Far-left activist Gazi Kodzo rose to internet prominence last year with a series of bizarre online statements he made as the leader of a fringe communist group called the Black Hammer Organization. Kodzo’s online statements, including the claim that Holocaust victim Anne Frank was a whiny “Karen,” appeared designed to go viral as proof left-wing activists were out of control, and earned endorsements from Fox News and other conservative outlets.
But on Tuesday, Black Hammer, dubbed a “cult” by some former members, culminated in tragedy. That morning, an anonymous caller to a suburban Atlanta home rented by Black Hammer contacted police to report that they were being held against their will. When police searched the home, they found Kodzo, nine other people, and an 18-year-old man named Amonte T. Ammons dead from what police call an “apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.”
Now Kodzo, a 36-year-old man whose legal name is Augustus C. Romain, faces a slew of criminal charges, including aggravated buggery, two counts of conspiracy to commit a felony, two counts of forcible confinement, two counts of kidnapping, two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of criminal street gang activity, according to a news release from the Fayetteville Police Department. More details of the charges were not available from police on Wednesday.
“I’m surprised it took so long. ”
— Savvy, a former member of Black Hammer
Another Kodzo associate, 21-year-old Xavier H. Rushin, has also been charged with multiple crimes, including kidnapping, assault and forcible confinement.
Ammons’ death has led former members to consider the bizarre environment that Kodzo, riding a wave of internet fame and wild revolution ambitions, has created in the group.
“I’m surprised it took this long,” a former Black Hammer member who goes through the Savvy and worked as Kodzo’s assistant before fleeing the group, told The Daily Beast, after Ammons’ death erupted. been reported.
Even as Ammons lay dead inside the Black Hammer house, Kodzo kept tabs on the prospect of social media fame. In a Facebook video posted as Romain and other Black Hammers waited outside their home under police guard, Kodzo seized on the idea that the police raid and the corpse would draw more online attention to himself. .
“More media, more followers, more – you know – advancement work, more movement, more greatness,” Kodzo said. “So be it, darling.”
Black Hammer began in 2019, after Kodzo left another far-left black activist group.
Black Hammer and its aggressive anti-Semitic and anti-white rhetoric marked a strange new reinvention for Kodzo, who had, years earlier, operated as a budding YouTube personality named “Smiletone.” In a Smiletone video, he laughed with two white women and debated who was more “basic”.
As leader of Black Hammer, however, Kodzo adopted a tone of racial separatism. Black Hammer’s social media accounts gained notoriety online for their racial attacks, and Kodzo jousted with right-wing figures like commentator Elijah Schaffer. In a typical YouTube confrontation, Kodzo called Schaffer a “shaved ape”, accused him of having a small penis and offered him a chance to join Black Hammer – as long as Schaffer, who is white, played a junior role in Black Hammer. “Reparations Corps.”, a group restricted to white members.
As of 2021, Black Hammer had what some former members estimate at hundreds of members across the country. But as the group grew, its aesthetic remained jarring. Kodzo began dressing in makeup that made him look like The Joker and referring to himself in third person as The Joker, posing for menacing videos in front of executives of makeup-clad Black Hammer members.
In the summer of 2021, Black Hammer peaked with an attempt to build “Black Hammer City” in the Colorado wilderness. Land was central to Kodzo’s promises to its members – Black Hammer members often repeat the phrase “back to the land” at party meetings. This time, the band claimed it had “freed up” 200 acres in Colorado for the future town, and members of Black Hammer began traveling there from their base in Atlanta.
“In Hammer City there will be no rent, no cops, no coronavirus and no white people,” said a member of Black Hammer who went through the War name “General Anco.”
Kodzo’s Internet haters soon predicted that the site would become “Jonestown 2.0”. Although it didn’t go so badly, the city attempt was a disaster. Former members are complaining online about being stuck in the desert with few supplies. Savvy claimed that she and several other Black Hammer members fell ill after attempting to burn mugwort for warmth, being poisoned by the smoke instead.
The town experiment came to an end after a local man complained to Black Hammer that they were blocking the road with their cars. In his subsequent account to police, the man said several members approached him with guns and one pulled out a gun to threaten him. The owner of the land that Black Hammer was trying to buy backed out of the deal, and the police ordered the group off the land. Hammer City collapsed, leaving behind only a half-made catwalk, screws strewn across the road, and casings that Black Hammer members had left after gunnery practice.
The Black Hammer members retreated to Atlanta, where former members said Hammer City’s failure prompted a series of recriminations from Kodzo. In an echo of communist “struggle sessions,” they say they were forced to write murderous self-criticisms when Kodzo felt they had let him down.
Kodzo talked about “microdosing” drugs, and Savvy says the band’s houses began to take on a feverish drug atmosphere.
“The way the house is run, it feels a lot like an acid trip to him,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Reparations Corps was pressured to find more money to fund Black Hammer’s activities. In a July 2021 internal “framework report” posted online by a former member and confirmed by Savvy, members of Black Hammer’s fundraising unit described selling their plasma and withdrawing an account from retirement to reach a fundraising goal of $50,000.
Black Hammer began falling apart in the fall of 2021, but former members say Kodzo didn’t make it easy to leave. Savvy told The Daily Beast that she had to pull a knife on Kodzo and another member when she tried to leave, and was eventually dragged out of the house by members of the band.
With Black Hammer membership dwindling, Kodzo began recruiting homeless people and youth in the Atlanta area, leading an exuberant “church” in an Atlanta park frequented by the homeless. In a video posted earlier this month, Kodzo claimed he “adopted” a teenager he found sleeping at a train station. The group also began aggressively asking students for donations.
“They actively raised funds around Georgia Tech and Georgia State,” said WF Thomas, an independent researcher who has tracked the group’s activities.
Black Hammer apparently came to an end on Tuesday, when police in Fayetteville, an Atlanta suburb where Black Hammer had rented a house, received a 911 call. A person on the line whispered that she had been kidnapped, prompting the police to trace the call to the house. When officers arrived, they saw someone in the garage waving at them. After the officers took Kodzo and other members of the group outside, they sent an explosive robot which discovered Ammons’ body.
The police investigation into Kodzo is ongoing, according to police.