The Complicated Truth About the Boogaloo Movement
Is America headed for a civil war?
According to the followers of one fast-growing online subculture, increasing political polarization and instability will inevitably lead to a domestic armed conflict, which they refer to as Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo.
That’s a play on the title of a 1984 breakdancing film, from which the movement—known as “the Boogaloo,” “Big Igloo” or, sometimes, “Big Luau”—also derived its name.
The Hawaiian shirt-wearing, gun-toting activists known as Boogbois have migrated out of memespace and into the streets, showing up at Black Lives Matter demonstrations in many American cities—often in apparent sympathy with the cause.
But these labels don’t capture what this dispersed movement is all about.
The Boogaloo movement is Gen Z Second Amendment activism. Its members forgo the patriotic symbolism of traditional militia movements for flowered apparel, bright patches, and colorful memes. Their approach to organizing resembles Hong Kong’s decentralized, privacy-conscious, and social media-heavy protest movement.
They are digitally native activists, raised on Instagram and TikTok, who understand that in the world of online feedback loops, actions are often less important than the way they’re presented.
Their online rhetoric is infused with paranoia, and its members circulate unfounded theories of rampant, unchecked pedophilia, which they say must be stamped out extrajudicially, if necessary. They claim that societal breakdown is inevitable, but their public stances often makes it seem as if a violent Civil War is something they’d like to see happen. And the movement’s organic, leaderless structure leaves it highly susceptible to being co-opted by its worst, most dangerous actors.
The members who spoke to Reason stand against gun control, the drug war, and aggressive policing. They are also convinced that there’s rampant pedophilia in American society that must be dealt with, extrajudicially if need be.
Sometimes they’ve aligned themselves with right-wing militia groups, at other moments, with Black Lives Matter. The one issue that seems to unify them is a conviction that armed resistance to government overreach is entirely justified.
“It’s a very powerful movement that has come together and unified against racism, tyranny, pedophilia, and government overreach,” says Mike Dunn, a visible face in a mostly faceless movement. “It’s one of the biggest unified movements there has been among gun owners and freedom-loving Americans.”
On October 8, police arrested Dunn for allegedly trespassing while openly carrying a firearm at a rally for Libertarian Party Presidential Candidate Jo Jorgensen.
Dunn says he left home at age 16 and joined the Marine Corps a year later. When he returned to Virginia, he embarked on a new political project.
“I began building militias and connecting them all together under one under one [heading],” says Dunn. “And then my buddy, who I was connected with through some militia work…was Duncan Lemp.”
In March, Montgomery County police shot to death 21-year-old Duncan Lemp after bursting into his Maryland home in the middle of the night with an arrest warrant.
“I believe they blatantly killed him in cold blood. And we’re going to have justice,” says Dunn. “After he was killed, it really pushed me to become part of the Boogaloo movement.”
Lemp’s death gave rise to theories that he was targeted for his involvement in militia movements. Police say they were seizing firearms he wasn’t allowed to own because of a juvenile conviction. The Montgomery County Police Department has failed to produce the arrest warrant or bodycam footage of the shooting despite requests from Reason‘s C.J. Ciamerella.
The Lemp faction of the Boogaloo movement often use his
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