Atlanta-based black-led radical group linked to alleged Russian plot to sow discord in US

Ionov is chairman of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia (AGMR) and describes himself as a “human rights activist”. But federal authorities say he was working with unnamed members of the FSB, the Russian security service that succeeded the Soviet-era KGB.

The indictment alleges that Ionov used his organization to recruit dissident groups in the United States and encourage them to advocate for secession and promote Russian talking points.

“Thereafter, Ionov exercised direction and control over these groups on behalf of the FSB,” the indictment alleges. “Ionov also monitored and regularly reported on their activities to the FSB.”

Whether independently or under Ionov’s leadership, much of the Black Hammer Party’s activities were directed toward a Russian worldview.

The group and its erratic leader Gazi Kodzo have made criticism of US foreign policy regarding the Russian invasion a centerpiece of their recent social media campaigns, calling Ukraine a white supremacist country and supporting the Russian president’s justifications. Vladimir Poutine. to start the war. The group regularly advocates for the creation of separate homelands for Black and Indigenous peoples, and in 2021 the group unsuccessfully attempted to establish a resort in the Colorado Rockies called “Hammer City”.

Additionally, Kodzo and the Black Hammer Party protested the COVID-19 vaccine, announced an alliance with the far-right Proud Boys, and promoted misinformation about the 2020 presidential election.

The indictment does not name the Black Hammer Party, referring to it as “US Political Group 2”. The Black Hammer group has not been charged in the federal case. However, details included in the indictment, including the Facebook march and the career path of Kodzo, identified in the indictment as “unindicted co-conspirator 5”, reveal that the controversial group is the one believed to be under Ionov’s influence.

Another group involved in the alleged plot is the Uhuru Movement, a socialist group based in Tampa, Florida. According to Tampa Bay Weather, federal agents searched several places there on Friday, including the headquarters of the movement. Prior to the Black Hammer Party’s founding, Kodzo was the Florida-based group’s general secretary until 2018, when he left or was kicked out.

According to federal authorities, in 2015, Ionov paid for members of the Florida Group to travel to Moscow, “and for at least the next seven years, Ionov exercised direction and control over Senior members of the group. The indictment claims that emails sent by senior leaders of the Uhuru movement acknowledged that Ionov’s organization, AGMR, was “an instrument of the Russian government” and that it was “more than likely” that the Kremlin used AGMR “to use forces”. inside the United States to sew (sic) a division inside the United States. A senior Uhuru official reportedly wrote that Ionov’s connection to the Russian government “didn’t bother us.

Additionally, the indictment alleges that Ionov used these connections to interfere in local elections in Florida by supporting and consulting the campaigns of two Uhuru members for local office in 2017 and 2019. Ionov’s involvement in the campaigns reportedly impressed FSB members and an agent. of the security forces wrote to Ionov that “our election campaign is somehow unique…are we the first in history?”

Uhuru executives held a Friday press conference in Florida to defend their actions.

“We can have relationships with whoever we want to make this revolution possible,” said Eritha “Akile” Cainion, according at the Tampa Bay Times. “We support Russia.”

According to WTSP-TV, Cainion claimed the indictment was part of a “propaganda war being waged against Russia”.

“The United States has a grip on what’s spreading about war – defensive war – Russia’s defensive war against Ukraine, against the colonial powers of the world because that’s what’s happening right now. time,” she said.

The Black Hammer Party made similar defenses against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Last month, the group staged a protest at the State Capitol in Atlanta on continued U.S. military aid to Ukraine, tying the money spent to federal efforts to ease a nationwide formula shortage and rising gas prices.

“It’s Biden and his Democrat cronies who are doing the damage,” the group wrote on its website after the protest. “So why should we be angry with Russia or side with Russia in this war? We should be upset with the way amerikkka treats his own people instead!”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution attempted to contact members of the Black Hammer Party regarding the indictment but did not receive a response Friday.

Ionov is accused of influencing a third group in California that promoted secession from the United States. He has been charged with conspiring to get US citizens to act as unlawful agents of the Russian government and faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

Ionov denied the charges on his Facebook page on Friday, accusing the Justice Department of using the indictment to distract from national issues.

“Stop looking for enemies everywhere, no one threatens democracy in your country except those who violate women’s reproductive rights, create unbearable conditions for migrants and also oppress people on racial grounds! he wrote. “You are now supplying arms to Ukraine and other countries, you are interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.”

Connections with Moscow are just the latest annoyances for the Black Hammer group.

Last week, Kodzo, real name Augustus Claudius Romain Jr., was stopped and charged with 11 felony counts, including participation in the crime of forcible confinement, participation in the crime of kidnapping, participation in the crime of aggravated assault, criminal activity of a street gang, the criminal conspiracy to commit a felony and aggravated buggery, following a SWAT confrontation outside the group’s Fayetteville townhouse. The standoff ended after police sent a robot into the house and found an 18-year-old man dead, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Another alleged member of the group, Xavier H. Rushin, 21, was charged in the incident with a misdemeanor and 10 felonies, including kidnapping, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal gang activity of street.

Police said they responded to the home after receiving an inside emergency call from someone claiming to have been kidnapped. Kodzo and Rushin are in jail in Fayette County on those charges pending a bond hearing in Superior Court.

The group has regularly had members arrested, but never on such serious charges. The Black Hammer Party holds regular “church” meetings in Woodruff Park on Sunday where Kodzo and other members proselytize to homeless people, some of whom are recruited to raise funds for the group. These loud and generally profane gatherings often attract the attention of Atlanta police, and members of the group have been arrested on minor charges, including violating the city’s noise ordinance.


Our reports

Investigative journalist Chris Joyner has been following the Black Hammer Party for months, documenting its strange and dangerous behavior, as well as its radical ideology. In April, the AJC reported on the group, including its links to Russia, and charged unregistered agent Aleksandr Ionov. Earlier this month, the AJC was among the first to report the group’s links to a SWAT standoff at a Fayetteville home where a member died by apparent suicide. The AJC will continue to follow this important story.

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