of the Orange County Peace Coalition, longtime Chicano activist Carlos Montes spoke about the serious legal charges he now faces to an audience gathered at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Anaheim. "I was really happy to be invited to share my issue and support their work," Montes says of the OCPC. "I was glad to see people in Orange County working and organizing against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."
An original founding member of the Brown Berets and participating organizer of the famed East Los Angeles high school walkouts, Montes has more recently focused his attention on immigrant rights and denouncing ICE raids. On the morning of May 17, however, the activist himself was raided in Alhambra (where he makes his home) by a LA County Sheriff's SWAT team at the behest of the FBI.
At the beginning of his half-hour long speech, Montes invited those in attendance to come closer to where he was seated by a microphone. He began unraveling his ordeal by going back the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota where the veteran activist helped others organize protests. In September of last year, 23 activists in the Midwest were raided by the FBI, including members the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee. The group had been infiltrated from the inside and the search warrant listed Montes' name as an affiliate.
The activist described resulting searches and subpoenas as an effort to criminalize solidarity work with the "global south." The stated aims of the raids were to find evidence linking activists to providing material support for state-designated terrorist organizations in Colombia and Palestine. Montes spoke of his travels to Colombia, meeting with human rights activists, cultural workers, Afro-Colombian activists and trade-union members, but not members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). He maintained that although he knew he could be next in receiving a rude awakening from the FBI, none of the activities of his political life were illegal.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
That's when, Montes said, the raid found a pretext in his possession of three firearms. His house in Alhambra had been robbed and the activist latter purchased a gun in 2010. The veteran social justice advocate also had two other antique guns he collected years earlier. Authorities contend that a four-decade old felony for throwing an empty aluminum can at a police officer (described by Montes as an "alleged" incident) prohibited him from purchasing firearms and that he lied to obtain the weapons. The incident in question hearkens back to a demonstration at East Los Angeles College where students where demanding Chicano and Black studies.
If the bursting down of his door was solely related to possession of firearms, Montes found it curious than an FBI agent approached him after he had been taken into custody and inquired about the Freedom Road Socialist Organization. Still in his PJ's, he exercised his right not to answer any questions. Even more curious, then, was the ransacking and the confiscation of files, documents, a computer, and other materials related to his political activities (he's also a member of the Los Angeles Committee to Stop FBI Repression) throughout the years that he found when he made bail and returned home.
Montes, 63, faces considerable jail time on six felony charges--four for perjury, even though there are only three firearms and three applications in question, he says. His next day in court is tomorrow, where evidence will be presented and the activist's legal team will have the opportunity to challenge them.
"This is just one step in the fight against this FBI, police attack," Montes tells me. "We expect a lot of supporters there packing the courtroom." At a meeting held directly after the speech, the Orange County Peace Coalition voted to lend a helping hand in providing an honorarium for his legal fund.