Carlos Montes

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Carlos Montes


Photo of Carlos Montes for facial recognition

Carlos Montes was one of the founders and former Minister of Information of the Brown Berets National Office in East Los Angeles from 1967 to 1970. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Brown Berets emerged as one of the most powerful and militant organizations in the Chicano liberation movement.

Background

Montes' family came to L.A. from Juarez, Mexico in 1956. He grew up in the barrios of South L.A. and East L.A. and "experienced the racist conditions in the schools, police abuse, drugs, and the poor living conditions". This led to get involved in the first Chicano student group, the Mexican American Student Association , at East L.A. College in 1967 which saw "using education as the solution to injustice". He was also working as a youth center director and came across Young Chicanos for Community Action and La Raza newspaper, which were starting to "voice opposition to the racist conditions in the barrio."[1]

I was drawn to the more active and direct action approach of Young Chicanos for Community Action, which became the Brown Berets in late 1967.

Resist and Flourish: An Evening With Carlos Montes

Resist and Flourish: An Evening With Carlos Montes

The Young People's Resistance Committee held an event with Carlos Montes on December 7 2017. The Facebook invitation[2] stated:

"Join the Young People's Resistance Committee for a night with experienced organizer, activist, and revolutionary Carlos Montes. Montes was a founding member of the Brown Berets and continues to fight against racism, imperialism, and gentrification in LA. Montes will be bridging the gap between LA and Milwaukee to uncover some of the struggles that both our communities face. Among many other topics, Montes will discuss the importance of Young People's Resistance Committee's 2017-2018 campaign, Legalization For All."

Brown Berets

Carlos Montes, 1967
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In a 2003 interview with FightBack!, Carlos Montes explained the philosophy of the Brown Berets.[3]

We were a group of young Chicano revolutionaries from the barrios of the Southwest fighting for the self-determination of our people. We organized in our barrios, published the newspaper La Causa, ran a free clinic and fought against police brutality as well as against the U.S. war in Vietnam.
We evolved from a youth group - from Young Citizens for Community Action, to Young Chicanos for Community Action to the Brown Berets. We evolved from civic participation and assimilation to revolutionary nationalism. The brown beret was a symbol of the pride in our culture, race and history. It also symbolized our anger and militancy and fight against the long history of injustice against the Chicano people in the U.S., especially the Southwest. We claimed the Southwest as Aztlan, the original homeland of the indigenous Aztec ancestors and founders of Mexico City, Tenochtitlan. We were from poor working class families growing up with the racism and police abuse.

The Brown Berets were involved in multiple campaigns.

We first took on the issue of police brutality. The East L.A. sheriffs were notorious for their brutality, especially against Chicano youth, which I experienced cruising Whittier Boulevard on the weekends with hundreds of other youth. We were the first to lead a protest at the East L.A. sheriffs station to protest the killing of youth at the station in 1967. We also started working with the car clubs in East L.A. to defend them against police abuse. We opened a local cultural center in East L.A., The Piranya Coffee House, where we held youth meetings and cultural programs. It became one of the meeting places for the Brown Berets.
We also started working on the problems of the bad school conditions and the racist educational system. Our schools were old and in bad condition, with high drop out, or push out, rates and racist administrators and teachers. Over time, we started agitating for bilingual education, better school conditions, Chicano studies and more Chicano teachers. We attended community, school and youth meetings to raise demands for better educational and school conditions. This finally led to the historic East L.A. Blowouts in March of 1968, where thousands of high school Chicano youth walked out of the four predominantly Chicano high schools in the Eastside over a two week period.
The Brown Berets were the first to run in to the high schools, yelling, “Walk out! Walk out!” To get the blowouts started, me and James Vigil (a k a Mangas Coloradas) ran into Lincoln High School on the first day to kick off the walkouts. We then went on to Roosevelt High School and the other schools.

