The Boogaloo movement, members of which are often referred to as Boogaloo boys or Boogaloo bois, is a loosely organized American far-right extremist movement. Members of the boogaloo movement say they are preparing for a coming second American Civil War, which they call the "boogaloo". The term is used by members of the group 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 anti-government and anti-law enforcement groups, as well as white supremacist groups who specifically believe the unrest will be a race war. Groups in the boogaloo movement primarily organize online, but have appeared at in-person events including the 2020 United States anti-lockdown protests and the May 2020 George Floyd protests.
Members of the boogaloo movement use other similar-sounding derivations of the word, including boog, boojihadeen, big igloo, and big luau, and have created logos and other imagery incorporating igloos and Hawaiian prints. Members sometimes identify themselves at protests by wearing Hawaiian shirts along with military fatigues. 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, 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 boogaloo groups are also white supremacist and specifically believe that the "boogaloo" will be a race war, but there are others that condemn racism.
According to the non-profit Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), groups belonging to the boogaloo movement organize on mainstream online platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit, as well as on more obscure platforms such as 4chan. The NCRI researchers estimate the movement to have tens of thousands of members. The Tech Transparency Project has observed that, while public posts on boogaloo Facebook pages tend to be satirical and portray the movement as nothing more than a viral meme contained to the Internet, 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."
The term boogaloo is a reference to the 1984 cult film Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, an unpopular sequel film that was largely viewed to be a near-exact copy of the original movie. Following the film release, adding "2: Electric Boogaloo" to a phrase became a joking reference to any unwanted or archetypical sequel. The boogaloo movement adopted their name from the belief there will be a second civil war; that is, "Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo".
Extremism researchers first took notice of the word "boogaloo" being used in the context of the boogaloo movement in 2019, when they observed it being used among fringe groups including militias, gun rights movements, and white supremacist groups. This usage of the term is believed to have originated on the /pol/ board of the fringe imageboard website 4chan, where it 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"). Researchers from the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) found that the usage of the term "boogaloo" increased by 50% on Facebook and Twitter in the last months of 2019 and into early 2020. They attribute surges in popularity to a viral incident in November 2019, when a military veteran posted content mentioning the boogaloo on Instagram during a standoff with police, and to the December 2019 impeachment of Donald Trump. The boogaloo movement experienced a further surge in popularity following the lockdowns that were implemented to try to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, and the Tech Transparency Project observed that the boogaloo groups appeared to be encouraged by President Trump's tweets about "liberating" states under lockdown. The Tech Transparency Project also found that 60% of boogaloo Facebook groups had emerged following the pandemic lockdowns, during which time they amassed tens of thousands of members. A Facebook spokesperson said that Facebook and Instagram had changed their policies as of May 1 to "prohibit the use of ['Boogaloo' and related] terms when accompanied by statements and images depicting armed violence."
On March 12, 2020, a boogaloo Facebook group leader named Duncan Lemp was shot and killed by police in a no-knock raid of his home in Potomac, Maryland. Police had obtained the search warrant based on a tip that Lemp was violating a restriction from possessing firearms, though Lemp's family has contested that he was under any such restriction. Lemp's family has also asserted that he was asleep when he was killed by police. Some far-right groups have theorized that Lemp was killed by police for his anti-government beliefs and his position in the boogaloo movement. J. J. MacNab, a fellow of the George Washington University extremism program, has described Lemp as a "martyr" of the boogaloo movement, and warned that the increase in anti-police sentiment among boogaloo group members following his death may lead to violence against the police in the "foreseeable future". A Facebook user who was later identified as Aaron Swenson was arrested on April 11, 2020 in Texas, after streaming a live video on Facebook in which he stated he was driving around looking for police officers to ambush. He was apprehended after a high-speed police chase, and found to be wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying loaded firearms and ammunition. Swenson had shared boogaloo memes on his Facebook page, and other members of the movement watched and commented during his livestream. Swenson had also posted a photo to Facebook the day after the shooting of Duncan Lemp, in which he wore a Hawaiian shirt and combat vest and used the hashtag "#HisNameWasDuncan".
Some boogaloo groups joined the protests against law enforcement that occurred across the United States in May 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. Some believed that members of boogaloo groups inserted themselves among protesters to instigate violence. However, these reports have not been substantiated.
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