Black-led radical group based in Atlanta linked to alleged Russian plot to sow American discord

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

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

“After that, Ionov exercised leadership and control over these groups on behalf of the FSB,” the indictment says. “Ionov also oversaw and regularly reported on their activities to the FSB.”

Whether independent or led by Ionov, many of the Black Hammer Party’s activities lean towards a Russian worldview.

The group and its erratic leader Gazi Kodzo have made criticism of America’s foreign policy regarding the Russian invasion a centerpiece of their recent social media campaigns, calling Ukraine a white supremacist country and supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s justifications. before starting the war. The group regularly advocates creating separate homelands for black and indigenous peoples, and in 2021 the group made a failed attempt to establish a compound in the Colorado Rockies called “Hammer City.”

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

The indictment does not name the Black Hammer Party, but refers to it as “American Political Group 2”. The Black Hammer group has not been charged in the federal case. However, details in the indictment, including the March protest on Facebook and Kodzo’s career path, identified in the indictment as “Unindicted Co-Conspirator 5,” reveal that the controversial group is the group allegedly under Ionov’s influence.

Another group implicated in the alleged conspiracy is Uhuru Movement, a socialist group based in Tampa, Florida. According to the Tampa Bay Times, federal agents there raided several locations on Friday, including the movement’s headquarters. Prior to the founding of the Black Hammer Party, Kodzo served as secretary general of the Florida-based group until 2018, when he left or was ousted.

According to federal authorities, Ionov paid for members of the Florida group to travel to Moscow in 2015, “and for at least the next seven years, Ionov exercised leadership and control over senior members from the group. The indictment alleges that in emails sent by senior leaders of the Uhuru movement, it was 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 troops. within the US to sew (sic) division within the United States. A senior member of Uhuru reportedly wrote that the connection between Ionov and the Russian government did not bother us.

In addition, the indictment alleges that Ionov used these connections to meddle in Florida local elections by supporting and consulting two Uhuru member campaigns for a local office in 2017 and 2019. Ionov’s involvement in the campaigns is said to have impressed members of the FSB, and one security force agent wrote to Ionov that “our election campaign is a bit unique…are we the first in history?”

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

“We can have relationships with whoever we want to make this revolution possible,” Eritha “Akile” Cainion said, according to 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 US has a grip on what is being propagated about the war against – the defensive war – Russia’s defensive war against Ukraine, against the colonial world powers, because that’s what’s happening now,” she said.

The Black Hammer Party has made similar defenses to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Last month, the group held a protest at the State Capitol in Atlanta on continued US military aid to Ukraine, tying the money spent to federal efforts to reduce a national baby food shortage and rising gasoline costs.

“It is Biden and his cronies from the Democratic Party who are doing the damage,” the group wrote on its website after the protest. “So why should we be angry with Russia or side against Russia in this war? We should be mad at how amerikkka treats its own people instead!”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has tried to contact members of the Black Hammer Party about the charges, but received no response Friday.

Ionov is accused of influencing a third group in California who promoted secession from the United States. He has been charged with conspiracy to make American citizens act as illegal agents for the Russian government and could face 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 charges to distract from domestic concerns.

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

The connections to Moscow are just the latest problems for the Black Hammer group.

Last week, Kodzo, whose real name is Augustus Claudius Romain Jr. has been arrested and charged with 11 felonies, including party to the crime of false imprisonment, party to the crime of kidnapping, party to the crime of aggravated assault, criminal street gang activity, criminal conspiracy to commit a felony and aggravated sodomy, after a SWAT standoff outside the group’s communal home in Fayetteville. The stalemate 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 felony and 10 felonies, including kidnapping, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal activity by street gangs.

Police said they responded to the house after receiving an emergency call from inside from someone who claimed to have been kidnapped. Kodzo and Rushin are in Fayette County Jail awaiting a Superior Court hearing.

The group has regularly had members arrested, though never for such serious charges. The Black Hammer Party holds regular “church” gatherings in Woodruff Park on Sundays, where Kodzo and other members convert to homeless people, some of whom are recruited to raise money for the group. These loud and mostly profane gatherings often attract the attention of the Atlanta Police Department, and members of the group have been arrested on minor charges, including violation of the city’s noise ordinance.

Our Report

Investigative reporter 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 connections to Russia, and accused unregistered agent Aleksandr Ionov. Earlier this month, the AJC was among the first to report on the group’s ties to a SWAT standoff at a Fayetteville home where a member died of apparent suicide. The AJC will continue to monitor this important story.

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