Federal agents executed search warrants July 29 at a Black Nationalist meeting place in St. Petersburg, Fla. The agents were seen carrying out unidentified boxes for hours at Uhuru House, local headquarters of the Uhuru Movement, an arm of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP). This is a pan-Africanist formation with separatist inclinations dating back to the early ’70s. The Uhuru Movement is evidently the “US Political Group 1” named in a federal indictment unsealed that same day, formally charging a Russian national with spearheading a multi-year “influence campaign” in the United States. Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov is accused using three unnamed “political groups” to spread pro-Russian propaganda in the US and interfere in elections. Ionov, a Moscow resident, is founder and leader of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia (AGMR), which the indictment says operates “in conjunction with” the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB, successor agency to the KGB).
The indictment, brought by a Tampa-based grand jury, claims that Ionov funded an all-expense paid trip to Moscow in May 2015 for an unidentified leader of “US Political Group 1” to “communicate on future cooperation” with the AGMR. Over the intervening seven years Ionov “exercised direction and control over senior members” of the “US Political Group 1.”
Akile Anai, director of the APSP Department of Agitation & Propaganda, speaking to local media after the raid (in which her laptop and phone were apparently seized), certainly did nothing to dispell the notion that she is in the sway of Kremlin indoctrination: “What we know this to really be, one, is a propaganda war is being waged against Russia every single day throughout the news. The US has a hold on what is being propagated about the war on—the defensive war—Russia’s defensive war against Ukraine, against world colonial powers because that’s what’s happening right now.” (Sic) (WTSP, Tampa, Tampa Bay Times, Politico)
“US Political Group 2” appears to be the Atlanta-based Black Hammer Party. The indictment asserts that Ionov paid for members of Black Hammer to travel to San Francisco in March to protest Facebook’s removal of posts supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—and even directed them on the design of signs for the demo, which was livestreamed on the group’s YouTube channel. The protesters can be seen standing outside the headquarters of Meta (Facebook’s parent company), holding up a Russian flag. (AJC, AJC, PC Mag)
Black Hammer seems particularly cultish. Just days before the federal indictment was unsealed, the group’s leader Augustus C. Romain AKA “Gazi Kodzo” was arrested on kidnapping charges following a stand-off with a SWAT team in an Atlanta suburb. The affair was apparently related to internecine rivalries in the organization, in which one “hostage” lost his life, although this was deemed a suicide and no murder charges have been brought. (WXIA, Atlanta, Daily Dot)
In May 2021, Black Hammer members got in a brief armed standoff with local residents in a remote area of the Colorado Rockies, where they hoped to build a utopian community to be called “Hammer City”—on lands they had apparently not legally acquired. They were finally removed form the land by San Miguel County deputies. (AJC, Colorado Sun)
Black Hammer also evidently sought to intentionally game online outrage to build their following with ugly social-media posts—such as dissing Holocaust victim Anne Frank as a “colonizer,” “parasite” and “bleach demon,” and threatening to burn copies of her diary to keep warm in their Colorado compound. (The Forward)
“Political Group 3” appears to be the now-defunct Yes California, which in 2018 led a campaign for a “CalExit“—the Golden State’s secession from the United States. The group’s leader Louis Marinelli, named as an “Unindicted Co-Conspirator,” evidently used to reside in Yekaterinburg, Russia, before relocating California to stir up trouble with a vague populism that veered erratically from right to left. (He started out as a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, but flipped to appropriating anti-Trump rhetoric to fuel his secessionist initiative.)
According to the indictment, Ionov sent Marinelli $500 to pay for posters for a February 2018 CalExit rally outside the state capitol building in Sacramento. Ionov also apparently urged Marinelli “to physically enter the governor’s office,” which was then occupied by Democrat Jerry Brown. The storming of the governor’s office did not come to pass, but Ionov reportedly passed on photos and media reports of the demonstration to an unnamed FSB officer. An accompanying note mentioned that the officer had requested “turmoil,” and proudly proclaimed: “There you go.” (Business Insider, The Script)
Beyond the headlines
We have noted before the efforts by AGMR to co-opt both the radical left and radical right in the United States. In December 2014, AGMR hosted an international conference in Moscow on the “Right of Peoples to Self-Determination and Building a Multi-Polar World,” drawing participants from groups on the US “anti-war left” (sic) including the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) and the International Action Center (IAC)—both spin-offs of the retro-Stalinist Workers World Party. Also in attendance were representatives of Russian and European neo-fascist formations—and white nationalists from an Alabama-based group, the neo-Confederate League of the South.
The League of the South was one of the prominent groups at the the August 2017 “Unite the Right Rally” in Charlottesville, Va., which notoriously turned deadly. We noted at the time the vocal expressions of support for Syria’s Russian-backed genocidal dictator Bashar Assad among the far-right knuckleheads at Charlottesville. The Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right notes the special affinity that the League of the South has for Putin’s Russia. In an essay on their website entitled “To Our Russian Friends,” the League’s president Michael Hill writes: “We understand that the Russian people and Southerners are natural allies in blood, culture, and religion.” Another essay on their site urges followers to prepare for “The Coming Civil War in America.”
Workers World and its various spin-off groups (UNAC, IAC, ANSWER) actually march with portraits of Bashar Assad at their hypocritical “anti-war” rallies. Yet these same groups have the unmitigated chutzpah to affect an anti-racist posture in order to draw in followers, pretending to oppose the very radical-right nexus that they actually overlap with.
We take some perverse amusement in in a video on the Black Hammer YouTube channel showing their militants disrupting a Hands Off Cuba rally in Atlanta led by another Workers World offshoot, the ironically named Party for Socialism & Liberation (PSL), baiting them as “white-led.”
It is always odious to learn of police targeting of Black political groups in the US, which inevitably recalls the FBI’s murderous “COINTELPRO” against the Black Panthers in the late 1960s, and the 1985 police massacre of followers of the MOVE organization in Philadelphia. In fact, we fear that the indictment and St. Petersburg raid will give the Uhuru Movement, APSP and Black Hammer a cachet that could fuel their popularity in certain sectors.
Still, we do have to wonder if these groups are suffering from a deep cynicism or an even deeper naivete. Are they unaware that the same FSB-AGMR network apparently supporting them is also supporting their ostensible worst enemies on the racist right? Are they unaware of racist persecution of Crimean Tatars and Chechens in the white-supremacist Russia of Vladimir Putin?
This affair manifests one of the more egregious examples of the fast-mounting and incredibly dangerous phenomenon of Red-Brown Politics (left-fascist convergence). We can imagine Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov, Vladimir Putin and the FSB wetting their pants with laughter as the United States descends into civil war in the years or possibly even months to come…
Photo of Black Hammer protest at Meta offices in San Francisco: YouTube via AJC