18 May 2018

Rakem Balogun Freed

After nearly six months of detention in federal prison on a bogus illegal weapons charge, Rakem Balogun, a 34-year-old black Texas activist targeted for his advocacy of black armed self-defense, is free. Because of his opposition to cop brutality and his support of gun rights, Balogun was designated a “Black Identity Extremist”—a label cooked up by the FBI to criminalize black organizing and to whip up racist fervor against Black Lives Matter and anyone else the government views as a threat. The Feds busted Balogun claiming he couldn’t own firearms due to a 2007 misdemeanor in Tennessee, a pretext the judge noted was baseless when dismissing the indictment on May 1. In an interview with the Guardian (11 May) after his release, Balogun called the ordeal the Feds put him through “tyranny at its finest.” He went on: “I have not been doing anything illegal for them to have surveillance on me. I have not hurt anyone or threatened anyone.”

The Spartacist League and Partisan Defense Committee join in celebrating the release of this courageous man who, due to the witchhunt prosecution, lost his home, job and car and missed much of the first year of his newborn daughter’s life. We welcome the fact that the FBI failed in its first “Black Identity Extremist” prosecution. Balogun immediately resumed his self-defense training activities and public political activism, knowing full well that he will remain under FBI surveillance. “Obviously I have their attention indefinitely,” he remarked in a separate interview.

The FBI first started watching Balogun following a right-wing InfoWars video focusing on him at a 2015 Austin protest against police brutality. Trying to make the case for “domestic terrorism,” the FBI cited Facebook posts where they falsely claimed Balogun was promoting violence against the cops because his posts condemned police terror against black people like Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Agents also provocatively raised the killing of five officers in Dallas by Micah Johnson during a protest against police brutality in 2016.

The very fiction of a black conspiracy to kill cops is a page right out of the playbook of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) that targeted “black extremists” in the 1960s and ’70s, a point we noted in our earlier article calling to drop the charges against Balogun (see “FBI Targets Black Activists,” WV No. 1128, 23 February). COINTELPRO resulted in the deaths of 38 members of the Black Panther Party and the imprisonment of hundreds more. One prominent Panther—killed by San Quentin prison guards in 1971—was George L. Jackson, whose book Blood in My Eye was seized from Balogun’s apartment along with Robert F. Williams’s 1962 Negroes with Guns when he was arrested in December.

While today’s “Black Identity Extremist” designation is associated with an openly racist administration that has the support of white supremacists, the drive to label black protesters a threat to law enforcement was revived with FBI director James Comey under Obama. In April 2016, Balogun came into the crosshairs of the Dallas cops, then under a black police chief and a Democratic mayor, after his group, the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, successfully quashed an armed provocation by an anti-Islamic white paramilitary group. Organizing hundreds of residents of historically black South Dallas, Balogun and his comrades defended a local Nation of Islam mosque against the “Bureau of American Islamic Relations” (BAIR), an outfit that prides itself on terrorizing mosques through staging open carry rallies and threatening antifa activists. BAIR boasted about Balogun’s arrest, underscoring how the cops and the white-supremacist terrorists work side by side.

Even in Texas, where firearms are assumed to be present in every home, automobile and handbag, the right of black people, Latinos and other minorities to carry a gun, much less use it, is always under attack. As Balogun noted in an online radio interview (MySkinIsMySin.com), “What the government wanted was for me to be legally disarmed.” During his imprisonment, the government tried to pressure Balogun into accepting a plea deal, but he refused, knowing that he would be legally barred from owning firearms. Given that over 90 percent of federal prosecutions end with a conviction, it is a feat that Balogun, a black radical, managed to evade for now the lifelong branding that millions of convicted felons suffer in racist, capitalist America. Hands off Rakem Balogun!

* * *

(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1134, 18 May 2018)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.