David Neiwert / Daily Kos Staff
(October 19, 2020) — Just over a week after 13 militiamen were arrested in Michigan by state and federal authorities for plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a collection of heavily armed “Boogaloo” civil-war activists gathered on the steps of the state Capitol in Lansing in what was simultaneously a kind of public-relations effort and a gesture of antigovernment defiance.
On the one hand, the Saturday rally seemed an attempt to persuade the public and the media that the “Boogaloo” movement participants are just ordinary citizens eager for dialogue, so that “hopefully we can get some positive light shone on what we’re trying to do here,” as one of the organizers told the crowd. But other speakers undermined that message by warning angrily that they are prepared to respond violently to “tyranny” by the government or police: “The wood chipper’s revved up!” threatened one.
The gathering was relatively small, according to the Lansing State Journal, but there was no shortage of guns of various kinds, including semiautomatic rifles, as well as body armor and the Hawaiian shirts that have become the uniform of “Boogaloo” activists. Participants and organizers insisted that “the movement is preaching unity and collaboration and disavowed both racist beliefs and violence.”
“We only exist because people have failed at what they were meant to do time and time again,” said Tim Teagan, who spoke at the rally. Literature at the rally claimed the movement primarily wants “the abolition of the overpowered, overreaching tyrannical government.”
Anger at the police was a focus of the rally, and it provided the opportunity for the “Boogaloo” crowd to display their sometimes-complex makeup. One speaker cited the names of both Black people murdered by police, as well as “Boogaloo” martyrs such as Duncan Lemp, both described as victims of the “disproportionate use of state force.”
A smaller group carrying a Black Lives Matter banner showed up, saying they were concerned about the “Boogaloo” movement. One of the white women who participated in the rally attempted to persuade a BLM marcher that the negative perception of the Boogaloo movement is product of media spin and misinformation, and that it “wants to bring people together and not divide them.”
“Do you think Black lives matter?” the BLM marcher asked.
“Absolutely Black lives matter. All lives matter,” the woman answered.
And while the Journal interviewed rallygoers who distanced themselves from the previous week’s arrest in the kidnapping plot, some of the speakers reminded everyone in attendance that an undercurrent of violence runs through the “Boogaloo” movement.
One speaker explained that the rally was a gesture of defiance in the face of the recent arrests: “We are gathered here today because divide and conquer is the oldest rule in the book, and we will play the game on our terms, not theirs,” he said, and then continued:
Why are we at the breaking point? Why are we ready to take up arms against those in power? For any of those wondering politicians, magistrates, and officers of the law: We are all here because the social contract has been broken persistently and intentionally, by you who believe that your office makes you public masters, not public servants.
You may get away with your tyranny for a time longer, but the day of reckoning rapidly approaches. The jig will be up, the tables will have turned, the tar in the kettle — the wood chipper’s revved up! The fires will continue to rage.
I implore you for your sake as well as mine, accept that your control lasts only as long as the people allow it. Class-consciousness is here and it is a more powerful adversary than you or me.
This means: Return the police from the place of a tax collector to that of protecting society from its most dangerous elements — those who take life, liberty and property, not those who do not injure the rights of others. End the war on drugs. End civil asset forfeiture, end the cash-bail racket, and your unjust and unconstitutional intrusion into the lives of your citizens.
The “Boogaloo” bloc became publicly active in Michigan this spring by showing up in numbers at protests against COVID-19 public-health measures, including stay-at-home orders and business closures. The vitriol against Whitmer was whipped into a frenzy at these rallies, which included some of the same militiamen as those arrested last week, who descended on the Capitol. Men with weapons attempted to force their way onto the floor of the state House, which then voted not to extend the stay-at-home orders.
Their rhetoric became even more violent two weeks later for a follow-up protest. “We need a good old fashioned lynch mob to storm the Capitol, drag her tyrannical ass out onto the street and string her up as our forefathers would have,” one of them wrote on an anti-lockdown Facebook page — a sentiment that was repeated on that page and others.
Not only is discussion of the Boogaloo on social media overflowing with hateful rhetoric culminating in violent fantasies — including not just killing law enforcement officers and lynching political authorities, but also of invading their neighbors’ homes and killing them, as Alex Jones has done — its history as an idea is derived straight from white supremacist lore.
Robert Evans and Jason Wilson at Bellingcat have explored in depth how the Boogaloo recruitment funnel has a very wide opening that includes people from LGBTQ communities, as well as some anarchists and people of color. In its nascent stages, at least, “the apocalyptic, anti-government politics of the “Boogaloo Bois” are not monolithically racist/neo-Nazi,” and indeed on Facebook pages, they can be found to “rail against police shootings of African Americans, and praise black nationalist self-defense groups.”
But the materials also demonstrate that however irony-drenched it may appear to be, this is a movement actively preparing for armed confrontation with law enforcement, and anyone else who would restrict their expansive understanding of the right to bear arms. In a divided, destabilized post-coronavirus landscape, they could well contribute to widespread violence in the streets of American cities.
The underlying violence at play with both the “Boogaloo” movement and its militia-oriented adherents was reinforced Friday when the FBI released chilling videos of the men arrested the previous week engaging in preparations for kidnapping Whitmer.
In one of the videos, two men in camouflage fatigues and holding semiautomatic rifles pull up to a target in the front seats of a PT Cruiser and take aim, then jump out of the vehicle and commence firing on the target, joined by several other men with weapons. Another man coaches them: “Keep moving,” he says. Other videos show the accused plotters brandishing and handling weapons.
Indicted suspect Brandon Caserta ranted in one of the videos about taking out “government thugs” — including police officers — and saying that if “this whole thing starts to happen, I’m telling you what, dude, I’m taking out as many of those motherfuckers as I can. Every single one, dude. I’m sick of being robbed and enslaved by the state … they are the fucking enemy. Period.”
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