Persecution of the Long Beach Anarchists

Revolutionary Worker #1158, July 14, 2002, posted at

On April 20, 2002, detectives in Long Beach, CA followed two anarchist youth after a punk show and pulled them over at a traffic stop because they claimed they smelled "gasoline fumes." The police searched the car and allegedly found what they described as "a homemade destructive device" that consisted of a one-gallon milk jug filled with gasoline, a sponge, and two non- extinguishing candles. Twenty-year-old Rampage [Matthew Lamont], a well-known anarchist in Long Beach, and his friend were detained and questioned as suspected "terrorists."

Rampage has been held on $100,000 bail since April 20 and faces four felony charges: possession of an explosive device, possession of the ingredients to make an explosive device, transportation of an explosive device, and use of an explosive device. His friend, who is a minor, was recently released from a juvenile detention facility.

Authorities claim they read an e-mail that said the anarchists were planning a "violent confrontation with Aryan Nation members." The e-mail, from an "unknown source," is being used to suggest that Rampage was on his way to a Nazi rally to bomb it and that this constitutes a "hate crime"--defined by the law as committing a crime against someone because of their race, ethnicity, or religion. This possibly allows a "hate crime enhancement" charge to be added to Rampage's existing charges, which could add additional time to a prison sentence.

Rampage's case is one of many recent attacks on anarchists in Long Beach.

On May 1, 2001, at a May Day demonstration, 100 people--including many anarchist youth--were arrested after police in riot gear shot into the crowd with rubber bullets and beat people with batons. Many demonstrators suffered injuries after this violent police attack, like broken arms and fingers.

After that May Day demonstration, several anarchists arrested at the rally were put on probation, one was deported to Mexico, and another is serving a three-year jail sentence.

In November 2001, a youth collective opened the doors of the InfoShop, a bookstore with anarchist and other political literature, to serve as a community center and a space for political meetings and events. Since its opening, volunteers at the InfoShop say they have been targets of ongoing surveillance and harassment by the police and other authorities. A court order allows all e-mail entering their computer server to be intercepted by local authorities, there's video surveillance of people who come in and out of the store, and police routinely harass people who regularly visit the InfoShop by giving them traffic citations, jay walking tickets, and tickets for spitting on the sidewalk. A couple of youth have had their cars impounded, in one case a notebook with notes from political meetings was stolen from the confiscated car.

In January 2002, Sherman Austin, a youth who is involved in the InfoShop collective and is a host for and websites, was detained and questioned after his house was raided by the Los Angeles Joint Anti Terrorism Task Force, the FBI, and the Secret Service.

The authorities confiscated just about the entire contents of Sherman Austin's room. In an interview a few days later, Sherman told the Independent Media Center (IMC), "I have about 12 computers. They took all of the computers in my house which had a hard drive in them, which was basically all of them. They ransacked my entire room.... They took all the hubs, DSL modem, etc., etc. I had thousands of dollars worth of equipment which was seized until further notice. They told me I probably won't be getting it back for a while (I doubt I ever will be) because they have to go through all of the files on all of the hard drives. They also confiscated all of my political literature. Everything from independent political newspapers to protest flyers."

Sherman Austin was at the 2001 May Day demonstration in Long Beach with his video camera. When the police, with batons and rubber bullets, viciously attacked virtually everyone in the march he got it all on tape. As he was documenting the police brutality, he was shot from behind, and a rubber bullet that lodged in his leg had to be removed at the hospital. After he was released from jail a few days later, the police gave his camera back to him. His videotape of the unprovoked police attack was also returned, although "edited" to send a pointed political message: only a few seconds of footage at the beginning and end of the tape remained; the entire body of the tape had been erased.

Within days after the FBI raid on Sherman Austin's house, was back up. A description of the raid was posted, including the message, "Anyone actively disagreeing with the policies of the U.S. is now automatically rendered a `terrorist' in the eyes of national security."

Sherman Austin was held in federal custody for two weeks facing heavy charges under new anti- terrorism laws. All charges were eventually dropped because of insufficient evidence.

A growing movement of resistance and dissent has attracted many youth to the anti-globalization movement, the struggle against police brutality, and to radical and revolutionary politics. Within that there have been many attempts to clamp down on this resistance, including pointed attacks on anarchists. Rampage is someone who is extremely active and dedicated to fighting against injustice and repression. Now, he is being attacked in the context of a new post-9/11 world situation where dissent is outlawed and civil liberties are quickly being eradicated.

Rampage's case reveals that many of the youth around the InfoShop have been routinely spied on and surveilled by the government and police in an effort to intimidate and persecute people who are taking a stand against injustice. A police spokesperson admitted that anarchist groups are routinely surveilled by law enforcement agencies, especially since September 11.

Rampage faces heavy charges under post 9/11 anti-terrorist laws and government repression that are forcibly trying to extinguish any voice of opposition and dissent. The seriousness of his case is not only an attack on him, but is also meant as a warning to others who are attracted to radical thinking and political opposition.

The youth around the InfoShop are dedicated to fighting Rampage's incarceration and persecution. One of them said, "We want this to expose all they have been doing. The surveillance and the harassment--all these things aren't unconnected to the case. They want to silence us. We want to expose all this and we want this case dismissed."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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