When militarized FBI agents clad in tactical gear raided the Dallas, TX home of Rakem Balogun in December 2017—forcing him and his 15-year-old son outside in their underwear on the cold and windy night as agents ransacked his residence—he thought it had to be a mistake.
In an exclusive report by The Guardian, Balogun explains that he was stunned to later learn that he was under investigation for “domestic terrorism” and had been under law enforcement surveillance for years. Incredibly, Balogun’s arrest and the FBI raid on his home were partially due to a simple, and constitutionally protected, Facebook post that was critical of police.
“It’s tyranny at its finest,” Balogun, 34, told The Guardian. “I have not been doing anything illegal for them to have surveillance on me. I have not hurt anyone or threatened anyone.”
Balogun was imprisoned for five months and denied bail while US attorneys attempted to frivolously prosecute him on accusations of being an illegal gun owner and a threat to law enforcement—only later to be exonerated on both trumped up allegations.
Foreign Policy reported that the entire case has ominous implications and overtones of ’60s/’70s-style COINTELPRO, as Balogun is believed to be the first person prosecuted, and known to have been targeted, under a secretive US surveillance effort to identify and track suspected “black identity extremists”—a broad and nebulous term that civil rights advocates warn can be used to target and chill constitutionally protected political activism.
According to the exclusive report from The Guardian:
In a leaked August 2017 report from the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit, officials claimed that there had been a “resurgence in ideologically motivated, violent criminal activity” stemming from African Americans’ “perceptions of police brutality”.
The counter-terrorism assessment provided minimal data or evidence of threats against police, but discussed a few isolated incidents, notably the case of Micah Johnson who killed five officers in Texas. The report sparked backlash from civil rights groups and some Democrats, who feared the government would use the broad designation to prosecute activists and groups like Black Lives Matter.
Not so coincidentally, Balogun is a long-time political activist as the co-founder of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club and Guerilla Mainframe; both groups advocate for the rights of black gun owners and fight against police brutality.
It was revealed when special agent Aaron Keighley testified in court that the FBI began surveillance of Balogun after he participated in a rally against police violence in Austin, Texas in March 2015. The FBI first became aware of the protest from a video posted by Infowars, Keighley said.
Balogun said he was stunned to learn that information from Infowars was used as the basis for their investigation:
They’re using a conspiracy theorist video as a reason to justify their tyranny? That is a big insult.
Ironically, no mention of any specific actions by Balogun was ever brought up by Keighley, who instead testified about protesters’ anti-police statements, such as “oink oink, bang bang” and “the only good pig is a pig that’s dead.”
The Guardian reports that despite making no mention of Balogun’s actions at the rally in court, Keighley did discuss Facebook posts by Balogun in which he called a suspect in the killing of a police officer a “hero” and expressed “solidarity” for the man accused of killing police when he wrote, “They deserve what they got.”
Keighley was later forced to admit that despite his fear-mongering about Balogun’s free expression of thought on social media, the FBI did not have evidence of any specific threats about harming police.
Balogun told The Guardian that at the time he made those Facebook posts he was “venting” about the anger he felt surrounding the numerous unjustified killings of unarmed black men and women. He said that out of being disgusted with media largely portraying these killings as justified, he wrote those posts to “mimic their reactions to our killings.”