The “Boogaloo” Movement

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The Boogaloo movement otherwise known as the Boogaloo Boys or Boogaloo Bois, is a loose, ideological movement centering around starting a violent uprising against the US government which has been deemed oppressive.[1] Specifically, this group threatens mass violence - the boogaloo - if the government were to attempt to confiscate their guns.[2] Particular flashpoints for the group in the past have been the imposition of red flag laws, or laws that allow the state to temporarily confiscate an individual’s firearms if that individual is deemed a danger to themselves or


a danger to others.[3] The group historically was small, and the term Boogaloo often used jokingly, but has recently galvanized many, as made evident by countless facebook groups - some reaching 20K followers. There have been violence and arrests of people claiming to fall under the wider ideology. They are heavily armed and already have a few “martyrs” such as Duncan Lemp, Alex Booth, Mike Hart, and Robert “LaVoy” Finicum all of whom, were unduly punished or were killed by aggressive police according to the movement. The group contains gun enthusiasts, militia members, alt-libertarian, alt-right, and white nationalist groups. Though the group is widely anti-racist, there are members who either have ties to white nationalist groups or associate with white nationalist groups. In the climate of COVID-19, where economic hardship, emergency response mismanagement, and distrust of government, there exists a potentiality for further radicalization of frustrated group members by white nationalists and acceleration toward conflict. Already, there have been examples of militias competing with law enforcement.


In Owosso, Michigan, members of the Michigan Militia have vowed that a barber will not go to jail for defying the Governor’s Stay-at-Home order.[4] According to a resident of, Owosso they are “willing to stand in front of that door and block the entrance so the police will have no entry there today.”[5] The action follows recent protests at Michigan’s capital of Lansing, also rallying against Governor Whitmer’s Stay-At-Home order. Though it remains unclear if members of the Owosso group are affiliated with the wider Boogaloo movement, at least one protestor at the capital was spotted with a Boogaloo patch by CTG. Another example is in Blaine County, Idaho, which has recently become a COVID-19 hotspot. Many organizations are scrambling to get aid to people who need it in the region but the Real 3% of Idaho has begun setting up its own ad hoc relief network.[6] The leader of the group, Eric Parker, states that “FEMA can’t be trusted”, nodding to the broader message of curbing federal power and that Idaho can take care of itself.[7]


According to the ADL, the group has notable white supremacist elements who see the boogaloo as a means to ignite a race war. These white supremacists elements see the impending mass violence as means to build a “white man’s world.”[8] Notably, there are other elements of the group who are avowed anti-racists, seeking only to guarantee protections for their second amendment rights. This is indicative of a split between those under the wider boogaloo umbrella, suggesting that not all who use the term boogaloo have the same desired outcome. Important to note however is that the use of the term boogaloo is not necessarily indicative of a willingness to commit violence, as many still use the term boogaloo in a joking manner without any intention of committing violence.


Linguistically, the word “Boogaloo” is a reference to “decades of jokes” about the 1984 breakdancing film Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.[9] While some employ it jokingly in what’s known as “shitposting,” many use it with what the ADL calls serious intent. It is now commonly used to refer to an impending civil war between gun-rights activists, extremists, and the federal government. What started as a small meme movement suggesting violent insurgence quickly garnered the attention of localized militias, survivalists and eventually, to supremacist groups.[10] The Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) which monitors hate speech online, found that since the rise of the Boogaloo movement, followers have propagated anti-government and anti-law enforcement messaging.[11] This is particularly concerning as the movement, which is primarily located in social media, has the ability to influence those looking for communities online to vent their frustration at law enforcement, and government. Those who are already frustrated can begin to buy into the messaging on social media groups and begin to be influenced by the boogaloo movement. Those influenced can then begin to spread their beliefs and interact more with the community, potentially self-radicalizing. In this sense, ‘Lone Wolf’ actors may find a sense of belonging and motivation in the Boogaloo movement.


