Atlanta forum: ‘Defend freedom of speech for everyone’

By Janice Lynn
July 31, 2023

ATLANTA — “We need to recognize the common interests of those whose freedom of speech is under attack,” Dr. Aisha Fields, a leader of the African People’s Socialist Party from Huntsville, Alabama, told participants at a July 16 Militant Labor Forum here. Also speaking was John Benson of the Socialist Workers Party.

The forum opened with a video of the FBI’s pre-dawn raids on the offices and homes of APSP and Uhuru Movement leaders in St. Petersburg, Florida, and St. Louis July 29, 2022. APSP Chairman Omali Yeshitela, along with APSP and Uhuru Movement members Penny Hess and Jesse Nevel were charged in April, Fields said. Akile Anai has been called an “unindicted co-conspirator.”

“They charge them with acting as agents of a foreign government. We reject any notion that we are agents of Russia or any other government. If anything we are agents of African peoples,” Fields declared, describing some of the projects they run in Black communities.

Fields was in St. Louis during the raid there. She described the FBI’s use of armored vehicles, flash-bang grenades, drones and battering rams. “When the chairman and his wife came out of the house, laser targets were projected on their bodies. Files, hard drives, laptops were stolen,” she said.

“No date has yet been set for a trial,” she said. “We are focused on getting the word out. You can’t win legally without waging a political campaign.”

“Defending and extending the freedoms protected by the U.S. Constitution is at the center of the class struggle today,” Benson said.

He described how the party defended its members and Teamster unionists who were railroaded to jail for their opposition to Washington’s entry into the second imperialist world war. In the 1970s, he said the party won a lawsuit against the FBI for decades of spying, harassment and its SWP Cointelpro disruption operations.

“Today the Biden administration is trying to rehabilitate the FBI and attack constitutional rights,” Benson said. “It is not unrelated that shortly after the raids against the APSP, the FBI raided Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Largo estate. And within weeks, FBI agents visited solidarity activists who had participated in a brigade to Cuba. The real targets are workers’ organizations and the organizations of the oppressed,” he said.

“The APSP is standing up and fighting back,” Benson said. “This is the only way the government will be pushed back.”

“Yes, there are vast differences within the African liberation movement, within the socialist camp,” Fields said. “But people see clearly the bogus attacks. We are winning support even though we have political differences on some things.” She thanked the Militant Labor Forum for holding programs like this around the country. A collection was taken for the APSP’s legal and political defense.

Benson underscored the importance of defending everyone whose constitutional rights are denied. “That is why we oppose the government’s attacks on Trump’s constitutional rights. There is a law of history that no matter whom the attacks on political rights are first directed against, in the end they will always fall on the working class.

“We say drop all charges against Trump and drop all charges against the African People’s Socialist Party.”

For more information on the APSP defense campaign, go to