“Directly above me, men with rifles yelling at us.” Michigan State Senator Dayna Polehanki tweeted on April 30, 2020, from the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing.
“Some of my colleagues who own bulletproof vests are wearing them. I have never appreciated our Sergeants-at-Arms more than today,” Senator Polehanki’s tweet continued as she snapped a picture. Lansing, Michigan saw some of the most confrontational gatherings as reopen protests continued across the country last week and over the weekend.
However, as Senator Polehanki saw, many protests have taken a dramatic and dangerous turn.
Ark Valley Voice previously reported on how far-right extremists and white supremacist groups have been planning and organizing many of these protests from their beginning, raising concerns about their viability. Yet, this latest development, where militant wings of these extremist groups along with militias are using the protests as realistic training exercises, is causing many extremist watch groups to sound the alarm.
Senator Polehanki witnessed first hand how the plethora of assault-style weapons, ammunition carriers, plate armor, and tactical gear these groups use is astounding. Yet, this deliberate display of “hardware” is only a small, visible part of a larger sophisticated propaganda organization and communications network devoted to preparing for a violent confrontation with the government.
The Tech Transparency Project (TTP), a non-partisan research group and information hub launched in 2016 by the Campaign for Accountability nonprofit, published a “review… [of] 125 Facebook groups devoted to the ‘boogaloo,’ the term the far-right extremists use to describe what they view as “a coming civil war.”
The term boogaloo, adapted from a 1984 breakdancing film sequel “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo”, has seen many satirical references since its debut. The Anti Defamation League’s November 26, 2019 article about the term boogaloo described its foreboding transition; it has become a “catchphrase for mass violence.”
“From militia groups to white supremacists, extremists on a range of platforms talk about — and sometimes even anticipate — the ‘boogaloo’… Among some extremists, it may even signify an increased willingness to engage in violence.”
This threat of violence was narrowly averted on April 23, 2020, where a “Boogaloo Boy” was arrested while conducting a Facebook live stream where he searched for a lone police officer to “ambush and execute.”
What’s more alarming is the extent of detailed operational security and planning these boogaloo groups have undertaken since the beginning of the stay-at-home protests. In the TTP report, boogaloo groups on Facebook, “discussed tactical strategies, combat medicine, and various types of weapons, including how to develop explosives.”
Recent social media crackdowns on extremism and hate speech have a complicated analysis of these groups. Most of the groups (112 of the 125 reviewed by the TTP) are private, and closely vet anyone who joins.
Moreover, group names are now more like code-words or derivatives for boogaloo. Terms such as “boojihadeen,” “boog,” and “big igloo” is generally part of some conglomeration of words in the group name, making them hard to search.
Obviously, civil uprising ideologies and their representative extremist groups are not new to the United States. From Ruby Ridge to Oklahoma City, there are numerous examples of individuals and groups committing violent acts in support of, or intending to incite a civil uprising.
However, over the past two months, it is the legitimacy and support given to these groups by conservative leaders that have led to a massive increase in members and calls for violence, unlike any previous time.
TTP’s analysis showed that there are approximately 72,686 members of the 125 boogaloo-specific Facebook groups, of which, 36,117 people joined in the last 30 days. Both the ADL and the TTP believe that the explosion in members and activity is due in large part to President Trump’s tweets, encouraging the protests across several states. His calls for people to “liberate” states is inflaming an already tense situation.
A search of Colorado-based, boogaloo-specific Facebook groups did not immediately reveal anything. However, a review of Colorado far-right extremist and militia groups has revealed eight specific groups within Colorado, with a total membership of more than 4,500. Colorado Patriots For the Republic, was one of only three groups whose page was public and its description suggested that other (private) pages may be dedicated to organizing and operational planning stating:
“This Page is for general information and noncritical communications and sharing of ideals and information for all Patriots in Colorado.”
Nearly all of the groups either contained the symbol of the three percenters with three roman numerals in the title, logo or within their group’s descriptions. The ADL defines the three percenters as a “wing of the militia movement.”
According to the ADL, these groups view themselves as “modern-day versions of those revolutionaries, fighting against a tyrannical U.S. government rather than the British.”
Are the protesters in all 50 states, in Latin America, Europe and Asia also right wing extremists and militants Jan?
Hello Carl. Thank you for raising a logical question. I am going to let Stephen Hall, who wrote the article and has expertise in criminal justice and public safety, answer your questions.
Carl, thank you for reading and being actively engaged. After seeing your comment, I conducted a search of coronavirus protests worldwide and found several articles. There were a couple worth noting. April 23rd article from The Atlantic: “Isreal Shows Us the Future of Protest” and earlier in April from the The Washington Post: “Coronavirus chills protests from Chile to Hong Kong to Iraq, forcing activists to innovate.” Both articles show how activists and protestors are using ingenuity and technology to overcome coronavirus restriction and gain leaders’ attention. On the other hand, through my search, I did not find evidence of any heavily armed protesters with extremist ideology occupying government buildings and disrupting democratic processes.
To be certain, the vast majority of protesters in the United States are not armed or extremist, but that is not the point. The point is, like the previous Ark Valley Voice articles tried to explain, many Coloradans may not realize who is planning and organizing these protests. Subsequently, well intentioned protesters may be unknowingly supporting hate groups and extremists they would not otherwise support. Furthermore, these protesters and Coloradans in general should be made aware of how these extremists and hate groups are taking advantage of their well intentioned and legitimate frustrations with government restrictions. Finally, all Americans need to be aware of how these extremists are perverting their 1st Amendment Rights by creating a dangerous and toxic environment not conducive to peaceful assembly.
Is this a precursor to a declaration of martial law in the US? Eyes on that. We have an election coming. A crucial one.
Bill, I would be more worried about the impact of this small but armed right-wing element and the violence they represent than I would be by government overreach, at this point. But yes, this is a crucial election year with nothing less than the future direction of our democracy at stake. Thank you for being a thoughtful consumer of news.