FBI escalates witch hunt against antiwar activists

In an escalation of their McCarthy-style witch hunt of antiwar and trade-union activists, on May 17 the FBI and Los Angeles County Sheriffs raided the home of veteran Chicano activist Carlos Montes. Sheriff SWAT teams broke down the door of Montes’ house at 5:00 a.m.
Sheriff’s deputies rushed into the house with automatic weapons while Montes was asleep. The deputies and FBI agents then proceeded to ransack the house and seized computers, phones, documents, photos, and other records of his political activity. Montes was arrested on one count of possession of a firearm.

Carlos Montes is an active supporter of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression (CSFR), a nationwide coalition that was formed last September in response to FBI raids on the homes of activists in Minneapolis and Chicago. The FBI was investigating the activists’ trips to Colombia and Palestine, where they had traveled to witness efforts to resist repression by U.S.-backed regimes. The government subpoenaed 23 activists to appear before a grand jury, and all have refused to do so.
U.S. Attorneys claim they are investigating the activists’ support of “terrorist” organizations. In reality, the government is attempting to send a chill throughout the social justice movements, sending a message that if you get involved in challenging U.S. imperial policy you could be next.
Supporters organized pickets in cities around the country. On May 25 in Chicago, 30 activists gathered for a press conference and picket line outside the federal building. Jesus Guillen, a leader of the Moratorium on Deportations Campaign, spoke in defense of Montes and the 23 subpoenaed activists: “We cannot stay quiet; we have to demand the return of all property taken from Montes; that all charges have to be dropped against him and against all those who have been subpoenaed for fighting for justice in the U.S. and abroad.”
Alejandro Molina of the Boricua Human Rights Network noted that government repression of activists and immigrants is on the rise. “Under Obama’s administration, there have been more attacks on dissidents and more deportations than under Bush. Also under President Obama, the parole for Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera has been denied.”
The raid in Los Angeles comes on the heels of another escalation of the attacks on activists. Palestinian community leader Hatem Abudayyeh, one of the 23 subpoenaed activists, learned on May 6 that his accounts with TCF bank had been frozen. Bank managers refused to say why the account was frozen, and told Hatem Abudayyeh that he could not release any of his assets. Supporters from across the country called the offices of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control demanding the return of their money and an end to the harassment.
On May 10, TCF notified Hatem that they no longer wanted to provide banking services to him and that they would write him a check for the value of his accounts. His attorney, Michael Deutsch, said, “In my opinion, the bank did not act out of the blue. I suspect that the FBI and U.S. Attorney investigation caused the bank to overreact and illegally freeze the Abudayyehs’ banking accounts that had been there for over a decade.”
The following week CSFR released a cache of FBI documents that was accidently left by agents in the apartment of Mick Kelly and Linden Gawboy after the Sept. 24 raid of their home. The documents reveal that agents were instructed to bring assault rifles and consider Kelly and Gawboy as dangerous, and that paramedics were on hand in the event of casualties.
The FBI documents contained a series of questions related to travel in Colombia and Palestine and specific persons they had met. Fifty-seven of the questions were related to the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, a group that some of the subpoenaed activists support. Bringing back memories of the McCarthy era, the document instructed agents to ask,  “Are you a member?” “How many members are there?’’ “Who are the leaders?”
At a May 18 press conference another subpoenaed activist, Jess Sundin, said, “The documents confirm what I have been saying since Sept. 24 about this case: I am being targeted for who I know and what I believe, specifically for my work in solidarity with Colombia, work that has always been open, public, and legal. None of this is about ‘material support of terrorism,’ as any normal person would understand it. None of us have ever given money or arms to any of the groups on the government’s list. Instead, this about criminalizing antiwar and international solidarity activists for practicing our rights to speak out and organize.”
> The article above was written by David Bernt and first appeared in the June 2011 print edition of Socialist Action newspaper.

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