A Black man arrested and detained by the U.S. government in what is apparently the first attempted prosecution of a “Black Identity Extremist” was ordered released by a federal judge, highlighting the ongoing FBI surveillance of the Black community and the official monitoring of free speech.
In December, Christopher Daniels, known as Rakem Balogun, 34, was arrested by the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, his home raided and items seized such as two firearms and a copy of the book “Negroes With Guns.” Balogun — who was working for an IT company at the time of his arrest — and his 15-year-old son were forced outside wearing underwear. Federal prosecutors subsequently cited Balogun’s 2007 misdemeanor domestic assault conviction in Tennessee to charge him with unlawful possession of a firearm.
Balogun, an anti-police brutality activist and co-founder of the Dallas-based organization, the Huey P. Newton Gun Club and Guerrilla Mainframe, had been held in pretrial detention. On May 1, Judge Sidney Fitzwater ordered Balogun released from detention and dismissed the indictment. Under federal law, misdemeanor domestic assault convictions bar people from owning firearms. However, Balogun’s lawyers argued that because of the differences between the definition of domestic assault used by the federal government and the state of Tennessee, the conviction did not qualify, as Al Jazeera reported. The judge had given the government until May 3 to provide reasons why Balogun should remain in detention, for which the government apparently did not file a motion.
We must help #RakemBalogun rebuild after the FBI destroyed his livelyhood.
— Huey P. Newton Gun Club (@HueyGunClub) May 12, 2018
The Black Dallas activist is believed to be the first person indicted under the FBI campaign against “Black Identity Extremists,” or BIE, a term the bureau invented and promoted in an unclassified report called “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated To Target Law Enforcement Officers.” The report defines BIE as “individuals who seek, wholly or in part, through unlawful acts of force or violence, in response to perceived racism and injustice in American society,” to establish “a separate black homeland or autonomous black social institutions, communities, or governing organizations within the United States.” The FBI also claims it is “very likely” that since the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, BIE perceptions of police brutality against Black people have resulted in premeditated and retaliatory deadly violence targeting law enforcement.
“The FBI assesses it is very likely incidents of alleged police abuse against African Americans since then have continued to feed the resurgence in ideologically motivated, violent criminal activity within the BIE movement,” the report said, basing its assessment on a handful of cases involving Black assailants accused of attacking police. According to the FBI, “it is very likely some BIEs are influenced by a mix of anti-authoritarian, Moorish sovereign citizen ideology, and BIE ideology.”
The FBI pronouncements regarding a Black movement of domestic terrorists exacting revenge against police officers stand in marked contrast to the facts. Activists, civil liberties advocates and the Congressional Black Caucus have expressed a concern that the government — in a move reminiscent of J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO program designed to destroy the civil rights and Black Power movements and its leaders — is attacking the free speech of Black Lives Matter and others by using a few isolated incidents to create the impression of a full-fledged terror movement.
Authorities had been following Balogun for two years after the FBI became aware of his participation in a March 2015 rally against law enforcement in Austin, Texas. As Special Agent Aaron Keighley testified in court, the feds learned of the rally through a video posted on the website of Infowars, which is operated by the far-right conspiracy theorist, “fake news” propagator and Trump ally Alex Jones. “They’re using a conspiracy theorist video as a reason to justify their tyranny? That is a big insult,” Balogun told The Guardian, comparing the government’s tactics to Stalin and claiming they were desperate. “It’s tyranny at its finest,” he said, adding, “I have not been doing anything illegal for them to have surveillance on me. I have not hurt anyone or threatened anyone.”
Keighley, who admitted the government had no specific evidence of Balogun making threats towards law enforcement, did not discuss Balogun’s actions at the rally, only noting other participants’ statements, such as “the only good pig is a pig that’s dead” and “oink oink bang bang.” Keighley did make note of Balogun’s Facebook posts, in which he called a murder suspect in the death of a police officer a “hero” and expressed solidarity with a man who killed police officers in Texas.
The unraveling of the case against Rakem Balogun reflects the problematic nature of the Black Identity Extremist designation and the conflation of Black activism with terrorist activity, as U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was unable to provide Congress with a name of one so-called BIE group. Meanwhile, white people, specifically white men, are mostly to blame for the killing of police officers in America, and white supremacists account for 75 percent of the deadly terror attacks in this country. White supremacists are also infiltrating law enforcement, of which the FBI is aware, while the FBI has been cited for a white male culture that is hostile towards Black people and other nonwhite groups, and places the targeting of Black activists rather than white terrorists with a track record of violence.
Edward H. Sebesta, who is based in Dallas and researches the neo-Confederate movement, noted that the neo-Confederate movement is a real threat, whose sentiment is responsible for bloodshed in Charleston, Charlottesville and elsewhere, yet the government is not taking it seriously and not taking action.
“When Timothy McVeigh bombed the Murrah federal building April 19, 1995, killing 168 people, including 19 children, and injuring more than 500 others, he was wearing a neo-Confederate T-shirt celebrating the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The Southern Partisan [magazine] offered it for sale in their 1995 Christmas catalog,” Sebesta told Atlanta Black Star. “However, like in other cases of neo-Confederate extremism, no one called the editors of Southern Partisan Confederate Identity Extremists. Instead, the editor went on with a career of political consulting which included the South Carolina presidential campaign of John McCain.”
Sebesta points out that this extremism is not confined to the past. For example, he says the white supremacist Sons of Confederate Veterans’ website sells the book “The South Under Siege,” which contains anti-Semitism and Jewish conspiracy theories. Sebesta has issued a warning on his blog that synagogues should take precautions.
“The neo-Confederate movement glorifies the Ku Klux Klan of Reconstruction and the Red Shirts as well as a violent insurrection that killed over 100,000 American soldiers which the Congressional Record called the War of the Rebellion until 1907. Yet no one will call the Sons of Confederate Veterans or the United Daughters of the Confederacy Confederate Identity Extremists,” Sebesta insists. “Miss. State Rep. Karl Oliver called for the lynching of Confederate monument destroyers. Did the FBI come visit him? It seems that violence to maintain a white racist regime is not extremism, but even commenting about violence to challenge white supremacy is,” he added.
Rakem Balogun is a free man, but the government turned his life upside down, and as Sebesta noted, the man lost his car, his home and his job based on a fabricated case against him. However, white supremacist violence and mass murders continue unabated, and the FBI has not issued reports on White Identity Extremists.