A black activist and father of three was released from prison this week after spending five months locked up, without bail, as the government tried to prosecute him. His advocates believe it is the government’s first attempt to bring charges on the basis of “black identity extremism,” a new, shadowy FBI classification for domestic terrorism.
Rakem Balogun, whose legal name is Christopher Daniels, told the Guardian on Friday that his imprisonment—and the government’s unsuccessful prosecution—constituted “tyranny at its finest.”
“I have not been doing anything illegal for them to have surveillance on me. I have not hurt anyone or threatened anyone,” Balogun, who is 34, said. As the newspaper reports, he thought he was dreaming when armed federal agents dressed in tactical gear stormed his apartment months back, forcing him and his 15-year-old son out of their Dallas house in their underwear.
When he was arrested, Balogun was already a longtime community activist. He co-founded Guerrilla Mainframe and the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, both of which promote community service and advocate for the rights of black gun owners. But he landed on the FBI’s radar when he participated in a March 2015 open-carry rally against police brutality in Austin, the Daily Beast reported.
Astoundingly, an FBI special agent reportedly testified that they first learned of Balogun from a video posted on Alex Jones’ conspiracy theorist site InfoWars, which showed members of the rally chanting slogans like “oink oink bang bang” and “the only good pig is a pig that’s dead.”
The FBI was also monitoring Balogun’s Facebook posts, where he called the murder suspect in a police officer’s killing a “hero” and said officers killed in Texas “deserve what they got.” From the Guardian:
At the time of his Facebook posts, Balogun said he was angry and “venting” about the high-profile cases of police killing innocent black men and women in America, including Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. He was particularly disgusted with the way the media and law enforcement officials portrayed the killings as justified and said that when he wrote those posts “I just mimicked their reactions to our killings.”
After two years of surveillance, the FBI arrested Balogun, claiming that a 2007 misdemeanor domestic violence charge rendered him unable to own a gun.
Balogun’s camp believes this case marks the first time the government has tried to prosecute someone under the surveillance effort to track “black identity extremists.” As Foreign Policy first reported last October, the classification was being used to refer to black people who retaliate against law enforcement in response to their “perceptions of of police brutality against African Americans.”
Balogun’s indictment on gun charges was ultimately dismissed on May 1, after a district court in Texas found the misdemeanor charge didn’t preclude him from owning a gun, the Daily Beast reported. He was released two days later.
He told the site that, during his incarceration, he lost his job and his apartment, and his sons were forced to change schools.
Balogun said the whole ordeal has made him accept the fact that he’ll likely be monitored, and hassled, by the government for the indefinite future, but said even intimidation by the FBI won’t stop his community activism.
“As long as my community needs me to serve them, I’ll be there,” he said.
The FBI declined to comment to both the Guardian and the Daily Beast. I have also reached out for comment and will update if I hear back.