Three years ago, Orange County's most famous anarchist pleaded no contest to several felonies relating to his alleged attempt to blow up La Habra's Moose Lodge in 2002. On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court overturned Matthew Gordon "Rampage" Lamont's conviction, arguing that police violated Lamont's civil rights when they searched his car on April 20 of that year.
If April 20 sounds like a familiar anniversary, it is, although not in a good way. That night at the Moose Lodge, members of an Orange County chapter of the white supremacist group Aryan Nations were rumored to be celebrating Adolf Hitler's birthday. The planned birthday party never happened. Instead, just blocks away, Long Beach police detectives pulled Lamont and a friend over as they drove up and down the street, seemingly lost or unsure of whether to proceed with their alleged plan to blow up the building.
Inside the vehicle police found a plastic jug full of gasoline, sponges soaked with flammable liquid and embeded with candles, several cigarette lighters, rubber gloves, a bandana, and "anarchist materials and "articles on Nazi gatherings." In its ruling yesterday, the Supreme Court found that because "there was no reasonable suspicion that justified the vehicle stop" all evidence used against Lamont "should have been suppressed."
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Lamont had already had several run-ins with the law, most notably on May Day 2001, when he and more than 100 other anarchists, many of whom lived in a communal house in Long Beach, descended on the city's downtown area looking for a fight with the cops. Police herded the demonstrators into a corner and blasted them with rubber bullets. Lamont and his cohorts were all charged with misdemeanor charges of failure to disperse.
The last time the Weekly spoke with Lamont, he was in jail awaiting trial for the Moose Lodge incident. He refused to say why he was driving near the lodge, but claimed the police had been spying on him for weeks. (Police reports reveal that Long Beach cops indeed had been following Lamont and other anarchists ever since they picked up internet chatter among activists planning either to protest the Aryan Nations event or do something more sinister.
Since Lamont received a three-year prison sentence three years ago, the fact that the California Supreme Court has now overturned his conviction probably comes too late to see him released from prison early.
No word yet on his current wherabouts, but if his last public comments are any indication, Rampage will continue to live up to his nickname. "The bottom line is this country has to change," he said in an interview at the Orange County jail, where he converted to Islam and slept in a private cell thanks to death threats from white inmates. "Time is running out for America," Rampage predicted. "We're a whole new generation. Me, I'm prepared to go to prison. I'm prepared to die. I'm only 21 years old. I have plenty of life to throw away."