In recent days, people protesting police brutality in Milwaukee and in dozens of other cities around the country have been joined by young white men carrying assault rifles and flying “Big Igloo” flags. Some of the men have engaged with the marchers, saying their goal is to protect everyone’s First Amendment rights. Some have stayed on the sidelines, quiet about their intentions but unmistakable in their intimidation.
It’s likely both groups are affiliated with a movement known as the Boogaloo, according to experts on far-right organizations. Members are not united in their goals, with some seemingly determined to protect protesters and others hoping to provoke violence.
“They believe that in this current moment, the chaos that surrounds us is signaling the potential for an impending second civil war which, believe it or not, they are hoping for because they believe that will rid the United States of all its problems,” said Devin Burghart, executive director of the national Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.
Boogaloo adherents grew up on social media and the meme culture, according to Burghart and Alex Newhouse, digital research lead at the Middlebury Institute’s Center on Terrorism, Extremism and Counterterrorism.
“Taken to a more radical level, they actively want to start violence with the state,” Newhouse said. “This is way more about confronting, escalating and trying to be at the place where the supposed revolution or the civil war starts.”