Black Activists From Uhuru Movement Handcuffed By FBI For Alleged Ties To Russian 2016 Election Interference

Black Activists From Uhuru Movement Handcuffed By FBI For Alleged Ties To Russian 2016 Election Interference

Uhuru Movement

Uhuru Movement leaders Omali Yeshitela and his wife Ona Zené Yeshitela talk to media at a press conference after being handcuffed by the FBI. (Photo: Screenshot / YouTube)

Black activists from the African People’s Socialist Party and Uhuru Movement were searched and handcuffed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Missouri on July 29 for allegedly conspiring with a Russian national to interfere in the 2016 elections.

In an unsealed indictment, the U.S. Department of Justice accused APSP Founder and Chairman Omali Yeshitela, his wife Ona Zené Yeshitela and other members of the Uhuru Movement of working with Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov of Moscow to spread pro-Russian propaganda and sway local elections.

The DOJ’s head of national security Matthew Olsen said Ionov “allegedly orchestrated a brazen influence campaign, turning U.S. political groups and U.S. citizens into instruments of the Russian government.”

The Uhuru Movement’s leaders say the claims are baseless and defended themselves against the accusations.

“They have accused us of taking money from Russia,” Omali said at a press conference in St. Louis on Friday, July 29. “We’ve never taken a penny from the Russian government. … The U.S. government is attempting to use us, the African People Socialist Party and Uhuru Movement, as pawns.”

In St. Petersburg, Uhuru member Akile Anai said the FBI used police to lure her from her home under false pretenses. Anai, the party’s director of agitation and propaganda, said officers came to her house and stated her car had been burglarized.

When she came outside, the FBI searched her vehicle and seized her laptop and cellphone, Anai added.

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“We are being attacked because of our relationship with forces internationally who support the anti-colonial struggle,” Anai said, according to the Washington Post. “What they are saying about Alex and this relationship with the Russian government — this is all the U.S. government’s attempt to use us as pawns in a propaganda war against Russia.”

Special Agent in Charge David Walker said members of the Uhuru Movement and other groups in Georgia and California all worked with Ionov to commit the crimes.

“The facts and circumstances surrounding this indictment are some of the most egregious and blatant violations that we’ve seen by the Russian government in order to destabilize and undermine trust in American democracy,” Walker said.

During their press conference, Omali said they were “forcibly detained by FBI agents … without any meaningful explanation of what was going on.”

Ona added she “heard all these flash bombs go off “ and was then confronted by “a big, old drone” that met her “coming down the stairs like it was going to attack” her.

Omali said he visited Russia before, but only to attend a conference.

The Uhuru movement was founded in 1972. Its political philosophy is African internationalism and the movement fights for causes like colonialism, racial justice, reparations and more on behalf of Black people.

In a press release, the Uhuru Movement described the FBI raids as “a series of violent military FBI orchestrated pre-dawn attacks at the offices and homes of leaders” of the party.

Uhuru leaders said the FBI raided seven properties in total.