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Illustration by Security Management

Purported Boogaloo Bois Charged with Supporting Foreign Terrorist

Federal authorities charged two members of the Boogaloo movement with conspiring and attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Michael Solomon from Minnesota and Benjamin Ryan from North Carolina were arrested last week after federal agents said the pair had met an undercover agent posing as a senior representative from Hamas. Solomon and Ryan had five firearms suppressors and a manufactured device to convert a weapon into an automatic weapon. An affidavit from an FBI agent details how the pair were proposing ongoing manufacture and sale of these devices to Hamas. These interactions, as well as vague plots to bomb an historic courthouse in the Twin Cities area and assassinate politicians, were recorded.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice press release, “Solomon and Teeter expressed that Hamas shares anti-U.S. government views that align with their own views. Solomon and Teeter also expressed their desire to employ themselves as 'mercenaries' for Hamas as a means to generate cash for the Boogaloo Bois/Boojahideen movement, including funding for recruitment and purchasing land for a training compound.”

For what it’s worth, Hamas was compelled to issue a statement denying any connection with the Boogaloo Bois.

The case was filed in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota and as part of the Attorney General’s Task Force to Combat Violent Anti-Government Extremism launched in June.

The Boogaloo movement, also known as the Bugaloo Bois movement, is the strange-sounding fringe element that has garnered mainstream attention during the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests initiated after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers. Men armed with assault rifles and other firearms wearing Hawaiian-style shirts appeared in images and videos of BLM protests around the country. These men are Bugaloo Bois, though not all of them wear Hawaiian shirts. A brief explanation is in order.

The Anti-Defamation League chronicles the origins of the movement. The term “bugaloo” refers to a 1984 movie centered on break dancing called Breakin’2: Electric Boogaloo. The movie quickly became an object of ridicule and humor attempts, especially by replacing the word “breakin” with whatever would sound absurd. Eventually, someone came up with the phrase Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo, and many people created and circulated attempted humorous memes showing societal destruction with the caption. With social media, these memes grew followings and when mixed with ideology, the memes morphed from humor to political satire.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) look into the beginning of the Boogaloo movement, it derives from two different right-wing ideologies: white supremacism and libertarianism. The movement is best described as a tenuous affiliation of groups, which are composed of loosely affiliated individuals who have interacted together on social media. There is no leader or central authority of any kind.

Across all the groups, there are two unifying beliefs. First, the right to bear arms is absolute and in jeopardy. Second, there will be, or should be, an uprising of civil unrest and armed conflict that will topple the current system of government and authority—derived from the Civil War 2 satirical memes of the movement’s origins. In the vacuum of power that results, in will swoop the Boogaloo Bois to build and enforce libertarian-leaning, Fascist institutions.

The groups that form around libertarian ideals do not necessarily endorse white supremacy. However, there is a general belief that the impending civil war will be race-based. As a result, many in the Boogaloo movement have been active instigators in the BLM protests, antagonizing both law enforcement and protestors.

Oh, and the Hawaiian shirts? To keep things strange, that’s in reference to the term “big luau.” According to the SPLC origins document, big luau is an adaptation of the word Boogaloo. In a double entendre, it also references cooking a pig, common at a luau celebration, with the pig symbolizing the derogatory term used for police officer.

The entire Boogaloo Bois idea sounds like it should be a law enforcement joke, akin to snipe hunting. How could a dangerous movement grow up around an attempt at humor using the ridiculous name of a terrible movie? The shenanigans of Solomon and Teeter are not exactly signs that the Boogaloo Bois are a threat like the mafia or MS-13. However, the threat is serious. In an interview with Boston NPR station WBUR, Kathleen Belew, a professor at The University of Chicago and author of Bringing the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America, said:

“We think about these problems of social movement, radicalization, about the platforms like Facebook and other online channels for reaching and recruiting vulnerable people into these radical acts of violence. That's a strategy that has been working in this movement, you know, across decades, if not across generations. So we have to think about this group as a widespread social force that has evaded public understanding of it. It has evaded effective policymaking and criminal prosecution very effectively for years and years now.”

In addition to last week’s conspiracy charges, the Boogaloo movement made the news in June with an arrest of three men making Molotov cocktails in Las Vegas and the arrest of a man in Oakland in the murder of a federal officer.