A tale of two FBI raids

August 16, 2022
A tale of two FBI raids


Just before the FBI descended on Donald Trump’s Florida residence last week,  they conducted raids on the headquarters and homes of a Pan Africanist group in St. Petersburg, Florida, and St. Louis,  Missouri. The search of Trump’s home was apparently related to a National Archive complaint that classified documents were improperly housed in the former president’s basement; it’s reported that the St. Petersburg and St. Louis searches were connected to the charging of a Russian national with attempts at influencing U.S. domestic policy.

The two raids were a study in contrasts.  Trump’s secret service detail and lawyers were apprised of the search warrant and pending visit prior to the FBI’s arrival, who showed up in plain clothes, without weapons, and in unmarked cars.  In the second raid, however, homes were invaded without warning or showing a warrant and the individuals subjected to FBI agents employing flash grenades, automatic weapons, and  armored vehicles.

Notwithstanding the protocols accorded a former president, the comparison couldn’t be more stark: On the one hand, a president impeached twice by Congress for abuse of power, obstruction of Congress, and incitement of insurrection; a potential Justice Department target for other crimes committed in and out of office; and the subject of multiple civil and criminal investigations in New York and Georgia; on the other, members of a African American group involved in community self-help  with a platform that calls for reparations, awakened at dawn by a military-style raid and handcuffed in the street. But as is typical, that didn’t stop the FBI, who racially profiled and criminalized them. “It’s a legitimate question,” said CPUSA co-chair Joe Sims,  “Why the heavy artillery? And where was the search warrant?”  “I’ll tell you why,” he continued, “They’re sending a message and the message is we’re ready to use overwhelming brute force. That’s why folks consider our communities occupied.”

While no charges have been brought yet in St. Petersburg and St. Louis, it’s alleged that the Putin government has engaged in attempts at domestic influence peddling and that various groups are acting as “agents of a foreign principal,” a charge made under the Smith Act against the Communist Party repeatedly during the Cold War. “They even handcuffed and arrested Dr. Du Bois when he was 83 years old for his leadership of the Peace Information Center, calling it a Moscow front,” commented Sims.  The Peace Information Center was dedicated to eliminating atomic and other weapons of mass destruction.  “We should be very careful here” he continued, “If accepting a plane ticket or participating in an international conference held in Russia is tantamount to a crime, what prevents the Justice Department from making similar charges against folks who go to, say, Cuba, Venezuela, or Sweden or France for that matter.  It’s an extremely dangerous precedent, in light of attempts to launch a Cold War 2.0.”

The National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and the Committee Against FBI Harassment denounced the raids, saying, “We unequivocally condemn these raids and oppose all efforts by the U.S. government to target activists in any progressive movement in this country. We call for an end to investigations, political harassment, and threats against activists and our movements.”

Omalil Yeshitela, head of the targeted group, recounted what occurred:

I went down the stairwell [of my home], and when I got to the bottom of the stairwell, these laser dots from automatic weapons were bouncing off my chest…. There was a large armored vehicle in front of my house. There were camouflage-clad troopers, FBI agents, and I don’t know who else, with flak jackets and automatic weapons…. [A] drone went past [my wife’s] … head and into the house. I… was zip-tied at the side of the house. … My wife was handcuffed.

The Justice Department investigation is continuing. “Even if the charges  were true,” said Sims, ”you have to ask, why target African Americans, who by the way have agency and aren’t doing anyone’s bidding, when there are many others including Trump’s minions on the extreme right who carry water for the Putin government. At best it’s curious.  Now don’t get me wrong.  We’re opposed to any country’s interference in U.S. affairs.  And we just as strongly oppose the U.S.’s interference in the affairs of other countries, of which this ruling class are past masters.”

Past masters indeed.  Historian Norman Markowitz notes that the foreign-agent charge against Du Bois was brought to trial but dismissed after the prosecution failed to present evidence though his passport was seized for several years.  Yes, the lessons of the  McCarthy witch hunt loom large.

We must shine a light on these attacks, from wherever they arise, and call them out for what they are — attacks on democracy.

Image: FBI swat team, Wikimedia (CC 2.o).

This article has been updated regarding the outcome of the Du Bois trial.


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