US Activists Face Prison for Opposing Ukraine War

April 27th, 2023 - by Ron Paul / The Ron Paul Institute & Toward Freedom & John W. Whitehead and Nisha Whitehead / The Rutherford Institute

If You Oppose Biden’s Ukraine Policy…
You May Be Sent to Jail!
Ron Paul / The Ron Paul Institute & John W. Whitehead and Nisha Whitehead / The Rutherford Institute

(April 20, 2023) — From today’s Ron Paul Liberty Report:

The Biden Administration has indicted four Americans and charged them with conspiracy to spread Russian propaganda and acting as unregistered Russian agents.

The four are members of the African People’s Socialist Party, which has opposed US foreign policy since 1971. They face 15 years in prison. Also today, the Biden Administration announced another $300 million in military aid to Ukraine. Might these two stories be related?

McCarthyism Resurges:
Black Activists Indicted for Protesting US Wars

Julie Varughese / Towards Freedom

(April 20, 2023) — Activists on the left, as well as radical US-based organizations, came out yesterday against the indictments of three members of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP), one former party member, and three Russian nationals for allegedly attempting to sow discord in the United States by working with Russia.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday, April 18, that a federal grand jury returned a “superseding indictment” charging the four people with:
…working on behalf of the Russian government and in conjunction with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) to conduct a multi-year foreign malign influence campaign in the United States. Among other conduct, the superseding indictment alleges that the Russian defendants recruited, funded and directed US political groups to act as unregistered illegal agents of the Russian government and sow discord and spread pro-Russian propaganda; the indicted intelligence officers, in particular, participated in covertly funding and directing candidates for local office within the United States.

The four charged include:

  • Omali Yeshitela, a US citizen residing in St. Petersburg, Florida, and St. Louis, Missouri, who serves as the chairman and founder of the APSP;
  • Penny Joanne Hess, a US citizen residing in St. Petersburg, Florida, and St. Louis, Missouri, who is chairperson of the African People’s Solidarity Committee;
  • Jesse Nevel, a US citizen residing in St. Petersburg, Florida, and St. Louis, Missouri, who is chair of the APSP’s Uhuru Solidarity Movement; and
  • Augustus C. Romain Jr., akaGazi Kodzo, a US citizen residing in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Atlanta, who once served as secretary-general of the APSP and is a founder of the Black Hammer Organization in Georgia.

Repressing Africans in Struggle
Hess and Nevel are white solidarity members. Nevertheless, that an African organization was targeted has raised concerns.

Anti-imperialist African organization Black Alliance for Peace yesterday issued a statement pointing to the US government’s history of repressing the African liberation struggle:

Not since the Palmer Raids of the early 20th century, nor since the indictment of W.E.B DuBois in 1951, or the confiscation of Paul Robeson’s US passport during the anti-communist “McCarthyist” era, has there been such a hysterical response to African people asserting their rights and freedom of speech in the United States.

This renewed attack against anti-imperialist Africans, framed within the absurd notion of “Russian influence,” comes as capitalism decays and US global hegemony loses its hold on the world.

The attacks on the APSP and the Uhuru Movement are part of a historical tendency to align African political activists with US “adversary” states to marginalize African internationalism (including solidarity with Cuba and Palestine, for example) and to suppress Black radicalism.

It is also an assault on the efforts of Africans organizing against the violence and murders suffered at the hands of the US state. Indeed, Africans do not need Russia to tell them they are suffering the brunt of violence in the heart of the US empire!

Wayne State University professor Dr. Charisse Burden-Stelly noted her forthcoming book, Black Scare/Red Scare, points to the APSP raid of July 2022 to draw the connection between US domestic anti-communist purges of the past and repression of activists today.

“It is no coincidence that an African socialist organization is being targeted,” she tweeted.

Interfering in Elections
The DOJ attempted to connect the charged activists with a Russian conspiracy to interfere in US elections, beginning with the 2016 election of Trump.

“Russia’s foreign intelligence service allegedly weaponized our First Amendment rights — freedoms Russia denies its own citizens — to divide Americans and interfere in elections in the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the DOJ’s National Security Division.

However, much evidence exists to show the United States interferes the most in other countries’ elections and democratic processes. Aside from invading 201 countries since the end of World War II, the United States deployed 64 covert operations to subvert governments around the world between 1947 and 1989, according to political scientist Lindsey O’Rourke. Meanwhile, political scientist Dov Levin’s work found the United States interfered in 81 elections between 1946 and 2000.

Attacking Activists
The APSP had been preparing for this moment since late December, when they received “strong indications” of indictments coming down in early 2023 after the FBI had raided the party’s properties in July 2022, as Toward Freedom had reported.

Then the APSP announced last month that Regions Bank, a financial institution in the US South, had closed the party’s accounts and withdrawn lines of credit. The APSP referred to that move as “US economic sanctions” on Black community projects.

Freedom Road Socialist Organization also issued a statement that referred to more recent history of repression.

On September 24, 2010, the FBI raided seven homes of anti-war activists and the office of the Twin Cities Anti-War committee. All told, twenty-three activists were subpoenaed to a Chicago-based grand jury that claimed to be investigating “material support for terrorism.”

As time went on, the FBI continued their attack on anti-war and international solidarity activists by targeting important veterans of the movement who worked with the Anti-war 23, including Chicano activist Carlos Montes in Los Angeles and Palestinian organizer Rasmea Odeh in Chicago. A national defense campaign defeated most of these attacks.

