by Chris M. Stevens
UNITED STATES — Turmoil and trouble. Chaos and confusion. The American political landscape. Doesn’t seem to matter the issue or belief. People don’t seem to talk or discuss. They shout. They scream. Oftentimes on the street level violence erupts.
These crazy times dropped off the edge into the twilight zone when the pandemic exploded the economy. Biology pays no mind to politics, nor media. Suddenly beliefs became bigger than facts. Or expert opinion. For many, a person’s ideology prods them to perceive any beliefs different from them as an attack by the “other.”
This long simmering opposition to those perceived as the “other” has given rise to several groups that operate on the extreme edges of society. Let’s look at two of the very well-known: Antifa (pronounced an-tee-fa) and Boogaloo. Both represent an ideology not specific political beliefs or actions. Neither operates as a national organization with no command or leadership structure. And among members of one group the underlying ideology varies. Local members of boogaloo from one area or region might condemn racism and one from another might be more anti-government. Some members of boogaloo joined in the protests for the George Floyd killing. According to law enforcement, very few of antifa did.
- * *
Antifa BACKGROUND. The movement had originated in Germany during the rise of the nazis. The ideology of antifa took hold in the United States in 1980 known as the Anti-Racist Action. The members had confronted neo-Nazi skinheads at punk music shows in the U.S. midwest. The movement lay dormant until the election of President Trump and the emergence of what is now known as the alt-right. NOTE. In 2010, the American white nationalist Richard B. Spencer had launched The Alternative Right webzine.
According to Mark Bray, author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, the group is looking to build “a movement that really insulates us from the policies of Donald Trump. It’s not just resisting the federal administration but also resisting moves that can lead to fascism… And these happen locally whether from local officials or from local alt-right movements.”
Previously, members of antifa came from the ranks of anarchists and other fringe believers. The election of Trump has brought a huge influx of people, including many much more moderate people to identify as antifa. While the hard-core members wear the ‘uniform’ of all black including face masks and helmet, most new people who identify with the group don’t dress that way.
It is important for police and others to realize this distinction. No question some members of antifa, especially those dressed in their “black bloc,” arrive with their pepper spray, knives, rocks and bricks “ready to rumble” as they say. “The idea,” according to NBC News Reporter Brandy Zadronzy, “is if more people had brawled with the actual nazis then Hitler and the Nazi party would never have risen to power.”
The newest members of antifa tend to use the tried and true tactics of a peaceful demonstration or protest, e.g., chanting during an appearance by a right-wing speaker, or forming a human chain to surround a facility and block the entrance to where the speaker is set to appear.
The other major activity of antifa includes online harassment of right wing extremists. Members expose radical extremists online with their name, address, and employment. They claim they “dehood Klansmen” and term it “doxxed.”
Antifa also carries a unique distinction among extremist groups: a large segment of female members. The bulk of women who identify as antifa state both the White House and President Trump’s policies on immigration, affordable health care, abortion rights, and voting rights, affect women and minorities the most.
The group does hold the history and potential for starting violence. Antifa activists had succeeded in stopping an appearance by Milo Yiannopolous, an extreme right wing commentator, at UC Berkeley, by smashing windows and setting fires. Thus, the established rights organizations consider their actions counter-productive. None of the respected civil rights organizations endorse or participate in antifa events.
NOTE. An analysis by NPR of the 51 people arrested and facing federal charges from the BLM and George Floyd protests, none had any affiliation with antifa.
- * *
Boogaloo BACKGROUND. The term had emerged in late 2019. The origins: the 1984 cult film, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. The dance film revolved around the fight to prevent the demolition of a community recreation center for a shopping mall.
The group had sprang from the weapons discussion section of 4Chan, an image-based, Internet bulletin board, where anyone can post comments and share images. The platform hosts bulletin boards which cover a wide range of topics. Users do not need to register an account before participating in the community. Members often refer to themselves as the ‘boogaloo bois.’
The libertarian leaning culture quickly spread across the Internet through social media into a diverse mix of Facebook®, Instagram®, Reddit® and Twitter®, groups and servers. Soon users were sharing mostly libertarian beliefs, sayings and importantly memes, which have become a primary method of communication. The adherents typically wear tropical shirts and military fatigues. As it originated from a weapons discussion bulletin board, all Boogaloo Bois are armed.
A group of armed men in aloha shirts and boogaloo patches made the first major public awareness during a crowded pro–Second Amendment rally in Richmond, Virginia, in January 2020. In March, many came out again for the anti-lockdown protests. Some even attended the killing of George Floyd protests, though not always in agreement, rather some had attended to oppose the left.
