What Is The Boogaloo Movement?

A meme has recently transformed into a dangerous movement responsible for violent attacks. The Boogaloo bois are exploiting social discord within the U.S.
Boogaloo bois at the Virginia 2nd Amendment Rally on January 20, 2020 (Anthony Crider/Creative Commons)

Boogaloo bois at the Virginia 2nd Amendment Rally on January 20, 2020 (Anthony Crider/Creative Commons)

How did the Boogaloo movement start?

The Boogaloo is a far-right extremist movement. The name comes from a meme originating in the early 2010s, based on the title of the movie “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo”. It first appeared on message boards promoting weapons–firearms in particular. The “boogaloo” was an armed uprising, a “sequel” to the American Civil War. Around the same time, the meme also became popular on Gab and Bitchute, sites infamous for their racist content. White supremacists referred to the boogaloo as a purge or all-out race war.

For a while, the boogaloo was simply an inside joke, but within the past two years, it has grown far more widespread and dangerous. In April 2018, a screenshot was released on Reddit, titled “How to start Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo”. It showed a Facebook post from California’s then-lieutenant governor saying “we ARE coming for your guns” (A similar reaction occurred in 2019 when Beto O’Rourke said, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15.”). That same year, the word had become increasingly popular among gun-rights activists as they warned each other to “button up for the #boogaloo.”

Recently, the movement has been most prominent on a platform infamous for its questionable policies. In April 2020, the Tech Transparency Project found there were at least 125 different boogaloo Facebook groups, many encouraging violence. There are also numerous Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit pages made up of “boogaloo bois”. For their part, each platform has made progress in getting rid of these communities.

They’ve since taken their online presence into the real world by showing up at protests and in some cases launching violent attacks.

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What does the Boogaloo movement believe?

Due to the movement’s mixed origins, it would be inaccurate to claim that all boogaloo bois have a singular, shared goal. Here are the most prominent ideals among them:

  • Casuals: These are typically young adults who are in it for the meme. They enjoy being able to vent their political grievances through dark humor and physically harmless inside jokes. In practice, they have no real desire to start a revolution.
  • Pro-Gun Activists: One of the larger groups that make up the movement are the bois who decry gun control. They will often show up to protests armed and wearing military gear. Among the different subgroups, gun rights bois tend to be one of the most violent. They are prepared for a boogaloo should the government attempt to ban gun ownership altogether.
  • Extreme Libertarians/Anarchists: One pro-libertarian website published an article on the boogaloo movement saying, “A lot of folks feel like we the people have lost control…and that the system needs a hard reset.” These extreme libertarians want a complete revolt, overhauling the U.S. government. Meanwhile, the anarchist bois care little about reinstating a functioning government. Their goal is simply to be rid of what they perceive as a corrupt, authoritarian system.
  • White Supremacists: A portion of the boogaloo movement has become infamous for its explicitly racist base. Although these bois aren’t in the majority, boogaloo references and memes are easily found in neo-Nazi and nationalist communities, both online and in real life. Even in boogaloo groups that aren’t primarily racist, racist and Nazi jokes are often a regular occurrence.

One important aspect of this movement is the division amongst those who promote it. Because the boogaloo is popular as a meme yet loosely organized as a system, dissent is hardly surprising. Groups who have allied themselves with Black Lives Matter and Antifa generally distance themselves from the white-supremacist bois. One Jewish news site actually went on to publish an article titled: “Meet the Boogaloo Bois, the violent right-wing extremists who (mostly) don’t hate the Jews”.

Some of the less extreme bois have emphasized that they don’t want war, but are forced to violence. Before the page was taken down, an admin of one of the largest boogaloo Facebook groups wrote, “We do not want a civil war. We want an end to the increasingly oppressive police state.”

There have also been attempts to promote widespread acceptance as part of the movement. Another admin on the Facebook page wrote a post supporting the LGBTQ community: “Got a problem with gay people? Move the f*** on. The fact of the matter is that you’ve probably joked with a gay boog boi and didn’t even know it.” This is one of the best examples of the movement’s mixed political and social beliefs.

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What does the Boogaloo movement do?

There are three primary means of action boogaloo bois have taken in order to spread their message, each one dangerous and effective:

  • Online: As mentioned earlier, the movement has a heavy online presence. Although social media platforms are doing their best to quell the surge of boogaloo accounts, they are still relatively easy to find and are consistently adapting to new filters and blocking software. Different words are used, generally with similar sounds, in group names: boog, igloo, big luau, boogalo, and the like. Most recently, the movement has found a home in Tik Tok, where the app has already purged numerous accounts and posts, only for them to be resurrected with different names and hashtags. The spread of memes and propaganda is efficient enough to keep the movement alive.
  • Protests: One of the most obvious actions of the boogaloo movement is its presence in recent protests. Throughout this year, bois have shown up to anti-lockdown protests, ready to fight a government that in their eyes is throwing its power around to keep citizens in their homes. Showing up armed, they hope to incite violence giving them reason to turn on police. Similarly, they have attended Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests, attempting to stoke an already tense environment into a shooting zone. And although some bois may share certain political views with protestors, their main motivation is not to achieve change. No, they are there to kick off the boogaloo.
  • Attacks: These are the most deadly and blatant acts of allegiance to the movement. There have been several attacks by boogaloo bois in recent months, and there is little doubt there will be more. On May 29, Steven Carrillo, an Air Force Staff Sgt., shot two Oakland police officers, killing one. Authorities learned that Carrillo was a boogaloo “adherent”, and he has since been charged with murder and attempted murder. The next day, three men were arrested by the FBI for plotting to incite violence at a Black Lives Matter protest. They were found with Molotov cocktails, guns, ammunition, accelerants, and gasoline. The possibilities for how this could have played out show the danger the boogaloo movement has incited.

Why is this important?

Although they have been gaining more press recently, the boogaloo movement still remains less known in the public eye. This is a truly dangerous group of individuals whose ideals have spread across a wide group of people. Private militias, the potential for domestic terrorism, and the hijacking of peaceful protests are all things that make the boogaloo far more than an edgy meme. It gives dangerous communities a sense of empowerment, an affirmation of victimization that can only be resolved through bloody violence.

Empty threats from keyboard warriors and shitposters are one thing, but this movement has proven itself to be truly deadly. Additionally, promoting an attitude of revolution is especially unhelpful at a time like this where political strife and tension is rampant. What this country needs is healing, not heightened division between its citizens.

The Rantt Rundown

The boogaloo movement started out as an internet inside joke but is now beyond a laughing matter. While some may still view it as just a meme, the reality is that numerous people are taking to the streets motivated to fight–and the meme only encourages them.

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