Toward Freedom Board Secretary and independent journalist Jacqueline Luqman commented on the danger for all activists who oppose US global hegemony.

“Today it’s the APSP. Tomorrow it could be you and me,” she tweeted. “All you need to do is oppose US imperialist policy in Ukraine and Palmer Raids 2023 will be unleashed to silence you.”

Julie Varughese is editor of Toward Freedom

The War on Free Speech Is Really a War on
the Right to Criticize the Government

John W. Whitehead and Nisha Whitehead / The Ron Paul Institute

(April 26, 2023) — Absolutely, there is a war on free speech.

To be more accurate, however, the war on free speech is really a war on the right to criticize the government.

Although the right to speak out against government wrongdoing is the quintessential freedom, every day in this country, those who dare to speak their truth to the powers-that-be find themselves censored, silenced or fired.

Indeed, those who run the government don’t take kindly to individuals who speak truth to power.

In fact, the government has become increasingly intolerant of speech that challenges its power, reveals its corruption, exposes its lies, and encourages the citizenry to push back against the government’s many injustices.

This is nothing new, nor is it unique to any particular presidential administration.

For instance, as part of its campaign to eradicate so-called “disinformation,” the Biden Administration likened those who share “false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories, and other forms of mis- dis- and mal-information” to terrorists. This government salvo against consumers and spreaders of “mis- dis- and mal-information” widens the net to potentially include anyone who is exposed to ideas that run counter to the official government narrative.

“The Enemy of the People”
In his first few years in office, President Trump declared the media to be “the enemy of the people,” suggested that protesting should be illegal, and that NFL players who kneel in protest during the national anthem “shouldn’t be in the country.”

Then again, Trump was not alone in his presidential disregard for the rights of the citizenry, especially as it pertains to the right of the people to criticize those in power.

President Obama signed into law anti-protest legislation that makes it easier for the government to criminalize protest activities (10 years in prison for protesting anywhere in the vicinity of a Secret Service agent). The Obama Administration also waged a war on whistleblowers, which The Washington Post described as “the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration,” and “spied on reporters by monitoring their phone records.”

Part of the Patriot Act signed into law by President George W. Bush made it a crime for an American citizen to engage in peaceful, lawful activity on behalf of any group designated by the government as a terrorist organization. Under this provision, even filing an amicus brief on behalf of an organization the government has labeled as terrorist would constitute breaking the law.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the FBI to censor all news and control communications in and out of the country in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt also signed into law the Smith Act, which made it a crime to advocate by way of speech for the overthrow of the US government by force or violence.

President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Espionage and Sedition Acts, which made it illegal to criticize the government’s war efforts.

President Abraham Lincoln seized telegraph lines, censored mail and newspaper dispatches, and shut down members of the press who criticized his administration.

In 1798, during the presidency of John Adams, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which made it a crime to “write, print, utter or publish … any false, scandalous, and malicious” statements against the government, Congress or president of the United States.

Clearly, the government has been undermining our free speech rights for quite a while now.

Good, bad or ugly, it’s all free speech unless as defined by the government it falls into one of the following categories: obscenity, fighting words, defamation (including libel and slander), child pornography, perjury, blackmail, incitement to imminent lawless action, true threats, and solicitations to commit crimes.

This idea of “dangerous” speech, on the other hand, is peculiarly authoritarian in nature. What it amounts to is speech that the government fears could challenge its chokehold on power.

The kinds of speech the government considers dangerous enough to red flag and subject to censorship, surveillance, investigation, prosecution and outright elimination include: hate speech, bullying speech, intolerant speech, conspiratorial speech, treasonous speech, threatening speech, incendiary speech, inflammatory speech, radical speech, anti-government speech, right-wing speech, left-wing speech, extremist speech, politically incorrect speech, etc.

What this adds up to is a government that has become highly intolerant of speech that challenges its authority.

You see, the powers-that-be understand that if the government can control speech, it controls thought and, in turn, it can control the minds of the citizenry.

This is how freedom rises or falls.

Americans of all stripes would do well to remember that those who question the motives of government provide a necessary counterpoint to those who would blindly follow where politicians choose to lead.

We don’t have to agree with every criticism of the government, but we must defend the rights of all individuals to speak freely without fear of punishment or threat of banishment.

Never forget: what the architects of the police state want are submissive, compliant, cooperative, obedient, meek citizens who don’t talk back, don’t challenge government authority, don’t speak out against government misconduct, and don’t step out of line.

What the First Amendment protects—and a healthy constitutional republic requires—are citizens who routinely exercise their right to speak truth to power.

Tolerance for dissent is vital if we are to survive as a free nation.

While there are all kinds of labels being put on so-called “unacceptable” speech today, the real message being conveyed by those in power is that Americans don’t have a right to express themselves if what they are saying is unpopular, controversial or at odds with what the government determines to be acceptable.

By suppressing free speech, the government is contributing to a growing underclass of Americans who are being told that they can’t take part in American public life unless they “fit in.”

Mind you, it won’t be long before anyone who believes in holding the government accountable to respecting our rights and abiding by the rule of law is labeled an “extremist,” is relegated to an underclass that doesn’t fit in, must be watched all the time, and is rounded up when the government deems it necessary.

It doesn’t matter how much money you make, what politics you subscribe to, or what God you worship: as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, we are all potential suspects, terrorists and lawbreakers in the eyes of the government.

Reprinted from Rutherford Institute

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.