The Boogaloo Movement (whose adherents are referred to as the "Boogaloo Boys", "Boogaloo Bois", or “Boojahideen”) is a loosely-organized American far-right, anti-government, anti-law enforcement movement which also proclaims extremist and accelerationist ideals. Founded on the Internet during the early 2010s, the Boogaloo movement is composed of disparate cells of anti-government militants who call for a second American Civil War (which they often refer to as the "boogaloo" or "boog", and which they often spell "big luau" or "big igloo", prompting their use of Hawaiian patterns as their traditional attire and of an igloo as their symbol and flag) (Pemberton, 2020).
History & Foundations
Tracing an accurate history of the Boogaloo movement is a difficult task, notably because of how diverse its members' objectives are. The term ‘boogaloo’ was first used in 2012 on white supremacist and far-right message boards, particularly in memes on platforms such as 4chan and Reddit (Evans, 2020). Referencing the 1984 musical Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, internet users began referring to an imminent Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo. Its adherents supported the ideal of a future where gun confiscation, continued police brutality, and militarization would lead to a large-scale uprising of the American people against the government (with some going as far as believing that the beginning of this violent uprising should be intentionally accelerated) (ACLED, 2021).
The movement grew on platforms such as Facebook, Telegram, Discord, and the fascist web platform “Iron March'' throughout the 2010s (Gunesch & Newhouse, 2020). The Boogaloo garnered the most support in early 2020, galvanized by the death of the Boogaloos’ Facebook group moderator – Duncan Lemp – during a no-knock police raid, as well as by the COVID-19 lockdowns, which they viewed as yet another example of excessive government oversight and tyranny. The death of Duncan Lemp in particular has become a rallying cry for the movement, with the death of one of their own at the hands of law enforcement elevating Lemp to an almost-martyr status. Moreover, slogans such as “his name was Duncan Lemp” and “we are Duncan Lemp” became common ‘boog mantras’ (Sottile, 2020). Today, boog-adjacent online groups count tens of thousands of members, and the Bois’ easily recognizable Hawaiian shirts are mainstays at gun rights, anti-police, and white supremacist marches.
Ideology & Objectives
The recurring ideological elements that are omnipresent in Boogaloo spaces include calls for armed, violent opposition to governmental authority and the police, and a near-religious veneration of firearms (with calls for completely unrestricted access to guns being the Boojahideen’s main rallying point) (Everytown Research & Policy, 2021). However, outside of these two central values, the Boogaloo movement is far from homogenous (Thompson, 2021). From the very inception of the Boogaloo concept into American political consciousness, there appeared to be two major trains of ideology. On the one hand, certain proponents of the Boogaloo concept called for the new Civil War to be a race war, with the term ‘Boogaloo’ being routinely used in white nationalist and neo-nazi spaces to this day. Others, however, envisioned the Boogaloo as a new American Revolution, uniting people of all races to promote gun rights and stand against the police and other aspects of "Big Government". This belief was notably backed by their alliance with certain anti-authoritarian leftist and black liberation movements, prompting some to incorrectly view the Boogaloo Bois as a left-wing movement (Newton, 2021).
This ideological divide has led to ambiguous situations at certain events – such as the Black Lives Matter protests sparked after the death of George Floyd – where Boogaloo Bois found themselves on both sides of the protest (with a member of the group even being killed while peacefully marching at one of these protests). The question of what it is the Boogaloo Boys exactly stand for is made even more complex by the difficulty of finding direct access to Boogaloo talking points and opinions: although openly boog-sympathetic pages used to be rife on mainstream social media, Meta coordinated a large scale takedown of boogaloo content in late 2020, purging Instagram and Facebook of hundreds of pages about this movement, leading the movement’s adherents to resort to less open methods of communication and propagandizing (Beer, 2020).
Military Capabilities & Approach to Resistance
The Boogaloo movement’s veneration of firearms and its commitment to inciting and participating in violent uprising makes them a relative security threat. Organizing into small-scale, heavily armed local chapters (which often include active or former military personnel and police officers), the Boogaloo remains an extremely disparate movement, mostly organizing impromptu small-scale demonstrations and appearances at other groups’ protests thanks to social media and online forums (ACLED, 2021). However, the ‘Boojahideen’ have also been involved in direct acts of violence.
