News Release

DOJ Using “Foreign Agents” Charge to Repress Black Liberation Organizers


Recently, the U.S. government unsealed new grand jury indictments against members of the African People’s Socialist Party for what civil libertarians argue is protected First Amendment activity.

AZADEH SHAHSHAHANI,, @ashahshahani

Poirot is a practicing attorney in Brooklyn and member of the National Lawyers Guild’s New York City Executive Committee. Shahshahani is the legal and advocacy director with Project South and a past president of the NLG.

They just co-wrote the piece “The DOJ Is Using ‘Foreign Agents’ Accusations to Repress Black Liberation Organizers” for The Nation.

They write: “On July 29, 2022, Omali Yeshitela and his wife, Ona Zene, awoke at 5 o’clock in the morning to the sound of flash grenades and drones, as heavily armed FBI agents stormed into their home searching for evidence of organizational ties to the Russian government. Yeshitela is the 80-year-old chair of the African People’s Socialist Party, a Pan-Africanist political party founded in 1972 and headquartered in Florida. His wife is the deputy chair. …

“The FBI surveilled these Black liberation activists and their organizations for years before finally securing a search warrant for their personal residences and other locations connected to the African People’s Socialist Party and the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement. The FBI’s search warrants were based on a federal grand jury indictment, which charged an unrelated individual — Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov — with violations relating to a little-known statute called the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). …

“Since its initial enactment into law, the DOJ has invoked FARA to stigmatize and criminalize political advocacy that is contrary to the interests of the U.S. government. Early illustrative examples include the 1951 indictment of W.E.B. Du Bois, who was prosecuted as an agent of the Soviet Union for having promoted and circulated the Stockholm Appeal, calling for a ban on nuclear weapons. …

“In the face of this targeted political repression, progressive forces should resist the cynical, politicized use of ‘foreign agent’ accusations as a dog whistle to chill and criminalize international solidarity, and should directly oppose the attendant FBI raids and prosecutions when and where they occur. The chilling effect caused by foreign agent accusations is an incredibly powerful deterrent against protected First Amendment activity, and such accusations could lead to financial ruin, as was the case for Du Bois.”