Exclusive: Rakem Balogun spoke out against police brutality. Now he is believed to be the first prosecuted under a secretive US effort to track so-called black identity extremists
Rakem Balogun thought he was dreaming when armed agents in tactical gear stormed his apartment. Startled awake by a large crash and officers screaming commands, he soon realized his nightmare was real, and he and his 15-year-old son were forced outside of their Dallas home, wearing only underwear.
Handcuffed and shaking in the cold wind, Balogun thought a misunderstanding must have led the FBI to his door on 12 December 2017. The father of three said he was shocked to later learn that agents investigating domestic terrorism had been monitoring him for years and were arresting him that day in part because of his Facebook posts criticizing police.
Its tyranny at its finest, said Balogun, 34. I have not been doing anything illegal for them to have surveillance on me. I have not hurt anyone or threatened anyone.
Balogun spoke to the Guardian this week in his first interview since he was released from prison after five months locked up and denied bail while US attorneys tried and failed to prosecute him, accusing him of being a threat to law enforcement and an illegal gun owner.
Balogun, who lost his home and more while incarcerated, is believed to be the first person targeted and prosecuted under a secretive US surveillance effort to track so-called black identity extremists. In a leaked August 2017 report from the FBIs Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit, officials claimed that there had been a resurgence in ideologically motivated, violent criminal activity stemming from African Americans perceptions of police brutality.
The counter-terrorism assessment provided minimal data or evidence of threats against police, but discussed a few isolated incidents, notably the case of Micah Johnson who killed five officers in Texas. The report sparked backlash from civil rights groups and some Democrats, who feared the government would use the broad designation to prosecute activists and groups like Black Lives Matter.
Balogun, who was working full-time for an IT company when he was arrested, has long been an activist, co-founding Guerrilla Mainframe and the Huey P Newton Gun Club, two groups fighting police brutality and advocating for the rights of black gun owners. Some of the work included coordinating meals for the homeless, youth picnics and self-defense classes but thats not what interested the FBI.