On November 1, 2022, a little more than three months after heavily armed FBI troops launched pre-dawn raids on offices and homes of Uhuru Movement members, Themba Tshibanda (Jevon Gammon) was working in the garden area of the Uhuru House in St. Louis cleaning up decorations from the Halloween event held by the Uhuru House for the community’s children the previous evening. It was while taking down those decorations that cops ran up on him, guns drawn, yelling at him to get on the ground.
Themba, lead organizer for the St. Louis branch of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM), was confused about what exactly was going on as cops yelled “we know who you are! You know what you did at that school!”
After another Uhuru Movement member came out of the Uhuru House and asked what he was being charged with, the cops said the charge was “making terroristic threats.” It turns out the pretense that was being used for this arrest was accusations from a phone interaction with a St. Louis Public Schools employee when Themba was inquiring about the rescinding of an employment opportunity.
After having been offered a job to work for the school system, Comrade Themba had attended a meeting for an onboarding process and apparently, he was later told due to a personnel change, no one from the school system showed up for the onboarding meeting. After he criticized the error, the offer was rescinded.
He later appealed that decision, and in one of the phone conversations following up on that appeal process, an employee claimed that they “felt” threatened over the phone. Despite no evidence of any type of threat, charges were leveled against Themba.
Arrest had nothing to do with a phone call
It became apparent once Themba was questioned that this had nothing to do with any “threats” made. Themba was told during his processing that he would be interviewed by “feds.”
When he was finally pulled into a room for questioning hours later, they didn’t ask about any phone calls with the school system. The “feds” questioning him said they wanted to show him photos and asked him to identify the people in them and answer questions.
They showed him pictures of people in Russia and people in the Uhuru Movement. They showed him pictures of African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) Chairman Omali Yeshitela as well as Aleksandr Ionov, the Russian national that the FBI claims is the reason they attacked Uhuru Movement offices and homes. They claim that it is his influence that has caused the Party and Movement to stand up and fight for freedom and against the U.S. government’s genocide against African people.
The agents asked Themba how many people were in the movement, and asked, “why would Russia be interested in a black separatist organization.”
They asked about a previous trip by movement members to an anti-globalization conference in Russia. They asked if he went, how many days, who invited the movement and who paid for the trip. They asked what other countries people attended from.
They asked how the movement experienced the July 29 raids and what people in the movement think about it.
All these questions were asked, but not one about any phone call with anyone at the school system.
This is yet another instance that shows the desperation of the State in trying to find something that they can pin on the Uhuru Movement. Months after having raided members offices and homes, stealing computers, phones and boxes of archive materials dating back through the decades of the Uhuru Movement’s struggles, they still had nothing. Even shortly after the raids, Themba had his computer, iPad and other devices stolen in what seemed suspiciously like another State attempt to grab information.
This should also serve as a reminder to movement members that when dealing with the State during an arrest or imprisonment, there is only one word that you need to state to them: lawyer. The State will attempt to get you to say anything that they can then twist and turn against you or the movement. The FBI, local police and other State agencies have a long history of doing that in their efforts to crush any resistance to colonial oppression.
Following the questioning, Themba Tshibanda was then taken through the intake process, and repeatedly transferred from one wing to another. On the second or third day that he was there, the prison went on lockdown with inmates only allowed one hour a day of rec time, one solitary cell at a time. He was held there for two weeks without a bail being set.
Themba is currently out on house arrest awaiting trial. His next court date is May 11. It seems the bogus charges have now been changed to felony “aggravated harassment.”
Hands Off Uhuru!
This attack is clearly another part of the FBI’s assault on African people’s ability to work to transform our conditions and liberate our people. It’s an attack on the projects and programs to build an independent economic capacity for African people. It’s an attack on projects like the work to train African doulas to address the ridiculous infant and maternal mortality rates African women and children face in the U.S. and elsewhere.
We cannot allow the State to push back our struggle to be free. We cannot allow the State to lock up our organizers and leaders. We must demand Hands Off Uhuru! Hands Off Africa!