Drop the Charges on Carlos Montes! | Rally speech by Meredith Aby of the Anti-War Committee

This speech was given at the National Day of Action in Solidarity with Carlos Montes protest at the FBI building in Minneapolis on 6/16/11

We are here today to say drop the charges and to strongly condemn the raid and arrest of Carlos Montes, a nationally known Chicano immigrant rights activist.   When law enforcement, including the FBI, raided Carlos’ home they used the pretext of a weapons charge as an excuse to seize  44 years worth of political materials, his cell phone and his computer.  Then when they got Carlos into the squad car their main interest was to ask him questions about the anti-war and international solidarity activists that have been subpoenaed to testify at a secret grand jury in Chicago.  Just like the raid on my house, what they were after was information – information about who we do our organizing with, what people’s beliefs are, what protests and actions people have organized – information that should be LEGAL and protected under the 1st Amendment.

Carlos is a long-time activist in the Chicano movement, a leader in the Southern California Immigration Coalition and in Latinos Against War. Although he is best known as a leader in Chicano liberation and immigrant rights struggles, I also know Carlos for his commitment against imperialism and for his international solidarity work, in particular with the people of Colombia.

I believe I first met Carlos when I went to Los Angeles in 2000 to protest Gore’s support for U.S. military aid to Colombia and his connection to Occidental Oil at the DNC.  People throughout the protest came up to Carlos and it was apparent that he had the respect and love of the activist community in LA for a lifetime working for peace and justice. Carlos became an important person to me that day when he took me under his wing and got me out of downtown LA safely when the LAPD started firing rubber bullets at protesters.  I needed him and he stepped up to keep me safe.

The MN Anti-War Committee, which I’m a part of, considers Carlos a friend of our committee. Carlos played an important leadership role with us in the Coalition to March on the RNC.  He participated in the organizing conference we had here in January 2008 and on national coordinating phone calls.  He spoke on the stage at the protest on day 1 of the convention and was a powerful voice for ending US warfare and occupation in Iraq.  He also spoke at the Anti-War Committee’s protest on day 4 of the RNC and even stepped up to help lead the protest on the ground after the majority of our committee was arrested in the police’s attempt to prevent our protest from disrupting McCain’s speech at the Excel Center.  In 2008 over 30,000 people from across the country came together to say no to the Republican agenda of war.  Unfortunately, the FBI investigated the impressive coalition that we pulled together locally and we are still feeling the affects of that surveillance.  The investigation, harassment, grand jury subpoenas and now charges against Carlos all come out of law enforcement’s infiltration into the Anti-War Committee and the Coalition to March on the RNC. In the past 2 weeks our case has been used in the Senate Judiciary Committee, on the cover of the Washington Post, and in the Nation and Progressive magazines to demonstrate that the FBI and the federal government are abusing their power and trampling on the right to dissent in this country.  Our movement is getting the attention of politicians and media outlets!  Protests like this one are crucial in our battle to protect our movements and our activists!

It is imperative for us to denounce the FBI’s use of COINTELPRO tactics and demand an end to these attacks on activists!  Today we join with activists, teachers, and community members from LA and around the country to stand in solidarity with Carlos!  Carlos Montes has dedicated his life to struggling for immigrant rights, for education rights, and against war. He has done nothing wrong. This is an attack on him and an attack on the Chicano movement for equality and the immigrant rights movement as a whole.  Thank you today for standing up for Carlos, for the 23 subpoenaed activists, and for your own right to protest!

(For more information on Carlos Montes’ case or the 23 anti-war and international solidarity activists who have been subpoenaed go to stopfbi.net.)