Far-left activist Gazi Kodzo rose to internet notoriety last year with a series of bizarre online pronouncements he made as the leader of a fringe communist group called the Black Hammer Organization. Kodzo’s online declarations, including the claim that Holocaust victim Anne Frank was a whiny “Karen,” seemed designed to go viral as proof of left-wing activists out of control, and earned mentions 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 in 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 ordered Kodzo and nine other people outside. In the houes, they found an 18-year-old man named Amonte T. Ammons dead of what police call an “an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.”
Now Kodzo, a 36-year-old whose legal name is Augustus C. Romain, faces a bevy of criminal charges, including aggravated sodomy, two counts of conspiracy to commit a felony, two counts of false imprisonment, two counts of kidnapping, two counts of aggravated assault, and two counts of criminal street gang activity, according to a press release from the Fayetteville Police Department. Further details on the charges weren’t available Wednesday from the police.
Another Kodzo associate, a 21-year-old named Xavier H. Rushin, was also charged with several crimes, including kidnapping, assault, and false imprisonment.
Ammons’ death has led former members to consider the bizarre environment that Kodzo, riding a wave of internet fame and crazed ambitions of revolution, created in the group.
“I’m surprised it took this long,” a former Black Hammer member who goes by the Savvy, and worked as Kodzo’s aide before fleeing the group, told The Daily Beast after Ammons’ death was reported.
Even as Ammons lay dead inside the Black Hammer house, though, Kodzo kept his eye on the prospect of social media fame. In a Facebook video posted as Romain and other Black Hammer waited outside their home under police guard, Kodzo seized on the idea that the police raid and dead body would bring more online attention to himself.
“More media, more followers, more — you know — advancement work, more movement, more greatness,” Kodzo said. “So be it, sweetheart.”
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 an aspiring YouTube personality named “Smiletone.” In one Smiletone video, he laughed along with two white women and debated who was the most “basic.”
As Black Hammer’s leader, though, Kodzo adopted a tone of racial separatism. Black Hammer social media accounts earned notoriety online for their racial attacks, and Kodzo jousted with right-wing figures like commentator Elijah Schaffer. In one typical YouTube confrontation, Kodzo called Schaffer a “shaved monkey,” accused him of having a small penis, and offered him a chance to join Black Hammer — as long as Schaffer, who is white, joined in a subservient role in Black Hammer’s “Reparations Corps.,” a group reserved for white members.
By 2021, Black Hammer counted what some former members estimate as hundreds of members across the country. But as the group grew, its aesthetics remained jarring. Kodzo began dressing in makeup that made him look like the Joker and referring to himself in the third-person as the Joker, posing for threatening videos in front of cadres of Black Hammer members in the makeup.
In the summer of 2021, Black Hammer reached its apex with an attempt to build “Black Hammer City” in the Colorado wilderness. Land was at the core of Kodzo’s promises to his members — Black Hammer members often repeat the phrase “land back” in party meetings. This time, the group claimed it had “liberated” 200 acres in Colorado for the would-be town, and Black Hammer members began to travel there from their base in Atlanta.
“In Hammer City, there will be no rent, no cops, no coronavirus, and no white people,” declared one Black Hammer member who went by the nom de guerre “General Anco.”
Kodzo’s internet haters quickly predicted the site would turn into “Jonestown 2.0.” While it didn’t go that poorly, the attempted city was a disaster. Former members complain online that they were stuck in the wilderness with few supplies. Savvy claimed she and several other Black Hammer members became sick after attempting to burn mugwort for warmth, getting poisoned by the smoke instead.
The city experiment came to a final end after a local man complained to Black Hammer that they were blocking the road with their cars. In his later account to police, the man said several members approached him with guns, and one unholstered a pistol to threaten him. The owner of the land Black Hammer was attempting to buy backed out of the deal, and police ordered the group off the land. Hammer City collapsed, leaving behind only a half-done footbridge, screws scattered across the road, and shell casings the Black Hammer members had left behind from target practice.
Black Hammer members retreated back to Atlanta, where former members say Hammer City’s failure prompted rounds of recrimination from Kodzo. In an echo of communist “struggle sessions,” they say they were forced to write bruising self-criticisms when Kodzo felt they had failed him.
Kodzo has talked about “microdosing” drugs, and Savvy says the group’s houses began to take on a feverish drug-trip like atmosphere.
“The way the house is run, it very much feels like an acid trip for him,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Reparations Corps was pressed to come up with more money to fund Black Hammer’s activities. In an internal July 2021 “cadre report” posted online by one ex-member and confirmed by Savvy, members of Black Hammer’s fundraising unit described selling their plasma and withdrawing from a retirement account to meet a $50,000 fundraising goal.
Black Hammer began to fall apart in the fall of 2021, but former members say Kodzo didn’t make leaving easy. Savvy told The Daily Beast she had to pull a knife on Kodzo and another member when she attempted to leave, and was eventually dragged out of the house by members of the group.
With Black Hammer’s membership dwindling, Kodzo began recruiting homeless people and young people in the Atlanta area, running a rambunctious “church” out of an Atlanta park frequented by the homeless. In a video posted earlier this month, Kodzo claimed he had “adopted” a teenager he found sleeping in a train station. The group also began aggressively asking for donations from college students.
“They’ve been aggressively fundraising around Georgia Tech and Georgia State,” said W.F. Thomas, an independent researcher who has followed the group’s activities.
Black Hammer came to its apparent end on Tuesday, when police in Fayetteville, an Atlanta suburb where Black Hammer had rented a home, received a 911 call. A person on the line whispered that they had been kidnapped, prompting police to trace the call to the home. When officers arrived, they saw someone in the garage wave at them. After officers took out Kodzo and other members of the group outside, they sent in a bomb robot that discovered Ammons’ body.
The police investigation into Kodzo is ongoing, according to police.