We also supported the land movement in New Mexico of the Chicano small farmers and ranchers. They fought to recover the land stolen by the rich Anglo ranchers and the U.S. federal government. We supported the United Farm Workers’ struggle for union recognition and better working conditions. We marched with the first Rainbow Coalition in the Poor Peoples Campaign in Washington D.C. in the summer of 1968. We were at the first historic Chicano Youth Liberation conference, where the Plan Espiritaul de Aztlan was formulated in Denver, Colorado. We also organized the first Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War in December 1969. This led to the historic national Chicano Moratorium march and rally against the Vietnam war on Aug. 29, 1970, where over 20,000 Chicanos protested the high casualty rate of Chicanos in Vietnam and demanded self-determination at home in the Southwest. ‘Raza si! Guerra no!’
We started out with civic involvement and education as the road to equality, but soon learned that only real revolutionary change and political power by poor working people would gain real equality and freedom. We evolved from civic duty, work within the system, to self-determination, revolutionary nationalism and international solidarity with the liberation movements of Latin America, Africa and Asia - like the Vietnamese, the Congolese and Cubans fighting for freedom from U.S. domination.

Working with the Black community?

According to Montes, the Berets worked closely with radical elements in the black community, including the Black Panther Party;

Carlos Montes: Yes, we supported and formed alliances with Black groups such as the Black Panther Party. We supported them when the police attacked them. We also set up similar programs like the East L.A. Free Clinic and free breakfast programs. We also were part of the first Rainbow Coalition when we joined the Poor Peoples Campaign in the summer of 1968. The Rev. Martin Luther King had struggled within the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to include the Chicano militant groups in the march on Washington, such as the Crusade for Justice, from Colorado; Alliance of Free City States, from New Mexico and the Brown Berets.

Rise and fall of the Brown Berets

According to Montes;

The Brown Berets grew to have about fourteen chapters throughout the Southwest, with East L.A. being the National Office. After the initial organizing efforts, the Los Angeles Police Department and sheriffs sent undercover officers to infiltrate the Brown Berets. The police infiltrators spied and acted as agent provocateurs, with the purpose of arresting the leadership and disrupting the organization. The police used secret grand jury indictments to try to jail and tie up the leadership in court trials. The top-down military structure of the group did not allow for the development of new leadership, or the leadership and development of the women who did a lot of the internal work. The Brown Berets continued ‘till about 1972, when they were disbanded. By then, the Prime Minister David Sanchez had degenerated into staging publicity stunts and running a one-man egomaniac undemocratic group.

New Raza Left

In the early 2000s Carlos Montes was a member of New Raza Left.

Rallying with Cedillo

Fight Back News, Vol 7, number 4, 2004

Gilbert Cedillo and Carlos Montes, 2004.

Los Angeles Ant-War event

The week leading up to the anti-war demonstration at Olympic and Broadway in Los Angeles on Sept. 29, 2007 which included a tent city to “Occupy the Occupiers,” was historic in many ways.

When the idea was first introduced by members of the Troops Out Now Coalition-L.A., a group that was formed to build for the September actions in Los Angeles.

Organizations led workshops that included the history of struggles in the Philippines by BAYAN USA and in El Salvador by the FMLN. Life in present-day Cuba and the struggle to free the Cuban Five was presented by FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together) along with the Coalition in Solidarity with Cuba and the American Friends Service Committee.

U.S. Labor Against the War organized a discussion on the trade union movement. The Garment Workers Center led a discussion on labor rights and immigration. A very exciting multimedia presentation was done by members of the March 25th Coalition, Students for a Democratic Society and Latinos Against the War on Venezuela and Colombia that included the immigrant rights struggle. Workers World Party held a teach-in on building unity to stop the war, using the book “Bolsheviks and War” by Sam Marcy.

Presenters at the Encampment included Ron Kovic, author of “Born on the Fourth of July”; Eisha Mason of AFSC; Namibia Donadio of FIST; Don Bustany of Pacifica Radio’s Middle East in Focus; Carol Frances Likins of the Coalition in Solidarity with Cuba; Andy Griggs and Tom McKenzie of USLAW; Carlos Montes of Latinos Against the War; Martha Rojas of the March 25th Coalition; Eric Gardner of Students for a Democratic Society and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack!; Berny Motto of the FMLN; Mazen Almoukdad, member of Al-Awda; Terrie Cervas, Bev Tang and Apollo Victoria of BAYAN USA; and Larry Hales of Workers World Party and FIST.

At the demonstration on the 29th, Palestine was a prominent focus. Mahmud Ahmad, representing Al-Awda Los Angeles, was one of the first speakers at the main rally who made the connection between U.S. wars of aggression and their unbreakable link to the struggle in Palestine.

Speakers at the main rally included actor Mimi Kennedy; Fernando Suarez del Solar of Military Families Speak Out; Hamid Kahn of South Asian Network; Omar Jubran of CAIR; Jasimen Syler of United Liberation Army; Cheryl LaBash of U.S./Cuba Labor Exchange; Andy Griggs of USLAW; Deanna Taylor, national co-chair Peace Action Committee—Green Party USA; Gloria Verdieu of San Diego International Action Center; Eric Gardner of UCLA SDS; Carlos Montes of Latinos Against the War; Hwa Young Lee of Korea Truth Commission; and Terrie Cervas of BAYAN USA, who gave a rousing speech about the significance of the week’s events.

The main rally was co-chaired by Namibia Donadio of FIST and Berny Motto of FMLN. [4]

FBI interest

May 20 protest at Federal Building in Los Angeles
Carlos photo1 1.jpg

On May 17, 2011 at 5:00 AM the SWAT Team of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and members of the FBI raided the home of Carlos Montes, a long time Chicano activist and active member of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression. The SWAT Team smashed the front door and rushed in with automatic weapons as Montes slept. The team of Sheriffs and FBI proceeded to ransack his house, taking his computer, cell phones and hundreds of documents, photos, diskettes and mementos of his current political activities in the pro-immigrant rights and Chicano civil rights movement. Also taken were hundreds of historical documents related to Carlos Montes’ involvement in the Chicano movement for the past 44 years.

Carlos was arrested on one charge dealing with a firearm code and released on bail the following morning. His first court appearance is set for June 16, 2011.

This attack on Carlos Montes is part of the "campaign of FBI harassment taking place against the 23 peace and justice activists which has until now been centered in the Midwest". Carlos Montes’ name was listed on the subpoena left in the office of the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, September 24, 2010. When Carlos Montes was placed in the LA County Sheriff’s car, an FBI agent approached and asked him questions about the Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack!.[5]

Prior to the raid, Carlos Montes was active in organizing against the FBI and Grand Jury actions being conducted against 23 anti-war and international solidarity activists in the Midwest. Montes was also named in the search warrant for Sept. 24, 2010 raid on the Twin Cities based Anti-War Committee, and like many of the 23 called before the Grand Jury, he helped organize the massive anti war march on the opening day of the 2008 Republican National Convention. [6]

FRSO member

According to Workers World newspaper Montes is a member of Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack!.[7]

The sun had not dawned yet on the cold, crisp morning of May 17 in Alhambra, a neighborhood east of Los Angeles. It was hard to believe spring had arrived that morning when at 5 a.m. the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department SWAT team assembled in front of Carlos Montes’ driveway and front yard. The silence was shattered along with Montes’ door as the officers rammed it down and then sprang into his home bearing automatic rifles.

Montes is a member of Freedom Road Socialist Organization. He has been a long-time activist for immigrant rights and Chicano liberation in southern California. He was a founder of the Brown Berets and a fighter with Chicano Moratorium.

A leader in the Southern California Immigration Coalition, Montes has led the big May 1 immigrant marches in Los Angeles since 2006, along with many other fighters like BAYAN USA, Union del Barrio and the International Action Center.

August 29th Chicano Moratorium Organizing Committee

The August 29th Chicano Moratorium Organizing Committee held a press conference in Los Angeles Aug. 25. 2010 to announce a protest march and rally set for Aug. 28 in East Los Angeles. The march commemorates 40 years since the Chicano Moratorium.

The committee denounced the ongoing war in Afghanistan-Iraq and the U.S. military recruiting targeting Latino youth, especially immigrants. Veteran Chicano activist Carlos Montes urged participation in the event, which is demanding full equality and self-determination for the Chicano nation.

Yvonne De Los Santos stated, “Today Chicano youth continue to be recruited by false promises of legalization and education only to be sent to fight U.S. wars for domination for profit. We denounce the current U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and call for all troops to be withdrawn. We learned from the Vietnam War that wars only serve to kill and maim our youth and make profits for the war industry like Halliburton and others.”[8]

Against NATO Summit

According to an April 2012 press release from Lauren Love, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and Eric Ruder, Coalition Against NATO/G8, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and other community and labor leaders will gather on Thursday, April 19, at 11:15 am on the 2nd floor of City Hall to announce their plans to march in opposition to NATO. The march will take place on Sunday, May 20, which is the first day of the NATO summit, and is being organized by the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War and Poverty Agenda (CANG8).

Rev. Jackson will also announce his plans to speak at CANG8’s People’s Summit at Occupy Chicago’s headquarters on May 12–13, the weekend before the NATO summit.

Standing with Rev. Jackson to announce their support for the march and People’s Summit will be Occupy Chicago; the Chicago Teachers Union; the National Nurses United; and members of the Service Employees International Union.

“Our world has become jilted by war and weapons,” said Rev. Jackson. “There is simply too much violence, too much concentrated wealth and too much poverty. I hope on May 20 there will be a large demonstration with global participation. It’s time we go in a different direction. I am urging us to shift our priorities. This demonstration is designed to appeal to the leaders of the world to choose to depend less on military intervention and more on negotiations to try to heal these societies ravished by poverty and internal strife.”

CANG8 organizers are pleased to be joined in their efforts by many other community and labor leaders in addition to Rev. Jackson. “ “This march will take place at a crucial moment in NATO’s war on Afghanistan as a majority of Americans have now turned against further U.S. involvement there,” said Joe Iosbaker, a CANG8 organizer.

Occupy Chicago is proud to support the May 20 march being organized by the Coalition Against NATO/G8,” said Rachael Perrotta, a member of Occupy Chicago’s press team.

Many nurses from the Chicago area and beyond have been active in the Occupy movement and in challenging budgets that prioritize war spending over public health. “As an ER nurse, I see the suffering of the 99 percent firsthand,” said Dennis Kosuth, a registered nurse at Stroger Cook County Hospital. “The global 1 percent and the G8 are calling for austerity cuts to vital social services while draining trillions of our tax dollars into the NATO war machine. Our tax dollars should be going into our public schools, healthcare services, libraries, public transportation—back to the people of Main Street. Registered Nurses of the National Nurses United will be marching alongside CANG8 this May to protest NATO and to call for a Robin Hood Tax on the G8 global 1 percent.”

Christine Boardman is the president of Service Employees International Union Local 73, which represents 25,000 public employees in Illinois and Indiana, and she is urging union members and working people to attend the protest in large numbers. “G8 policies have supported so-called ‘free trade agreements,’ which have caused the loss of millions of jobs,” said Boardman. “Instead of funding for war and supporting ‘free trade’ for corporations, which means ‘slave trade’ for workers, it must become our national priority to keep good jobs here and to fund services for our communities.”

Other noted speakers at the May 20 march and the People’s Summit include Malalai Joya, former Afghan member of Parliament and internationally renowned opponent of NATO’s occupation of Afghanistan; Reiner Braun, International Coordinating Committee of the European No to NATO network; Kathy Kelly, Voices for Creative Nonviolence; Malik Mujahid, Muslim Peace Coalition; Medea Benjamin, Code Pink; and Col. Ann Wright (ret.), antiwar activist.

In addition to specifying Jesse Jackson, , speakers will now include, along with those announced earlier: Leah Bolger, head of Veterans for Peace, who was recently tried for “disrupting” the so-called SuperCommittee in Congress; Carlos Montes, who was targeted by an FBI raid in Los Angeles; Kari Fulton, of the Environmental Justice movement; and Larry Holmes, of International Action Center.[9]

Summit for Immigration Reform

National Leadership Summit for Immigration Reform, was held March 16, 2013, at UC Riverside.

Presenting responses to legislation proposed by Congress and President Barack Obama were:

Carlos Montes, director of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, California.

