Over the course of the African Liberation Day weekend, May 27-28, 2023, events were held around the world to demand the right to free speech and that U.S. federal charges against the Uhuru 3 be dropped.
In early May, African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) Chairman Omali Yeshitela, 81, was shackled in handcuffs and leg irons after reporting to the Middle District Federal Court in Tampa for his arraignment in a courtroom packed with supporters. He faces federal charges after a lifetime of organizing dedicated to “the liberation for Africa and African people everywhere.”
Penny Hess, 77, and Jesse Nevel, 33, two white people working under the leadership of the APSP also face charges after organizing for decades in the white community for solidarity and reparations to the black community. The Uhuru 3 are charged with being “unregistered foreign agents” allegedly under the “malign influence” of the Russian government.
The indictments came in April, nine months after a militarized multi-city FBI raid used flash bang devices, drones, armored vehicles, automatic weapons and scores of flak-jacketed soldiers to seize computers, hard drives, phones and files from seven homes and offices of Uhuru Movement leaders.
Since then, voices from across the political spectrum have expressed outrage and alarm at this apparent attempt to increase the use of federal law to quash dissent in America. Prominent scholars, journalists, peace activists, community organizers, Anarchists, Socialists, Libertarians, Republicans and Democrats have spoken out in opposition to the indictment, calling it a dangerous precedent threatening everyone’s rights to free speech, assembly and association.
The National Lawyers Guild issued a statement that reads in part, “In clear violation of the First Amendment, the Department of Justice is prosecuting US citizens for domestic speech and political activities because they do not align with the policies of the US government. The National Lawyers Guild demands that these outrageous charges be dropped and urges all freedom-loving organizations to unequivocally condemn this latest US state repression and intimidation of dissenting voices by threatening a decade in prison for those who oppose its policies.“
On May 27-28, supporters took to the street, the classroom and the internet to speak out against this attack on the black liberation struggle and the right of all peoples to freedom of speech.
Celebrating and protesting in the southern U.S.
On Saturday in St. Petersburg, Florida, the Uhuru House’s annual African Liberation Day festival was dedicated to the “Hands Off Uhuru!” campaign with presentations, vendors, food and cultural performances.
The following day, a demonstration was held at the St. Petersburg, FL City Hall, the historic location of the famous mural struggle initiated by Chairman Omali Yeshitela in 1966. Akile Anai, one of the FBI’s original “unindicted co-conspirators” against whom charges have not been filed, was the keynote speaker. She was joined by representatives from several local organizations giving solidarity statements, including Jake Yaakov of Progressive People’s Action, Jack Wallace of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Jennifer Sullivan of the Hernando County Green Party, Janice Kant of the African People’s Solidarity Committee and Chrisley Carpio of the USF Tampa 5 (students and staff from the University of South Florida that were attacked by campus police while protesting Florida Governor Desantis’ ban on black books and black history in the classroom).
In Asheville, North Carolina, members of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement set up an information table at the Grind Fest and collected donations to the Hands Off Uhuru! Legal Defense Fund, signing up new members and volunteers.
Taking to the streets in the Northeast U.S.
In Washington, DC, supporters occupied the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE and Malcolm X Ave. SE, waving banners and chanting demanding “Drop the Charges against the Uhuru 3!” while handing out flyers to passing cars and pedestrians. Speaking through a bullhorn, they informed the community about the case and enlisted many new members.
In West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 52nd and Market Street – the black community that suffered an aerial bombing of the MOVE residents that also burned down 63 African homes in 1985 – black community organizers distributed literature and collected donations. Leaders of the African People’s Socialist Party’s Northern Region spoke with the people via soapboxing and at their outreach table.
Brooklyn, New York’s Operation P.O.W.E.R! (People Organizing and Working for Empowerment and Respect) held an afternoon online forum on the historic revolutionary struggles across Africa. This educational solidarity event, initiated by the group’s founding members Charles Barron (NYC Councilman) and Inez Barron (former NY State Assembly member), demanded “Free the Uhuru 3! Hands Off the African People’s Socialist Party! Hands Off UHURU! Hands Off Africa!“
Later that day in Brooklyn, the local branch of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) set up an outreach table at the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza and recorded community members making statements in support of the demand that the U.S. Dept. of Justice “Drop the charges against the Uhuru 3”, and “Defend the Right to Free Speech!” In Boston, Massachusetts, members of the APSP and InPDUM did the same at Boston Commons.
In New Jersey, the Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations held a dynamic demonstration in front of the Federal Building in Newark with solidarity statements from several black rights groups. The Black is Back Coalition, composed of 18 U.S.-based black organizations, is responsible for the electoral platform on which one Uhuru 3 defendant’s campaign platform was based, despite bogus FBI allegations that the Russians had designed it.
Building support in the Midwest U.S.
In St. Louis, Missouri – site of the Uhuru Movement’s Black Power Blueprint community projects and location of four of the Uhuru properties that were violently raided by the FBI in July – the Universal African’s People’s Organization (UAPO) held a “Hands Off Uhuru! Hands Off Africa!” Teach-In at the Beloved Community United Methodist Church.
