Thanks to a tip from Alex Jones and a new FBI classification of terrorism, a black man was held in prison for five months without bail as authorities attempted to charge him with anything they could find, according to a report from The Guardian.
Rakem Balogun, who was arrested in December 2017, could be the first case of the government attempting to charge people as being a “black identity extremist,” a category of terrorism the FBI coined late in 2017. The reasoning behind this new term is the FBI's concern that the murder of black people by law enforcement could cause “premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence” against the police. So, to qualify for the classification of “black identity extremist,” critics argue one must simply be black and frustrated with the flagrant police brutality in this country.
Some are calling this an echo of the days of COINTELPRO, an FBI program that also targeted black Americans, specifically members of the Black Panther Party by murdering and arresting the organization’s leaders.
After being arrested, Balogun lost his job, his car, his home, and his son had to change schools He's now grappling with the trauma of his experience in detention. "This has been a nightmare for my entire family," he told The Guardian. “It was like living like a dog confined to a small backyard.”
Authorities attempted and failed to charge him with illegal firearm possession and attending a protest, but both of those cases were thrown out in court. These are the reasons the FBI saw fit to arrest Balogun, per The Guardian:
Keighley made no mention of Balogun’s specific actions at the rally, but noted the marchers’ anti-police statements, such as “oink oink bang bang” and “the only good pig is a pig that’s dead”. The agent also mentioned Balogun’s Facebook posts calling a murder suspect in a police officer’s death a “hero” and expressing “solidarity” with the man who killed officers in Texas when he posted: “They deserve what they got.”
Keighley, however, later admitted the FBI had no evidence of Balogun making any specific threats about harming police.”
Balogun calls those posts on Facebook “venting” telling The Guardian “I just mimicked their reactions to our killings.” Even before these posts, Balogun had been on FBI’s radar for years, after appearing in a post from Infowars—the extreme far-right show of Alex Jones, who infamously calls the Sandy Hook shooting a hoax. A post from the site showed Balogun at a March 2015 rally in Austin, Texas protesting police brutality, the month of the Michael Brown verdict on March 4, 2015.
“They’re using a conspiracy theorist video as a reason to justify their tyranny? That is a big insult,” Balogun said.
Though he’s no longer in detention, Balogun’s whole life was uprooted thanks to trumped up charges stemming from a conspiracy theorist. Balogun plans to continue his activism in spite of this experience, but the next person who is arrested on the lousy premise of “black identity extremist” may not be as lucky.
Read The Guardian's full report here.