African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) leaders’ homes and offices were violently raided by the United States Federal Bureau of Inestigation (FBI) on July 29.
FBI officers used flash bang grenades and drones in the early morning attacks, which took place in St Louis, Missouri and St Petersburg, Florida.
The Pan-Africanist socialist group has been a long-time advocate for reparations for slavery and a vocal critic of US foreign policy. It was founded in 1972.
The raids were authorised by a judge. The FBI alleges that the APSP is somehow connected with Russian businessman Aleksandr Victtorovich Ionov, indicted over using US-based groups to spread Russian propaganda and meddling in US elections. Ionov lives in Moscow.
The APSP and other unidentified political groups accused of being Ionov’s “co-conspirators” — along with Russian intelligence — had not been formally indicted at the time of writing.
APSP criticises and denounces racist policies and promotes Black community empowerment. It is a vocal critic of US foreign policy toward Africa and countries not aligned with US interests.
Activities noted in the Ionov indictment include that the APSP-organised rallies to oppose the “Genocide of African People in the United States” and made public statements denouncing US-NATO involvement in the war in Ukraine, while expressing political sympathy for Russia.
The formal accusation is more than an attack on the APSP. It is an affront to the constitutional right of freedom of speech, used by all opponents of the US ruling class.
The mainstream media has said little about this attack by the government on a Black rights group. Most liberal groups have also been quiet about the raid because it was done by Democrat President Joe Biden’s justice department.
APSP chairperson, Omali Yeshitela, who is 80 years of age, told Democracy Now! on August 10 that before the raid he and his wife Ona, had been sitting at the table discussing their schedule for the day.
“We heard this loud racket outside, this noise from loudspeakers demanding that the residents of this property should come out with our hands up and nothing in our hands.
“And as this was being said, loud flashbang grenades were exploding all around the house and, I was later to learn, in the back stairwell of the house.”
Yeshitela asked Ona to let him to leave the house first, and to call people to let them know they were being raided.
“She tried, but was unable to … because they had jammed our phones.
“When I got to the bottom of the stairwell, these laser dots from automatic weapons were bouncing off my chest. And I heard these commands to move toward them, toward the light.”
As Yeshitela came down the stairs he saw a “large armoured vehicle” in front of the house. “There were camouflage-clad troopers, FBI agents, and I don’t know who else, with flak jackets and automatic weapons.”
“My wife followed me down. And on her way down, a drone went past her head going up the stairwell into the house.”
Officers handcuffed the couple as soon as they got outside. “I’m asking them: ‘Why? What’s going on?’ They said that they had a search warrant for my house.”
When Yeshitela asked to see the search warrant, he was told the officers didn’t have it on them, but that it was “somewhere in the vicinity” and they would get it.
“I said again: ‘Why are you here? Why are you attacking this house?’"
They took Yeshitela’s mobile phone and told him that the raid was connected with an indictment “against a Russian national”, and said that “should [lonov] ever come to the United States, he would be arrested”.
“[S]omehow my name was involved in this indictment. And so, that was the basis they gave for the arrest.
“I didn’t know it at that time, but across town one of our offices was being attacked. This was an office of the African People’s Solidarity Committee.
“They used battering rams to go into that house … [and] upstairs there were two residents — these were white people — who were also handcuffed at gunpoint."
Trump raid shows double standard
The FBI’s treatment of Black nationalists, socialists and activists stands in sharp contrast to how white nationalists/supremacists are politely managed.
Former President Donald Trump broke laws but remains unindicted. A clear double standard, or more accurately, one justice for Black people, and one for the rich and white nationalists.
A case in point is when the FBI — with a warrant in hand — entered Trump’s Florida mansion on August 8. No flash bang grenades or handcuffs were used. No physical threats were issued.
Trump was not home, but watched the search, as it was captured on security cameras, from his New York City property.
Trump knew the raid was going to occur. He attacked the FBI and claimed — along with Republican officials — that it was the type of action used by Third World dictators. He later claimed the FBI planted evidence against him.
Trump refused to make the contents of the warrant public or say what was taken from his mansion. The FBI is required to hand over that information, but Trump lied about it and raised millions from his supporters.
History of attacks on Black leaders
For decades African Americans have suffered at the hands of the FBI and other police agencies. Black people are often shot and killed for little reason. Investigations and warrantless raids by the FBI and cops have always been violent.
Pan Africanist and nationalist leader Marcus Garvey was harassed and finally deported to Jamaica in the 1920s.
In the 1960s, Black leaders of civil rights and Black militant groups were followed, harassed and murdered under a state counter intelligence program known as COINTELPRO, which lasted from 1956‒71.
Malcolm X was targeted by the FBI and assassinated in 1965. Civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jnr was assassinated in 1968, while supporting striking Black sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee.
Radical Black Power group, the Black Panthers were infiltrated by the FBI and agent provocateurs. One of its most prominent local leaders in Chicago, Fred Hampton, was murdered as he slept.
Black emergency medical technician Breonna Taylor died the same way, in 2020, when police kicked down her apartment door and shot her.
The APSP sees itself as following these earlier Black leaders and organisers, in standing up for today’s victims of police violence. Since the raid, it has received solidarity from the Black media, Black leftists and organisations that don’t necessarily agree with its ideology or program.
The state always attacks Black leaders and groups first, before it hits more liberal and progressive groups. All of us must stand up for justice for the APSP.