The Boogaloo movement came across experts’ radar in 2019 as a potentially violent ideology on the rise. Since then, the group has focused its tactics on recruitment and gaining the support of its followers. In addition, up until recently, the only action that the movement had taken was through social media. The movement typically shares boogaloo memes next to violent images to incite anger, and inspire an eventual uprising; this is in support of their anti-government/anti-law enforcement ideology.[12] As Boogaloo images have circulated various social media platforms, experts note that since 2020, the term, Boogaloo has seen an upsurge of approximately 50% on social media, including Reddit.[13] The propagation of Boogaloo on social media has not only been an effective strategy to garner increased support quickly, but has also proven to be an effective recruitment tactic for the movement.


During the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary, members of the group took particular issue with the gun policies imposed by many Democratic Presidential hopefuls. Beto O’Rourke’s proposed mandatory assault weapon buyback program sparked a rash of boogaloo references, with many claiming online that such a measure would spark a civil war.[14] As the 2020 election looms closer, these groups will likely amplify their rhetoric and call for more immediate


acts of defiance which could become violent. The presumptive Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, has published a comprehensive gun control legislative package which includes a ban on the sale of assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.[15][16] The wider Boogaloo movement has staunchly opposed such measures in the past, and can be expected to do so in the future. Whether these future threats are legitimate will be debatable, but authorities must be cognizant of increased Boogaloo Movement activities as the United States approaches election season.


For example, on April 22, 2020 Buzzfeed published an article titled, ”A Self-Proclaimed "Boogaloo Boy" Was Arrested After Allegedly Livestreaming His Hunt To Kill A Police Officer”. Aaron Swenson, 36 years old, went live on Facebook on April 11 broadcasting his intention to kill a Texarkana Police officer.[17] Aaron Swenson had been charged with making terrorist threats, and carrying an unlawfully registered weapon.[18] Before his livestream, Aaron shared memes from Boogaloo pages on facebook boasting about his affiliation. After joining the live feed police officers were able to identify his location and make the arrest.[19]


Another example took place during the lockdown protests. Avowed Boogaloo Boys have appeared dressed in military attire including but not limited to fatigues, ballistic helmets, armored plate carriers, tactical vests, and gas masks.[20] Concerningly, this protective equipment will insulate them from typical crowd-control methods like tear gas used by police to disperse crowds. Therefore, police must adopt alternative measures to control crowds of protestors that include Boogaloo Boys in protective gear. Furthermore, many members typically open-carry rifles during the protests as well, including SKS rifles, AR-15’s, SCAR H’s, SCAR L’s, bolt-action rifles, and various handguns. Attempting to arrest heavily-armed individuals will prove dangerous for police officers, and situations involving any armed Boogaloo Boys with protective gear must be treated with extreme caution.


Overall, the Boogaloo movement is difficult to navigate because the ideology is about the alleged encroachment and abuse of civil liberties by the government. Thus, responding with force is likely to get an extreme push back and serve as further justification for the ideology and as a recruitment tool. As long as the Boogaloo movement remains 99% nonviolent, a multifaceted approach to first deflate the movement is likely to better serve national and state security. A good first step is securing federal aid packages for rural, and low income areas. By the federal government stepping in and showing a community that they didn’t slip through the cracks, that their government acknowledges and does care for them, then the population of the community will not only have full stomachs and health resources, but see that the government is actually effective and present. This will cut down on militias getting community support by their creation of ad hoc relief networks. Secondly, state governments should take efforts to bolster their own police force. If the militias that make up the Boogaloo movement are better armed than the police, one will start to see departments back down. An example where this has happened was at the Bundy Ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada in 2014. A rancher named Cliven Bundy was locked in conflict with the Bureau of Land management for allowing his cattle to graze on federal land, some of his cattle were rounded up and that is when militias stepped in.[21] Around 40 armed, ex-military militia members came to the ranch and camped, eventually causing the Bureau of Land Management police to stand down citing safety concerns.[22] This type of behavior is concerning because it shows to other groups that the Federal government can be cowed out of confrontations if one has enough people and is heavily armed. The downside to this policy is that one can have another Ruby Ridge or Waco where federal and state police have a deadly game of brinkmanship with those who are breaking the law, ending in disaster. Each disaster brings in publicity and feeds a particular narrative, therefore, a line must be walked between force and arbitration where the government can’t be overly aggressive but can’t appear weak.


