July 15, 2020

IntelBrief: Could the ‘Boogaloo Bois’ be Here to Stay?

In this May 2, 2020, file photo, people, including those with the boogaloo movement (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
  • The Boogaloo Bois foresee a conflict between armed citizens and law enforcement that ultimately results in the U.S. government being violently overthrown.
  • There exists a larger pool of far-right extremists beyond the Boogaloo, including white supremacists, anti-government militias, and conspiracy theorists, with serious potential for cross-pollination between these entities resulting in a force multiplier effect.
  • The Boogaloo movement itself is far from a monolith, and has adherents with a diverse mélange of beliefs and ideologies, though a shared antipathy for law enforcement serves as a common unifying thread for many members.
  • The U.S. military is struggling with how to root out Boogaloo members from its ranks, and the Boogaloo movement will likely persist as a dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States for the foreseeable future.

Just last week in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a man was arrested after thirty homemade bombs were discovered in the trunk of his car after he was pulled over. The individual had previously made threats on social media about attacking the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) headquarters and the tax office in Pennsylvania’s capital, Harrisburg, as well as ranting against the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and Antifa. Both the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) are now investigating the case, and the suspect’s online personas have led some to speculate that he self-identifies as a so-called ‘Boogaloo Boi,’ and part of the Boogaloo movement. The term “Boogaloo” itself is largely used online as a code word for civil war. Adherents envision a conflict between armed citizens and law enforcement that ultimately results in the U.S. government being violently overthrown- a nascent insurgency on American soil. Members are highly visible at protests and demonstrations, often bedecked in trademark Hawaiian shirts. The Boogaloo is a decentralized, nation-wide network which is more of a loosely defined movement with a shared hatred of law enforcement rather than an official group or  a formal organization

There exists a larger pool of far-right extremists beyond the Boogaloo, to include QAnon, white supremacists, and other anti-government militia types. There remains significant potential for cross-pollination between these entities, and the 4chan /k/ board where the focus is weapons, is one of the sites where the co-mingling takes place. The Boogaloo ideology itself has become a repository for fringe extremists, many of whom hold conspiratorial beliefs and frequently reference false flag incidents, the Deep State, and disinformation related to the coronavirus. Conspiracies have the potential to link the Boogaloo movement with the ever-growing and bizarre world of QAnon followers, who believe that well-connected elites like Hillary Clinton and George Soros are actually pedophiles that operate a global sex trafficking ring. Several incidents have crossed over from online to the real world and have become violent, including the infamous ‘Pizzagate’ incident in Washington D.C. in 2016. The movement has apparently spread to Canada, where it has gained new followers. 

Facebook recently banned hundreds of accounts, groups, and pages linked to Boogaloo followers. The action to shutter the content was taken because, according to Facebook, Boogaloo Bois were ‘actively promoting violence against civilians, law enforcements, and government officials and institutions.’ While necessary, the de-platforming will prompt Boogaloo adherents to migrate to other sites, including the popular online gaming platform Discord, where they already exist in large numbers. The movement itself is far from a monolith, and not all Boogaloo Bois can be considered far-right extremists, although many would fall into this end of the ideological spectrum given their antipathy for federal, state, and local government. The broader movement includes pro-2A (second Amendment) advocates, ultra-libertarians, survivalists, and tax resisters. The COVID-19 pandemic has offered extremists across the board, including many that hold anti-government views, with the opportunity to promote accelerationist beliefs about the coronavirus hastening the end of government and inducing a new civil war. 

The Boogaloo ideology has also found an icon or martyr in Duncan Socrates Lemp, a twenty-one year old Maryland man and alleged Boogaloo Boi who was killed during a police raid of his home in Potomac, Maryland in March 2020, although some of the details of his death remain unclear. Lemp’s home was raided by police to search for illegal firearms at the residence, which was allegedly booby-trapped. The U.S. military is also struggling with how to root out Boogaloo members from its ranks. In early June, the FBI arrested three Boogaloo Bois in Nevada for plotting to detonate explosives at a Black Lives Matter rally—all three individuals arrested had military experience. In another case, Steven Carillo, an Air Force sergeant and self-described member of the Boogaloo movement has been charged with murders of police officers in separate incidents in Oakland and Santa Cruz, California, respectively. Given the history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in infiltrating right-wing extremist groups and developing sources and informants, it is likely that the FBI will continue to have success going forward. But the Boogaloo will persist as a dangerous domestic terrorism threat and continue to target law enforcement officers. As the Irish Republican Army once warned British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher after nearly killing her in a bombing of the Brighton Hotel in 1984, “You have to be lucky all the time. We only have to be lucky once.”


For tailored research and analysis, please contact: