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Political organizers targeted by FBI stir NYC audience

Published Oct 24, 2011 9:51 PM

Activists under attack by the U.S. government for their antiwar and international solidarity work drew a large crowd of supporters at a forum here on Oct. 15. Many of those present had been participating in Occupy Wall Street and let the speakers know they are not alone in standing up to government repression.

Teresa Gutierrez with Carlos Montes.
WW photo: G. Dunkel

Longtime activist Carlos Montes, who is facing possible federal grand jury charges for his support of the people of Palestine and Colombia, described how a Los Angeles County SWAT team broke down his door at 5 a.m. one morning in May. They arrested him for owning legally registered guns, supposedly in violation of a 40-year-old conviction for demonstrating at a college for Chicano studies. “It was a pretext to attack my solidarity activity,” Montes said.

He said that when he was put into a police car, an FBI agent asked him about the Freedom Socialist Road Organization. In September 2010 the police raided the homes of members of the FSRO and other groups that had organized anti-war marches during the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.

Victor Toro in Bronx, N.Y., garden market.
Photo: La Peña

Tracy Molm, of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, was among those whose homes were raided by the FBI that September. They arrested her and held her in custody in her pajamas for several hours while taking her computer and political documents. The activists were subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury and have refused to do so.

“This case is about trying to stop people from speaking out and manipulating the law to do so,” Molm said. “But they aren’t going to stop us from speaking out against war and repression.”

Diana Crowder, of the Victor Toro Defense Committee, talked about Toro’s case. The Chilean revolutionary, who has lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years, was stopped on an Amtrak train in Buffalo in 2007 and detained for not having proper immigration documents. In March, a judge rejected the prosecutors’ claim that Toro was a terrorist for being one of the founders of the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR) in Chile, but denied Toro asylum because he hadn’t applied for it within one year of being in the country. He faces deportation at any time.

Crowder said Toro was imprisoned and tortured under the U.S.-backed Pinochet regime, and when he was released, the Chilean government issued a death certificate for him. With such a certificate, “If someone kills you, no one has to investigate because you are already a dead man,” she said.

Cyrus McGoldrick, civil rights manager at the New York Council on American Islamic Relations, described how the government uses the New York Police Department to target members of the Muslim community and fabricate charges against them. For example, he noted that cab drivers are being pulled over and asked if they pray. Having a beard and not smoking are listed in an NYPD document as suspicious behavior for a Muslim. McGoldrick cited an Associated Press report in August that the NYPD had formed a demographics unit tasked with mapping the city’s Muslim communities.

The government is also entrapping people, as they did with the Newburgh Four. The FBI induced the young men to discuss blowing up Bronx synagogues and to fantasize shooting down a military plane. No crime took place, but the police arrested them as terrorists.

“Law enforcement is creating crimes rather than investigating them,” McGoldrick said. “Manufactured headlines justify wars abroad.”

Jen Waller, of the New York Committee to Stop FBI Repression, opened the meeting, which was chaired by Teresa Gutierrez, of the May 1st Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights. The event was organized by the New York Committee and endorsed by the May 1st Coalition, BAYAN USA, and Desis Rising Up and Moving — DRUM — an organization of South Asian immigrant workers.