CTG’s NORTHCOM team will continue to monitor the Boogaloo Movement alongside the Extremism team. We are already compiling research and intelligence on the movement, identifying members, and assessing threats. If CTG encounters a credible threat, we will begin informing stakeholders, and federal and local law enforcement where applicable.


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The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)

[1] Image: Betsy Ross Flag by Flickr licensed under Public Domain.

[2] “The Boogaloo: Extremists’ New Slang Term for A Coming Civil War,” ADL November 26, 2019.

https://www.adl.org/blog/the-boogaloo-extremists-new-slang-term-for-a-coming-civil-war.

[3] “What Are ‘Red Flag’ Gun Laws, and How Do They Work?,” New York Times August 6, 2019.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/06/us/red-flag-laws.html.

[4] “Michigan Militia says they won’t allow police to enter Owosso barber shop,” UpNorthLive, May 9th, 2020. https://upnorthlive.com/news/local/day-six-community-continues-to-rally-behind-owosso-barber-defying-gov-whitmers-order

[5] Ibid.

[6] “In A Rural Idaho Coronavirus Hot Spot, A Militia Says It Wants to Provide Relief,” NPR, April 1, 20202. https://www.npr.org/2020/04/01/825499443/in-a-rural-idaho-coronavirus-hot-spot-a-militia-says-it-wants-to-provide-relief

[7] Ibid.

[8] “The Boogaloo: Extremists’ New Slang Term for A Coming Civil War,” ADL November 26, 2019.

https://www.adl.org/blog/the-boogaloo-extremists-new-slang-term-for-a-coming-civil-war.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] “What is the ‘boogaloo’? How online calls for a violent uprising are hitting the mainstream,” NBC News February 19, 2020. https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/social-media/what-boogaloo-how-online-calls-violent-uprising-are-getting-organized-n1138461.

[12] “What is the ‘boogaloo’? How online calls for a violent uprising are hitting the mainstream,” NBC News February 19, 2020. https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/social-media/what-boogaloo-how-online-calls-violent-uprising-are-getting-organized-n1138461.

[13] Ibid.

[14] “The Boogaloo: Extremists’ New Slang Term for A Coming Civil War,” ADL November 26, 2019. https://www.adl.org/blog/the-boogaloo-extremists-new-slang-term-for-a-coming-civil-war.

[15] Image: AR-15 licensed under Public Domain.

[16] “The Biden Plan to End our Gun Violence Epidemic,” Biden for President May 10, 2020. https://joebiden.com/gunsafety/.

[17] “A Self Proclaimed "Boogaloo Boy" Was Arrested After Allegedly Livestreaming His Hunt To Kill A Police Officer,” Buzzfeed April 23, 2020. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/emmanuelfelton/boogaloo-boy-arrested-texarkana-swenson

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] “US Governors feel heat to reopen from protestors, President,” KAALTV News April 18, 2020.

https://www.kaaltv.com/health/nations-debate-easing-virus-restrictions-as-economies-falter/5703667/.

[21] “Nevada’s armed militia proclaims victory in range showdown,” The Guardian, April 19, 2014. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/19/nevada-armed-militia-cliven-bundy-victory-federal-government

[22] “Nevada’s armed militia proclaims victory in range showdown,” The Guardian, April 19, 2014. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/19/nevada-armed-militia-cliven-bundy-victory-federal-government

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