People’s Agenda march

August 27, 2012, well over 1,000 people rallied and marched in the streets of Tampa to demand good jobs, affordable education, healthcare, equality, and peace. Although the Republicans cancelled the first day of their convention due to Hurricane Isaac, organizers with the Coalition to March on the RNC went through with their promise to march on the first day of the convention to show their opposition to the agenda of the 1% and their support for a People’s Agenda.

Notable speakers included Carlos Montes, a leading immigrants’ rights leader; Joe Iosbaker; a spokesperson for the anti-war movement; Skye Schmelzer, representative of the National Students for a Democratic Society; Medea Benjamin, a co-founder of Code Pink and major peace activist; Ciara Taylor, a representative of Dream Defenders and a Black community organizer; Nelini Stamp, one of the original organizers of Occupy Wall Street; and Oscar Otzoy, a Florida farm worker organizer with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Organizations present included Students for a Democratic Society, Veterans for Peace, Southern California Immigrant Coalition, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, five Florida Occupy chapters, six Fight Back Florida chapters, Dream Defenders, United National Anti-war Coalition, Committee to Stop FBI Repression, International Action Center, Code Pink, four Florida AFL-CIO labor councils, and Region 3 of AFSCME Council 79.

Organizer Fern Figueroa stated: “Today we took a stand with more than 1,000 people against the Republicans and their agenda of hatred, poverty, and war. Today we stand up for all the good things people need and strike a blow against those who deprive us that.”

Jared Hamil, Corey Uhl were also organizers. [10]

Ami Bera volunteers

July 2015, Glennda Campos forwarded an email from Rick Guerrero Chair, Democratic Party of Sacramento Voter Registration.

Dear River City Dems-
Here is an opportunity to be involved with other Dems & support the election of Dr Ami Bera doing voter registration. Please see the email below for needed information. It's also a chance to wear your River City T-shirt.

Let's elect Democrats to Congress,
Glennda Campos

The email went to Carlos Montes, and others.

LA to march against Trump

Los Angeles, CA – A major march against Trump is set for Jan. 20 in Boyle Heights. It is one of many around the country that will coincide with President-elect Trump’s inauguration in Washington DC. Boyle Heights protesters will assemble at 11 a.m. at Mariachi Plaza. They will march to Olvera Street, rally at Olvera, and then march to City Hall to join the other rallies.

The protest’s demands include: legalization not deportation, defend DACA, no to the Mexico wall, no to guest-worker programs, no to U.S. wars and occupation, and will urge solidarity with whomever has been attacked by Trump.

Immigrant rights leader Carlos Montes, who is helping to lead the Jan. 20 protest states, “We intend to send a message that each and every attack by Trump will be met with resistance. Trump has made it clear that he is an enemy of the undocumented, of Chicanos, and all oppressed people. We will meet his attacks head on.”[11]

Centro CSO May Day

Emmanuel Salgado May 3, 2018:

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5/1/18 Centro CSO May Day Boyle Heights starting point. #workers #Policekillings #immigration #Charterschools — with Jared Hamil, Luis Humberto Sifuentes, Helga Rodriguez, Carlos M. Montes and Sol Már.

Where do we go from here?

Eric Mar October 21, 2016.

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Join us this weekend! from our '66 movements over 50 years to the present: Where do we go from here?http://www.bpp50th.com/conference-tickets-information/ Looking foward to seeing brother Richard Moore of Black Berets/SWOP/SNEEJ, Pam Tau Lee of Chinese Progressive Association/Red Guard/IWK, LA Brown Beret Founders Carlos Montes and Cruz Olmeida, my teachers from New College and the NLG Paul Harris & Stephen Bingham, Fallon Young Patriots, Young Lords, Indigenous leaders, youth, Danny Glover, Davey D, Ricky Vincent, Digital Underground, Emory Douglas, John Carlos, X-Clan and many others!

Chicano movement

The 40th Anniversary Commemoration Committee of the Chicano Moratoriums was formed in the summer 2009 by the Chair of the National Chicano Moratorium Committee of August 29, 1970 along with two independent Chicano Movement historians whom although not of the baby boomer generation, have become inspired by the Movimiento.

The organization posted a list of significant “Chicano movement” activists on its website which included Carlos Montes, of Brown Berets.[12]

References