Firstly, some Bois’ behavior at BLM protests (such as their excessive antagonization of the police) has been revealed to be less about solidarity with victims of police brutality, and more about attempting to galvanize the start of the Boogaloo revolt or even to incite violent retribution onto people of color (Gunesch & Newhouse, 2020). In fact, 26% of BLM protests with Boog presence turned violent (compared to only 6% of all BLM protests), and boogaloo members have been arrested at these protests due to their possessions of molotov cocktails and illegal weapons (ACLED, 2021; Price & Sonner, 2020). Boogaloo members have also been prosecuted for several (sometimes deadly) armed attacks on police stations, and a Michigan-based Boogaloo faction even devised a plan to abduct their local governor and overthrow the state government (Burke & Snell, 2020; Hurd, Lightfoot, & Pérez de Acha, 2021). The NCIS have published an official threat awareness message warning governmental and police entities of the danger of this group (NCIS, 2020).
Relations & Alliances
As of yet, the Boogaloo movement has no official alliances with any domestic or international facets of government. They also very much remain a domestic militia, with a few Boog factions operating in Canada appearing to be the only sign of the movement existing outside of the United States (Public Safety Canada, 2021).
Works Cited (MLA-style)
ACLED (2021), “Actor Profile: Boogaloo Boys”, ACLEDData.com, https://acleddata.com/2021/08/16/actor-profile-boogaloo-boys/ [accessed October 16 2022]
Beer, T. (2020), “Facebook has failed to expunge Boogaloo extremists, report claims”, Forbes.com, https://www.forbes.com/sites/tommybeer/2020/08/13/facebook-has-failed-to-expunge-boogaloo-extremists-report-claims [accessed October 16 2022]
Burke, M. & Snell, R. (2020), “Plans to kidnap Whitmer, overthrow government spoiled, officials say”, DetroitNews.com, https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2020/10/08/feds-thwart-militia-plot-kidnap-michigan-gov-gretchen-whitmer [accessed October 16 2022]
Evans, R. (2020), “The Boogaloo Movement Is Not What You Think”, Bellingcat.com, https://www.bellingcat.com/news/2020/05/27/the-boogaloo-movement-is-not-what-you-think/ [accessed October 16 2022]
Everytown Research & Policy (2021), “Armed Extremism Primer: The Boogaloo”, EverytownResearch.org, https://everytownresearch.org/report/the-boogaloo/ [accessed October 16 2022]
Gunesch, N. & Newhouse, A. (2020), “The Boogaloo Movement Wants to be Seen as Anti-Racist but it has a White Supremacist Fringe”, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, https://www.middlebury.edu/institute/academics/centers-initiatives/ctec/ctec-publications/boogaloo-movement-wants-be-seen-anti-racist-it [accessed October 16 2022]
Hurd, K., Lightfoot, E., Pérez de Acha, G. (2021), “I Felt More Hate Than Anything: How An Active Duty Airman Tried to Start a Civil War”, Propublica.org, https://www.propublica.org/article/i-felt-hate-more-than-anything-how-an-active-duty-airman-tried-to-start-a-civil-war [accessed October 16 2022]
NCIS (2020), “June 4 NCIS Threat Report”, https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6982452-June-4-NCIS-Threat-Report-on-Boog [accessed October 16 2022]
Newton, C. (2021), “The Boogaloo Movement has a New Strategy”, alJazeera.com, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/4/16/holdagorism-what-is-the-ideologyoftheboogaloobois [accessed October 16 2022]
Pemberton, N. (2020), “What Do You Do When Extremism Comes For The Hawaiian Shirt?”, NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/29/style/boogaloo-hawaiian-shirt.html [accessed October 16 2022]
Price, M. & Sonner, S. (2020), “Prosecutors: 3 men plotted to terrorize Vegas protests”, APNews.com, https://apnews.com/article/virus-outbreak-american-protests-terrorism-us-news-las-vegas [accessed October 16 2022]
Public Safety Canada (2021), “Boogaloo Movement in Canada”, SécuritéPublique.gc.ca, https://www.securitepublique.gc.ca/cnt/trnsprnc/brfng-mtrls/prlmntry-bndrs [accessed October 16 2022]
Thompson, J. (2021), “Examining Extremism: the Boogaloo Movement”, Center for Strategic and International Studies, https://www.csis.org/blogs/examining-extremism/examining-extremism-boogaloo-movement [accessed October 16 2022]