Solidarity from Louis Mendoza, Chair, Department of Chicano Studies at University of Minnesota

This speech was given by Louis Mendoza, Chair of the Department of Chicano Studies at the University of Minnesota, at the May 27 protest of Attorney General Eric Holder.


I am here today to speak out against the repeated violation of the civil rights and civil liberties of anti-war, anti-immigrant, anti-colonialism activists. The long history of repression against peace activists standing in solidarity with Latin Americans who wish to promote their rights to self-determination free of US intervention and alignment with repressive regimes and policies that presumably benefit US interests must be stopped.

The FBI has a shameful history of violating people’s first amendment rights to voice dissent against US domestic and foreign policies. As we have seen in the recent detention, questioning, harassment and confiscation of materials Carlos Montes, a highly regarded activist in Los Angeles, this repression is particularly focused on people of color in the US. While the legacy of repression extends back throughout the entire 20th century, it was particularly harsh in the Civil Rights and Anti War Movement of the 60s, when the Black Panthers, the Brown Berets, the American Indian Movement, and many other anti-war, civil rights organization were infiltrated and torn apart from outside and within thru red-baiting tactics, the promotion of lies and the cultivation of fear, and sustained harassment and violence.

The May 17th raid by an LA Sheriff SWAT Team and members of the FBI on the home of immigrant rights leader Carlos Montes for the express purpose of intimidation is a continuation of this shameful history. As one of the founders of the Brown Berets and an active and respected voice for immigrants, Chicanos, and educational and social justice, Montes’ courage and perseverance should be applauded, not silenced or subject to property theft and trauma.
We must demand that the FBI cease and desist its attacks on the Immigrant Rights and anti-war movement. We must let people know that we have higher expectations of the Obama administration for our right to express dissent without being labeled or associated with terrorism or even being anti-American.

Solidarity with those advocating for peace and justice is not a crime!
Exercising one’s rights to voice dissent is not a crime!

We must recognize that historically dissent to unjust laws and policies has made the US a better and more democratic country by helping to put an end to unjust wars, to slavery, and to institutionalized racism!
As is stated in the Open Letter from Professors and Academics initiated by Students for a Democratic Society, which I am proud to say I have signed:

Dissent, whether or not we agree with the views of those involved, is an important part of any democracy. This is especially true in one such as ours which claims to value the rights of the individual. One must have the freedom to criticize if one is to be free. Any incursion upon this freedom is dangerous to us all. . . . . This is a dangerous national effort to shut down growing opposition to U.S. wars. It cannot be allowed.

I encourage everyone here to keep fighting the good fight to put an end to the repression of our rights!

Louis Mendoza
Chair, Department of Chicano Studies, University of Minnesota