Los Angeles CA — Early on the morning of March 2, supporters of veteran Chicano activist Carlos Montes gathered outside the downtown Los Angeles courthouse. After holding a brief rally outside to demand that the trumped-up charges against Montes be dropped, the crowd joined him inside the courtroom in a show of solidarity.
Montes and his lawyer, Jorge Gonzalez, were in court that day to file a discovery motion requesting documents from the government to establish facts about the case. Friday's hearing was brief: the prosecuting District Attorney announced that he was not prepared and requested a continuance, claiming that the CA Department of Justice had not yet released the requested documents.
However, one important development did emerge during the day's proceedings. In response to the legal discovery process, the District Attorney produced an important document that states Montes’ legal record stemming back to 1969 was a misdemeanor, not a felony. In 1969 Montes was arrested after leading a student strike that demanded Chicano studies and Black Studies at East L.A. College. Montes was accused of assaulting a sheriff’s deputy (with an empty soda can), and this charge was sentenced as a misdemeanor. The prosecution is basing their case on this 42-year-old misdemeanor, disguising it as a bogus felony. Without a past felony all of the charges Montes is facing now relating to his legally purchased firearms would be dismissed.
Over 40 members of the community came out to show their support for Montes at the Friday hearing. “It is not just Montes who is under attack,” Kwazi Nkrumah, an Occupy LA organizer and founder of the Los Angeles MLK coalition said. “It is all of us. That is why we have to come out here to show the FBI that they cannot beat our solidarity.”
Carlos Montes is one of the 24 anti-war and international solidarity activists who have been hit by FBI and grand jury repression since Sept. 24, 2010.
Mick Kelly, one of the activists targeted by the September 2010 FBI raids, told the crowd at the courthouse that there was no doubt that these attacks on Carlos Montes were direct orders from the FBI: “We know that Special Agent Matt Webber contacted Donald Lord of the Los Angeles’ Sheriff’s department. We know that the operation that smashed in Carlos’ door at 5:00 a.m. was orchestrated by the FBI. In fact, their tactics in ransacking Montes’ home were very similar to the ransacking that took place in my home.”
Montes, Kelly, and many of the other targeted activists worked together to organize the protests against the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis.
Even with the weak evidence of the prosecution, Montes is facing a tough struggle. “We are fighting this tooth and nail,” attorney Jorge Gonzales told the crowd. “Your job as the community is to speak out against the injustices that are taking place here.”
Speaking in front of the court building after the hearing, Carlos Montes thanked supporters and pointed to the growing the growing support and publicity his case is receiving. “In the past months, unions representing hundreds of thousands of working people have spoken up, calling for the charges against me to be dismissed. In the weeks ahead we are going to step up the pressure on the government to bring this case to an end.”
Protests against Montes' prosecution took place in several other cities around the country that day, and activists also organized a national call-in to the White House and the Justice Department to demand that the charges be dropped.
The LA Committee Against FBI Repression is urging supporters of Montes to attend the March 27 hearing, which will in part deal with the role of the FBI in this case.