The current boogaloo movement, acts as a domestic, anti-U.S. government group and has become energized amid the recent protests over coronavirus lockdowns and George Floyd’s killing. The president’s tweet to “liberate” states emboldened the members. Several armed members participated in the mass demonstrations staged at state capitals, notably Michigan.
While members both anticipate and expect a second civil war – which they call the “boogaloo” – they stay active with other activities as they believe this is their moment.
Men who believe their future appears bleak as the country slides into socialism and other forms of repression represent the bulk of members. A common theme in videos shared on social media platforms include an idealized world of the United States in the 1950s and 60s with a happy, intact, wholesome nuclear family.
Boogaloo memes also often focus on the overreach of law enforcement. Recently many in the movement have made comparisons with the recent high-profile police killings of Black American as the same as when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and FBI attacked at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas.
No question violence surrounds boogaloo. And exists in the world of antifa. (See related articles.) Antifa rejects fascism and sometimes uses unacceptable tactics. The boogaloo tend to be those who expect a bleak future and use violence to support and spread their ideology of hate to undermine democratic norms.
False Fear stokes emotional responses
by Chris M. Stevens
UNITED STATES — Who to believe? The explosion of social media has spawned an echo chamber for anyone. The social media platforms provide no editorial supervision, nor any fact-checkers to verify the information. While recent actions have moved the needle and some will label posts questionable or without verification, still posters on social media continue to provide a voluminous amount of deliberate disinformation.
One social media post will say sources claim antifa acts violent and is why the president seeks to label them a ‘terrorist’ organization. Another social media post will claim boogaloo intentionally incites violence.
Unfortunately sorting through the various claims remains elusive as a strictly political term has entered the lexicon: alternative facts.
The mass of media coverage of the two most well-known extremist groups refer to them as ‘ideology-driven.’ In the search for like-minded people, all extremest groups, right or left, have garnered members, followers, and supporters on social media platforms.
So let’s take a look at some examples of how fear of “the other” has driven activities. And as former President Franklin Roosevelt once said, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”
ANTIFA. The small somewhat isolated seaside town of Coquille, Oregon, with its 3,800 residents, existed primarily as a logging town 250 miles south of Portland and 500 miles north of San Francisco. Organizers has scheduled a peaceful Black Lives Matter (BLM) rally during June. A posting on social media had helped generate a rumor that quickly spread through town: three busloads of antifa extremists planned to come create chaos, violence and vandalism.
Craig Zanni, the sheriff of Coos County and his deputies donned ballistic vests, pulled out the armored vehicle, and took defensive positions to prevent the invasion. Almost 200 locals also gathered with them, most armed with rifles amid a sea of U.S. flags. The defenders far outnumbered the handful of peaceful protesters who marched with their BLM signs.
John Ward, Curry County sheriff, had witnessed a previous peaceful rally, which he hadn’t opposed, in nearby Brooking, Oregon. A posting on social media had warned that antifa was also headed there. Sheriff Ward had mobilized his force and asked citizens to prepare to help law enforcement fight off the upcoming attack. Not a single member of antifa had appeared.
Just to the north in Washington state. A mixed race family from Spokane, of a dad, mom, 15-year old daughter and grandmother, had traveled to Forks, Washington, a small almost all-white town, to camp nearby at a remote site a few miles outside town. A posting on social media had stated they were antifa there to scout the area. After stopping in town to purchase supplies, locals had confronted them as they exited the store asking if they were antifa, which the family denied.
Local newspaper The Peninsula Daily News, later reported how the armed men had aggressively intimidated, harassed and terrified the family. Four cars filled with locals, some armed, had followed them out of town. Once the family arrived at the remote camping area, the vigilantes cut down trees and blocked the road so the family was trapped. The dad called 911 and law enforcement arrived with four high school students who cut the logs and cleared the road. Deputies then had escorted the family to safety. The locals had declared they were heroes for defending their community.
NOTE. Make no mistake, many members of antifa welcome physical confrontation and violence. Despite their insistence they only resort to violence in self defense, they have engaged in activities that initiated contact. However, of the 51 people facing federal charges for the riots, looting, arson and murder during the recent George Floyd and BLM protests the Justice Department has not identified even one of the 51 people as linked with antifa.
Violence seems to surround the members of BOOGALOO.
Murder. June 6, 2020 32-year old Air Force Staff Sergeant Steven Carrillo had been arrested at his home in Ben Lomand, California for the murder of 53-year old David Patrick Underwood, during a George Floyd protest. A white van had pulled up to the Ronald V. Dellums federal building in Oakland, driven by his accomplice, 30-year old Robert Justus, Jr. Carrillo began firing at security personnel and Underwood, a federal Protective Services officer, was shot while guarding the facility.
