9 months ago I sat across the table sharing a pizza and a beer with a man who almost certainly was armed.
I asked him, “How do you think tomorrow is going to go?”
He replied, “Either nothing’s going to happen or we’re going to lynch the Governor.”
I awkwardly chuckled, the man across the table did not join me in the laugh. A couple of minutes later he excused himself, grabbing his keys that were sitting on the table which was attached to a U.S. ARMY lanyard.
The next morning, over 10,000 men and women would descend on the capital of Virginia for a rally against the governor’s proposed gun ownership restrictions. The Governor was not proposing confiscation just some minor changes in registration.
I thought of that conversation when I heard the news about the thwarted plot to kidnap the Governor of Michigan. What I was surprised to hear though was that the plot was not over the second amendment, but over Governor Whitmer’s COVID-19 relates ‘lockdown’ of the state.
Many of the people that attended the rally that day were militia, boogaloo boys, and even a small contingent of Proud Boys.
If you know anything about militias you probably know about the Michigan militia. It’s definitely where I first learned about the modern ‘militia.’ The founder of the Michigan militia, Norm Olson, actually once testified in front of Congress and was called ‘Feisty” by the Chicago Tribune. This was just 2 months after one of their associates, working with members of the militia murdered 168 men, women, and children at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
The vast threat of the militia movement wasn’t taken seriously then (they were feisty, not dangerous, remember?), and it’s potential for violence and unrest hasn’t been taken seriously until (hopefully at least) now.
The arrests of the 6 men facing federal charges and 7 facing state charges around a conspiracy to commit kidnapping of the Governor of Michigan should come as no surprise. Just last month a Dallas field office FBI internal report, which was obtained by Ken Klippenstein of The Nation discussed the threat of “Boogaloo Adherents Likely Increasing Anti-Government Violent Rhetoric and Activities, Increasing Domestic Violent Extremist Threat in the FBI Dallas Area of Responsibility.” FBI Director Wray, earlier this year noted that the greatest threat to America domestically was domestic terrorist groups – i.e. militias, ‘boogaloo’, and other hate-based gangs (my wording). Thanks in part to the restructuring of the Department of Homeland Security’s domestic terror operations by President Trump and by far too friendly relationship with these groups from law enforcement the real threat of the evolving militia movement has been overlooked.
Now, we’re dealing with a militia movement that is emboldened by the President’s rhetoric to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and accelerated by disinformation on the internet. No better example of that was seen in Gettysburg over the July 4th holiday where hundreds of militia members and other ‘concerned citizens’ descended on the historic town carrying enough firearms to restart the Civil War.
Which may be the point.
The men connected to the conspiracy to kidnap the Governor of Michigan, blow up a bridge and potentially murder law enforcement are not quite the militia of Commander Norm Olson’s days. While they train in the woods, wear tactical gear and give themselves fake military rankings – they’re closer to the ‘boogaloo movement.’
The boogaloo movement is anarchist based on the real meaning of the word ‘anarchist’ not what Trump or Biden calls ‘anarchists. They want a stateless society, not a Marxist/Socialist like some ‘antifa’ might but in this case – it’s basically the dreams of an extreme libertarian prepper community. Most of the rest of us would consider it a nightmare.
But unlike most anarchists on the left – they are often accelerations who want to bring about the second civil war. Which is why they are armed to the teeth and training with whatever established groups they can. They take their name from the cult-favorite film “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.” The movie (not a good one) has nothing to do with a civil war but like so much of our current internet meme culture has evolved from an inside joke to a racist meme to violence in the streets.
They are not fascist-leaning (in theory) like the Proud Boys or the Patriot Front groups – but in the confusing Venn diagram of far-right extremist movements will often share allegiances or at least work together at the same events. But, take everything I wrote above with a grain of salt, people who might call themselves boogaloo in Cleveland, Ohio could easily disagree with everything that some boog in Lansing, Michigan might believe. Like most internet meme’s it’s an ever-moving target. They attended many Black Lives Matter rallies proving security protecting protesters from police in one town and confusingly in the next town they were seen protecting a Hobby Lobby.
The arrested members of the Wolverine Watchmen, as reported in The Daily Beast, also shared QAnon conspiracies related to child-trafficking, defended Kyle Rittenhouse who was arrested for killing two protesters in Wisconsin, and shared 3%er (militia related) memes. One of the accused, Pete Musico also was a fan of Infowars and prominent Proud Boy, Joey Biggs.
Much like how the Michigan Militia distanced themselves from Timothy McVeigh after the Oklahoma City Bombing but were vital to his plot to murder Federal employees, there’s no doubt that the groups that these Wolverines followed will deny any similarities. But they’re there.
This is what keeps Bill Fulton, author of The Blood of Patriots and a researcher on domestic terrorism up at night, “They’ve always worked together. You’ve always had that, the Venn diagram becomes a circle when it comes to the sovereigns [citizens] and the militias and the hate groups and some of these, more radical evangelical groups, they share massive amounts of membership.“
Thanks to Facebook, twitter, gab, and now Paler it’s easier than ever quickly share your memes with other people – whether their a cat reading a newspaper, thinking of buying a boat or one that references an 80’s movie about breakdancing. And none of that’s going to change – whether Trump or Biden wins.
Fulton, who was undercover with a militia during Sarah Palin’s time as Governor says, “I think this is the new normal. Yeah. I don’t see them going anywhere. The ideological lines have been drawn. Anybody who’s still voting for Trump at this point, just because Biden wins doesn’t mean that they’re going to just shut up and go away. Yeah. You can’t let somebody kill 220,000 of your country, man, and still support him for president.”
The question now is, will these groups ‘stand back and stand by’ waiting for a Presidential tweet as the President asked at the end of the debate, “to go into the polls and watch very carefully.”