In Minneapolis, Minnesota – location of the notorious police murder of George Floyd – members of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement set up an outreach table at the Northeast Farmers Market, raising awareness and collecting donations for the “Hands Off Uhuru!” Legal Defense Fund.
In Chicago, Illinois – where Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton was murdered in his bed in a pre-dawn raid akin to the FBI’s raid on the Uhuru Movement in July 2022 – InPDUM held a street rally at 87th Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway to inform the public about the FBI’s continued war on black liberation.
In Battle Creek, Michigan, supporters held a “Hands Off of the Uhuru 3” study session, utilizing The Burning Spear newspaper. They watched and discussed Chairman Omali Yeshitela’s keynote presentation to the Congresso Internacional in Huelva, Spain in 2007 where he pursued relations of international solidarity as is the right of all colonized peoples. This presentation was the source of Chairman Omali’s famous quote “Africa is not poor! Africa is being looted!”
The U.S. west coast demands “Drop the Charges!”
In San Diego, California, the African People’s Socialist Party’s West Region and the Hands Off Uhuru! Hands Off Africa! SoCal Organizing Committee held a “4 Corners” action and were joined by the Party for Socialism & Liberation, Socialist Unity Party, San Diego We Are One, and Anakbayan SD, who delivered statements of solidarity. They gathered at Euclid Ave. and Imperial Ave. and marched throughout the working class African, Indigenous and Asian community demanding “Hands Off Uhuru!”, “Drop the Charges”, Defend Free Speech” and “Colonialism Must Go!”.
At the Federal Courthouse in Los Angeles, California, Unión del Barrio, the Association of Raza Educators, and Antiracist Action-LA demonstrated in solidarity. With signs and voices they called on the people of Los Angeles to join in defense of the APSP, declaring “Hands Off Uhuru! Hands Off Africa!” The protest was also endorsed by Socialist Unity Party, the Harriet Tubman Center for Social Justice, the Association of Raza Educators, the Hands Off Cuba Committee, the Black Alliance for Peace, Anti-Racist Action, the Martin Luther King Coalition of LA and Roots for Peace.
In Oakland, California – city of the Black Panther Party’s founding in the 1960s and headquarters of the Uhuru Movement in the 1980s – members of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement stood with placards in front of the Grand Lake Theater reading “Drop the Charges Against the Uhuru 3”, “Hands Off Chairman Omali Yeshitela” and “Defend the Right to Free Speech”.
Continuing up the coast to Santa Rosa, California, Peace and Social Justice Activists gathered for a demonstration at the Old Courthouse Square against the FBI raid on the APSP and the bogus charges against the Uhuru 3. The point was made that all should be concerned because the “unpatriotic” opinion net can become increasingly broad.
In the Pacific Northwest, Uhuru Solidarity Movement members set up information tables – in Eugene, Oregon at the Lane County Courthouse and in Tacoma, Washington at the Proctor Farmers Market – to recruit and raise funds for the “Hands Off Uhuru!” campaign. They sold copies of The Burning Spear newspaper, the monthly journal of the African People’s Socialist Party in continuous publication since the 1960s – evidence that the program and platform of the APSP has been consistent for over 50 years and is not directed by any foreign entity.
Organizing in Africa
Members and supporters of the APSP and InPDUM on the continent of Africa made their voices heard. Here the Uhuru Movement and its philosophy of African Internationalism enjoys growing influence and has successfully organized community self-reliance programs including community gardens, rainwater harvesting, Ebola prevention and treatment and midwifery training.
In the Kokosi township, Fochville-West of Johannesburg, South Africa, local residents held a rally at the Molatlhegi Community Center. It was followed the next day with a conference at the Center where solidarity and educational speeches were given.
Community members also gathered in Sierra Leone and Liberia in West Africa to show their support for the Uhuru Movement.
Speaking out in England; Education in Jamaica
A protest demonstration was held outside the U.S. Embassy in London, followed by an organizing conference.
At the Amy Jacques Garvey Community Center in Kingston Jamaica, a teach-in was held, to build the literacy skills of children who live on Jacques Road, the home of Amy Jacques Garvey. The teach-in included political education as well as academic tutoring and homework assistance.
“We are not retreating; we are building”
Since the July 29, 2023 FBI raids, Chairman Omali Yeshitela has stayed in the public eye on a nonstop schedule of media interviews and public speaking engagements. At age 81 and facing charges that could send him to prison for 15 years, he faces what would essentially be a death sentence. Yet he remains unbowed, declaring “We are not retreating; we are building”.
He has joined the honorable company of so many other Africans – Martin Luther King, Jr, Malcolm X, W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, Billie Holiday and more – targeted by the U.S. FBI for speaking out against injustice and on behalf of the black community’s rights.
More information on the “Hands Off Uhuru! Hands Off Africa!” campaign can be found at handsoffuhuru.org or by calling (813) 906-9274.