On June 4, three men made their way to protests in downtown Las Vegas: Twenty-three-year-old Army reservist Andrew Lynam, 35-year-old former Navy enlistee Stephen Parshall, and 40-year-old Air-force veteran William Loomis. The three white Las Vegas residents filled gas canisters at a local parking lot and used glass bottles to make Molotov cocktails as they made their way to the anti-racism protests in the city’s center.
Before they could make it to their destination, an FBI anti-terrorism unit busted the three men, arresting them on terrorism-related charges. A complaint filed at the Las Vegas district court claimed the men identified as members of the “Boogaloo” movement, which the government document described as “a term used by extremists to signify a coming civil war and/or fall of civilization.”
Eager to escalate
The arrests were the result of nearly two months of work. Earlier in April, the three men had attended a rally to advocate for the ending of COVID-19 measures. At this “Reopen Nevada” rally, they had struck up a conversation with a man that turned out to be an FBI informant.
On May 29, the informant accompanied the three men at a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest on the famous Las Vegas strip.
Lynam, Parshall, and Loomis had decided to bring their rifles to the event. Lynam joined the crowd of protesters and deliberately went up to the police, yelling at them to taunt them into a reaction. Parshall became agitated as the protests continued peacefully.
Parshall was “very upset that the protests were not turning violent,” the court complaint said. The armed men told the FBI informant that they had gathered all the ingredients to make Molotov cocktails, prompting the Bureau’s anti-terrorism unit to intervene on their next outing.
The Boogaloo movement that the three men identified with is an offspring of the American gun rights movement. An online network of gun owners, fearful of any regulation of their firearms, started an escalating joke over their perceived idea of an inevitable conflict with the government over their gun rights.
The term “Boogaloo” comes as a Reddit reference to a potential “sequel” to the American Civil War. The term is derived from the 1984 movie sequel “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” and has since sparked a variety of other movement-related terms.
Members of the movement call themselves a variety of related names, including the “Boogaloo boys,” the “Big Igloo Bois,” or the “Boojahideen,” in reference to Afghanistan’s anti-Soviet guerrilla force from the 1990s.
As their names suggest, the group consists of mostly male online-engaged gun rights supporters that consider themselves to be the victims of an ever-expanding state that will inevitably “come for their guns.” The men identify themselves by wearing Hawaiian-print shirts often matched with military-grade body armor and rifles or handguns.
Because members of the Boogaloo movement consider another civil war to be inevitable, they appear to have little remorse in escalating the progress towards such a conflict. The current protests over state violence and structural racism have provided a platform on which they appear to want to trigger a full-blown civil war.
The movement’s preference for military fatigues and equipment gear has meant it is relatively easy for its members to pose as “Antifa” protesters, a left-wing anti-fascist group. US President Donald Trump is moving to classify Antifa as a terrorist organization, although experts doubt the official designation will be constitutionally possible.
Members of the Boogaloo movement have been caught impersonating the left-wing group on Twitter. Posting under the account “@antifaUS,” Boogaloo members called for violence, stating, “Tonight is the night comrades, tonight is the night we say f… the city and we move into the residential areas, the white hoods, and we take what is ours.”
Once the group was exposed as a Boogaloo operation, the Twitter account promptly re-styled itself as an “Antifa parody account,” deleting earlier calls for violence. It appears that members of the movement are trying to provoke the police and the country’s right-wing by posing as violent left-wingers in order to spark a violent reaction.
Because there is no official membership or vetting process, any person can claim a role in the non-organized and leaderless protests in the United States. The Boogaloo movement’s apparent aim is to use the protests to provoke both political sides into a violent conflict.
Now that the Boogaloo movement is getting significant attention from the media and law enforcement, it remains to be seen whether it can realize its dangerous goal.