During the arrest, Carrillo had attacked police with pipe bombs and killed a police sergeant, Damon Gutzwiller. Police discovered Carrillo had placed a patch with a boogaloo symbol on the white van he had hijacked. He was wearing a ballistic vest with a boogaloo symbol of a U.S. flag (an igloo instead of stars). Carrillo had also written “Boog” and “I became unreasonable” and “Stop the duopoly” using his own blood on the hood of the van.
The Martyr. Duncan Lempe, a Facebook® group leader for Boogaloo. March 12, 2020. The cops had executed a no-knock warrant at his home in Potomac, Maryland and killed Lemp. Law enforcement claimed the home contained a hidden cache of illegal weapons. His family proclaims that false and also claim he was shot while asleep. Many on the far right have stated he was killed due to his anti-government beliefs. He now serves as a martyr and rallying cry for boogaloo members.
Aaron Swenson. Targets cops. Arrested April 11 in Texas, Swenson had streamed a live video on Facebook® while he was driving to “find cops to murder.” Following a high speed chase, when arrested Swenson was wearing a bullet proof vest and in possession of loaded weapons and several rounds of ammunition. He had shared boogaloo memes during the live event while other members had watched and made comments.
Stephen Parhsall, a 35-year-old, Andrew Lynam, 23, and William Loomis, 40. Terrorists. The three were arrested in Las Vegas. They had originally planned to bomb electrical substations. Once a local George Floyd protest had been scheduled they changed their plan. They told a confidential informant they planned to incite violence and start a riot at the event. The three were arrested as they prepared to attend the protest and when police arrived the three were filling gasoline cans and making molotov cocktails.
None of these folks, neither ‘antifa’ nor ‘boogaloo’ can claim victim status. They live by the sword and will suffer the consequences. Pay attention.
Proud Boys generate violence
by Chris M. Stevens
UNITED STATES — The Proud Boys. As we examine just who these folks are that make up the extremists among us, this group stands out. Why? Couple reasons. First they maintain a command structure and national organization, and second they make no secret of their intentions. As opposed to varying ideologies and motivations, the Proud Boys maintain a clearly identified mission: promote their racist, chauvinist agenda while confronting ‘lefties’ especially ‘antifa.’ With a documented history of street violence many Proud Boys wear a sticker that proclaims: “antifa hunting permit.”
Founded in 2016 by right-wing activist Gavin McInnes as an all-male, anti-immigrant, group. The name had emerged from the musical version of the Disney film Alladin in a reference to the song Proud of Your Boy.
In order to join, a member must declare he is “a western chauvinist who refuses to apologize for creating a modern world.” The ‘uniform’ includes black and yellow Fred Perry polo shirt and red Make America Great Again hat.
The Southern Poverty Law Center labels the Proud Boys a ‘hate group.’
McInnes stepped down as the group’s chairman in 2018. Enrique Tarrio, who also serves as the Florida director of Latinos for Trump, now serves as national chairman.
One example of the group’s violence. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office successfully prosecuted Maxwell Hare, 27, and John Kinsman, 40, two members of the Proud Boys. The two had been involved in a violent 2018 clash with anti-fascist protesters in New York City. They had been convicted of attempted gang assault, attempted assault, and riot in August, 2019.
During the October 2018 street brawl Hare and Kinsman had beaten four members of antifa who had staged a peaceful protest at an event featuring Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes at the Metropolitan Republican Club on Manhattan’s Tony Upper East Side.
In October of 2019, the judge sentenced both Hare and Kinsman to four years in prison and five years post-release supervision. A State Supreme Court jury had rejected the defendants’ claims that they had acted in self-defense.
Today, the Proud Boys believe the removal of Confederate statues is a left-wing effort to “destroy American history.” Members have been spotted in several states ‘guarding’ statues.
Several armed Proud Boys ventured to Seattle and the ‘no-police’ Capital Hill Autonomous Zone to confront the “authoritarian behavior,” by the protesters. Fox News had faked a photo of a resident of the zone acting as an armed ‘guard’ protecting the entrance.
Like many groups the Proud Boys relied on social media to play a prominent role in national communication. However, due to the group’s association with violence, Facebook®, Instagram®, Twitter®, and YouTube® have all banned them. Many accounts had been disguised, but tied to the organization. Facebook® has deleted 385 accounts and Instagram® 172 accounts.
Former Proud Boys member Jason Kessler had helped organize the 2017 white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a member had slammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing anti-racist activist Heather Heyer.
Clint Watts, a former F.B.I. agent now studies extremist political activity for a Philadelphia-based think tank, the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He states, “The numbers are overwhelming: Most of the violence is coming from the extreme right wing.”