A far-right extremist movement born on social media and fueled by anti-government rhetoric has emerged as a real-world threat in recent weeks, with federal authorities accusing some of its adherents of working to spark violence at largely peaceful protests roiling the nation.
At a time when President Trump and other top U.S. officials have claimed — with little evidence — that leftist groups were fomenting violence, federal prosecutors have charged various supporters of a right-wing movement called the “boogaloo bois,” with crimes related to plotting to firebomb a U.S. Forest Service facility, preparing to use explosives at a peaceful demonstration and killing a security officer at a federal courthouse.
Prosecutors even successfully argued before a federal magistrate in Texas over the weekend that a drug possession suspect with alleged boogaloo ties should be denied bond because Facebook and Instagram posts advocating violence against National Guard members and threatening to kill looters showed he was a “threat to the community.”
Boogaloo is more of a violent anti-government ideology than a formal movement, say those who study extremist groups. They say they cannot identify a leader, headquarters or command structure, just loosely affiliated social media pages ranging from explicitly violent to merely commercial, peddling boogaloo-themed merchandise.
But the visibility of boogaloo supporters at recent protests — dressed in trademark Hawaiian shirts and carrying military-style rifles — had alarmed researchers who for months had warned about the danger the groups posed.
Now federal prosecutors in California, Texas, Nevada and Colorado appear to be endorsing those concerns with a series of criminal charges against self-described boogaloo supporters, whose arrests often were accompanied by the seizure of weapons and explosives.
One boogaloo supporter, Steven Carrillo, an active-duty Air Force staff sergeant, is charged with killing a security guard at the federal courthouse in Oakland last month. Court documents allege he scrawled the word “Boog” in blood on a car he had stolen.
“The numbers are overwhelming: Most of the violence is coming from the extreme right wing,” said Clint Watts, a former FBI agent who studies extremist political activity for the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a think tank in Philadelphia.