Los Angeles County, CA - Over 100 people gathered outside of the Alhambra City court house the morning of June 16, in support of Los Angeles veteran activist Carlos Montes. Montes appeared before the court for an arraignment hearing, to face felony charges that were filed when LA County Sheriffs and FBI agents raided his home early in the morning of May 17.
Carlos Montes received a continuance meaning his court hearing is pushed back until July 7, 2011.
Montes requested copies of the affidavits for the search warrant and police report regarding his case. The District Attorney did not want to allow Montes access to the documents. “The District Attorney was very upset. She said, ‘No we won’t give you a copy.’” stated Montes. Finally the judge relented. However, the documents will be ‘redacted.’ This means the copy Montes will receive will be blacked out and edited.
While a dozen supporters filed into the courtroom wearing T-shirts reading, “FBI hands off Carlos Montes - Drop the charges!” over 100 others formed a spirited picket line outside the court, chanting "Hey hey, ho ho, trumped up charges have got to go!" and "Hands off Carlos Montes!" Their chants, cheers and speeches were loud enough to be heard inside the courtrooms.
Felicia Montes, Carlos' daughter and a community activist in her own right, opened up the rally by recounting the morning raid of Carlos' home. She described a frightening scene where armed men with automatic weapons broke down the door, seized decade’s worth of historic and political documents and escorted Carlos into a police car. There he was questioned by an FBI agent about his political activities.
“The fact that the FBI was there,” Carlos recounted, “questioning me about my political activities and ransacking my home, which has nothing to do with my charges.” He went on to say the firearm charge was a mere pretext to break into his house and that this attack was part of the broader case connected to the case of the 23 other anti-war and international solidarity activists subpoenaed to appear before a Chicago grand jury
“The new relaxed laws for the FBI’s growing power shows their arrogance,” Charla Schlueter of the LA Committee to Stop FBI Repression said, “More than ever we need to stand in solidarity against these scare tactics.” Jubilee Shine, of the South Central Neighborhood Council, also denounced the hypocrisy of the justice system that brought trumped-up charges against a community activist while allowing convicted killer and former police officer Johannes Mehserle to walk free after a one-year sentence for the murder of Oscar Grant.
Despite the attacks Montes is facing, he left the courthouse smiling, “I am happy because I see you all here,” he said. As the protest in Los Angeles was only one out of 19 held across the country in support of Carlos Montes, the FBI is discovering that activists and citizens will not give up their constitutional rights without a fight. As the rally wrapped up people chanted, “FBI you’ve crossed the line! Speaking out is not a crime!”