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Anti-Colonial Free Speech Movement Launched

NOTE: The United National Antiwar Coalition held a webinar this week, “Defending Our Movements Against Government Attacks On Civil Liberties and Democratic Rights.” You can watch it here:

A fierce blow was struck against the weaponized FBI and U.S. government’s targeting of Black Liberation, anti-colonial, anti-war and free speech movements on July 8 with the formation of the Hands off Uhuru! Fightback Coalition.

The Coalition, made up of over 30 organizations and individuals and led by black and anti-colonial movements, coalesced around a Statement of Unity that reads, in part, “Today we are facing a watershed moment in human history when our movements for freedom, liberation and democracy can fight on to victory or be pushed back, silenced and defeated. This is the moment when we must come together to vigorously fight as one, and win.” 

“We are under attack by a government that wants to push us back to an earlier time. We say, we are not going back! We will not be silenced! They are trying to return us to the days when African, Indigenous people and others endured daily terror inflicted on us for just trying to vote or protest or express our aspirations. A time when they murdered our children in church, aimed fire hoses on our protestors; a time when the McCarthy hearings sent some underground to burn their books. This time saw COINTELPRO, assassinations and political imprisonment of our leaders.”

“We refuse to go back! We must fiercely safeguard our freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and our precious right to organize for our liberation. Free Chairman Omali Yeshitela and you free the world!”

The Coalition was initiated by the “Hands Off Uhuru! Hands Off Africa!” Defense Campaign that has been mobilizing international support over the past year for defendants indicted on federal charges for voicing their opposition to U.S. government policies following violent multi-city FBI raids on seven Uhuru Movement homes and offices on July 29, 2022.

Known as the Uhuru 3, African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) Chairman Omali Yeshitela, along with Penny Hess, chair of the African People’s Solidarity Committee and Jesse Nevel, chair of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement (two white organizations formed by and working under the leadership of the APSP), were indicted in April 2023, accused by the federal government of being agents of the Russian government.

According to the group’s attorneys, all acts cited in the indictment are protected under the First Amendment, including publishing statements in The Burning Spear newspaper, delivering speeches at international conferences, giving radio and online interviews, gathering petition signatures and participating in electoral campaigns. The raids and subsequent indictments have drawn international media attention and outrage from free speech defenders throughout the U.S. and the world.

The new “Hands Off Uhuru! Fightback Coalition” has brought together a broad spectrum of activist organizations united in a commitment to “denounce all FBI/U.S. government raids, politically motivated indictments, arrests, surveillance, slander and attacks against the African (Black) Liberation Movement as well as against all anti-colonial movements and social justice, anti-war, anti-imperialist and free speech organizations and movements as exemplified by the attacks on Stop Cop City and Tampa 5.”

Founding Coalition member organizations include: Louisiana United International, the United African People’s Organization, the African National Women’s Organization, the Mafundi Lake Day Committee, the Elombe Brath Foundation, the Jericho Movement, the Troika Collective, Black Agenda Report, the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations (NCOBRA), the African Socialist International, the Joko Collective, the Black is Back Coalition, Union del Barrio, the Brown Berets, the Steering Committee of the International People’s Tribunal on US imperialism/sanctions, CUNY 4 Palestine, Green Party organizations of Missouri, Florida and New Jersey, the Tampa 5 and the Students for Democratic Society, the Socialist Unity Party of San Diego, the United Anti-war Committee (UNAC), the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, National Network on Cuba (NNOC), the Center for Global Studies, the Socialist Workers Party, U.S. Hands Off Cuba Committee, the Odessa Solidarity Campaign and the National Lawyers Guild, along with individual members including John McCarthy and Janet Kobren.

The Coalition represents a departure from traditional relations between black and white activists where strategies for action have been based on agendas determined by the interests and outlook of the colonial population. This Coalition’s agenda is centered in the leadership of African and anti-colonial organizations who are the primary target of government repression historically.

Jesus Rodriguez of the Orinoco Tribune of Venezuela opened up the discussion period with an enthusiastic statement of unity: “You can count on us. In the spirit of international solidarity, unity in the fight against imperialism. We will do whatever is needed to support you, to try to get rid of this terrible new attack against black organizations, anti-imperialist organizations.”

Demands adopted by the Coalition include “the right to the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly to struggle to build our movements for justice, peace, liberation and unity of all peoples” and “the right to speak out and associate with our allies without fear of reprisals from the U.S. government and colonial state”, along with a call for the “release of all political prisoners, including Leonard Peltier, Jalil Al-Amin, Mumia Abu Jamal, Ed Poindexter” and to “drop all charges against Assata Shakur.”

The Coalition is also calling for “all candidates and political parties contesting in the 2024 presidential and other elections [to] adopt the demand to Drop the Charges on the Uhuru 3 and other targeted organizations, whistleblowers and individuals.”

At the founding meeting of the new Coalition, African People’s Socialist Party Chairman Omali Yeshitela, primary target of the recent federal indictments and 50-year veteran of the African Liberation Movement, argued that “Whether or not you agree that Africans are a colonially dispersed nation around the world, which it is, you have to believe in our right to say that.”

He went on to say, “The United States talks about free speech all the time as long as you don’t say anything that challenges the status quo. I’m not a republican or a democrat. I’m red, black and green! We’re not going back to the back of the bus! We’re going forward and we’re going to take with us everyone who’s interested in the forward motion of history in this process.”

The new Coalition endorsed and committed to build the Black is Back Coalition’s 15th annual March on the White House on November 4, 2023 with the demands, “Hands Off Uhuru! Drop the Charges Against the Uhuru 3!” 

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