Boogaloo Bois

2020 boogaloo killings

The boogaloo movement, adherents to which are often referred to as ‘boogaloo boys’ or ‘boogaloo bois,’ is a loosely organized American far-right extremist movement. Participants generally identify as a libertarian citizen-militia and say they are preparing for, or seek to incite, the ‘boogaloo,’ a second American Civil War that will overthrow the United States government.

While use of the term has been found on the fringe imageboard website 4chan since 2012, it did not come to widespread attention until late 2019. Adherents use the term (including variations, so as to avoid social media crackdowns) to refer to violent uprisings against the federal government or left-wing political opponents, often anticipated to follow government confiscation of firearms.

The movement consists of pro-gun, anti-government groups. Some are white supremacist or neo-Nazi groups who believe that the impending unrest will be a race war; however other groups condemn racism and white supremacy. The boogaloo movement primarily organizes online (particularly on Facebook), and participants have appeared at in-person events including the 2020 United States anti-lockdown protests and the May 2020 George Floyd protests. They are often identified by their attire of Hawaiian shirts and military fatigues, and are heavily armed. In May and June 2020, Facebook acted to limit the movement’s activities and visibility across its social media platforms.

The term boogaloo alludes to the 1984 cult film ‘Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,’ an unsuccessful sequel to a poorly reviewed predecessor. Following the film’s release, the phrase ‘2: Electric Boogaloo’ became a verbal template appended to a topic as a signal of pejorative parody. The boogaloo movement adopted its identity based on the anticipation of a second American Civil War, popularly known as ‘Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo’ among adherents.

Participants in the boogaloo movement also use other similar-sounding derivations of the word, including ‘boog,’ ‘boojahideen,’ ‘big igloo,’ and ‘big luau,’ and have created logos and other imagery incorporating igloo snow huts, and Hawaiian prints. The names and the broader imagery are used by adherents of the boogaloo movement to avoid crackdowns and automated content flags imposed by social media sites to limit or ban boogaloo-related content. They have also used other imagery popular among the far-right, such as the Pepe the Frog meme.

Members of boogaloo groups typically believe in accelerationism (the idea that capitalism should be accelerated instead of overcome in order to generate radical social change), and support any action that will speed impending civil war and eventually the collapse of society. According to ‘The Economist,’ to this end boogaloo group members have supported the ‘spreading of disinformation and conspiracy theories, attacks on infrastructure (such as that on New York’s 311 line) and lone-wolf terrorism.’

Some participants in the movement claim that the group and its ideology are nothing more than online jokes, however, law enforcement and researchers maintain that people connected to the groups have been implicated in plans to commit real-world violence. The Tech Transparency Project has observed that, while public posts on boogaloo Facebook pages tend to be satirical, members of private boogaloo groups ‘exchang[e] detailed information and tactics on how to organize and execute a revolt against American authorities.’ Some of the private groups ban the sharing of memes to keep conversation focused on serious topics. The NCRI has also commented on the mix of serious and joking content, writing, ‘This ambiguity is a key feature of the problem: Like a virus hiding from the immune system, the use of comical-meme language permits the network to organize violence secretly behind a mirage of inside jokes and plausible deniability.’ Tess Owens, writing for ‘Vice,’ noted that the boogaloo movement has attracted active-duty members of the military and veterans.

Memes referring to the ‘boogaloo,’ a violent uprising or civil war, developed simultaneously among anti-government and white supremacist online communities in the early 2010s. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), both types of communities regularly used the term to refer to racist violence or a race war. Researchers at Bellingcat and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies’ Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism (CTEC) both traced the origins of the boogaloo meme and the later movement based around it in part to the fringe imageboard website 4chan, where the meme was often accompanied by references to ‘racewar’ and ‘dotr’ (day of the rope, a neo-Nazi reference to a fantasy involving murdering what the posters view to be ‘race traitors’).

Some members of boogaloo groups attended the protests that occurred across the United States in May and June 2020 in response to the killing of George Floyd. According to ‘Vice,’ although the boogaloo groups tried to position themselves as allies of the Black Lives Matter movement, they generally avoided addressing police brutality as a racial issue. Extremism researcher Robert Futrell spoke of the varied motivations of the adherents to the boogaloo movement who attended the protests: ‘Some folks who identify as Boogaloo Bois share anti-police sentiments. Some are acting as self-appointed security, vowing to protect businesses from protesters. Some say they’re monitoring the protests. Some are white supremacists trying to antagonize protesters.’ Posts in some online boogaloo groups called for their members to loot police stations and set fire to government buildings, and some encouraged actions emulating the ‘rooftop Koreans’ (a reference to Korean store owners who shot at looters from roofs during the 1992 Los Angeles riots).

Since 2019, at least nine people affiliated with the boogaloo movement have been arrested for actions believed to be related to the boogaloo ideology. Some of the charges against people affiliated with the movement include murder, conspiracy to damage and destroy by fire and explosive, possession of unregistered firearms, making a terroristic threat against a peace officer, inciting a riot, and aggravated breach of peace.

U.S. Air Force sergeant Steven Carrillo and accomplice Robert Justus were charged with the June 6, 2020 murder of a Santa Cruz County deputy and the May 29 murder of a Federal Protective Service officer in Oakland. Carrillo is an active-duty member of an elite Air Force unit tasked with guarding American military personnel at unsecure foreign airfields. Carrillo wrote ‘Boog’ and the phrases ‘I became unreasonable’ (a popular meme among boogaloo groups) and ‘Stop the duopoly’ in his own blood on the hood of a vehicle he hijacked. The white van allegedly used in the murders also contained a patch with a boogaloo symbol, and a ballistic vest bearing the boogaloo symbol of an American flag with an igloo instead of stars.

Authorities linked the crimes to the boogaloo movement and said the men used recent demonstrations against racial injustice as a cover to attack law enforcement. The FBI agent in charge of the investigation said in a news conference that the alleged perpetrators did not appear to intend to join the protests, saying ‘They came to Oakland to kill cops.’ Several conservative commentators linked the killing of the Oakland officer, Dave Underwood, to the demonstrations. Media Matters for America characterized the right-wing media outlets’ coverage as an attempt to use the death of Underwood, who was Black, to ‘discredit the wider Black Lives Matter protests.’ Fox News anchor Eric Shawn spoke of the George Floyd protests, saying ‘we have been under attack from domestic terrorists,’ then reported Underwood’s killing. Sean Hannity asserted Underwood was ‘murdered by rioters.’

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