This week’s arrest of a 26-year-old Texas “Boogaloo Boi” for opening fire on a Minneapolis police station with a semiautomatic rifle, and later participating in an act of arson against the station, confirmed what many observers of the violence surrounding the protests against police brutality that followed the May 25 murder of George Floyd already knew: That far-right extremists have been initiating violence and property destruction at the scenes of the protests in hopes of inflaming racial tensions and provoking an all-out civil war, in part by blaming the “violent left” for the chaos.
The FBI this week arrested Ivan Harrison Hunter of San Antonio for traveling to Minnesota in late May and engaging in violence about which he later boasted on Facebook. Hunter, according to the affidavit filed Monday, was also in contact with another Boogaloo Boi—Steven Carrillo, the California man who murdered a federal officer at an Oakland protest and a sheriff’s deputy five days later—and the two bragged to each other about their respective violent acts. Moreover, the two men had formed a so-called “fire team”—an action squad designed to respond with violence in the event of police attempting to take people’s guns away. They named it the “Happy Friends Group.”
Though Hunter had sworn he would “go down shooting,” FBI agents arrested him this week in San Antonio without incident, and he made his first court appearance Thursday.
The affidavit says that Hunter traveled from Texas to Minneapolis on May 27 at the behest of other Boogaloo activists in the state, who put out a national call for help on Facebook. Hunter was in contact with another Boogaloo Boi, Ryan Teeter of North Carolina, who also traveled from his home state to Minnesota. That day, Teeter posted to Facebook: "Lock and load boys. Boog flags are in the air, and the national network is going off."
The FBI says that on the evening of May 28, Hunter fired off multiple rounds from a rifle resembling an AK-47, then ran away shouting: “Justice for Floyd!”
The next day, he boasted on Facebook that he had participated in setting the building on fire. “I helped the community burn down that police station,” he wrote, later adding: “I didn’t’ protest peacefully Dude ... Want something to change? Start risking felonies for what is good.”
“The BLM protesters in Minneapolis loved me [sic] fireteam and I,” he wrote on June 11.
He and Carrillo exchanged texts on May 28, two hours after the police station had been set on fire—and mere hours after Carrillo had shot two federal protection officers at the scene of a Black Lives Matter protest in Oakland, killing one of them.
“Boog,” Hunter texted Carrillo, an apparent call for action.
“Did,” Carrillo answered.
“Luv,” Hunter replied.
“Currently in hide mode,” Carrillo said.
“Target police stations,” Hunter answered.
“I did better lol,” Carrillo texted back. Hunter later hit Carrillo up for money because he planned to “be in the woods for a bit.” Carrillo sent him $200.
Hunter seemingly was planning even further violence on June 4 around Floyd-inspired police brutality protests in Austin, according to the affidavit: Austin police pulled him over in a truck with two other men, fully decked out in body armor and gear with multiple loaded semiautomatic magazines, along with three rifles and two pistols. Hunter denied owning any of the guns, which were confiscated by the police, and the men were released.
The Boogaloo movement, a relatively recent development that began online and has in the past year been manifesting itself in the real world, reflects the radical right’s longstanding fantasies about provoking a mass civil war in America that would end democratic “tyranny.” The presence of Boogaloo elements at the police brutality protests of the past five months has been well documented (the movement is also fervently anti-police), though a number of the armed men in Hawaiian shirts have claimed that they are on the side of the Black Lives Matter protesters.
Top federal authorities—including Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr—have blamed “antifa” and “anarchists” for the protest violence. Two days after the Minneapolis police station was set afire, Barr issued a Justice Department press release blaming the violence on the left.
“Groups of outside radicals and agitators are exploiting the situation to pursue their own separate and violent agenda,” Barr said. “In many places, it appears the violence is planned, organized, and driven by anarchistic and far left extremists, using Antifa-like tactics, many of whom travel from out of state to promote the violence.”
In August, Sen. Ted Cruz held a Senate hearing on supposed “antifa” violence at the protests in which he claimed that Carrillo was in fact a radical leftist—rather than the far-right libertarian he in reality is. Later that month, Vice President Mike Pence made the same deliberate mischaracterization.
The domestic terror attacks by Carrillo and Hunter are far from the only incidents of actual or planned violence by Boogaloo adherents this year. The tally includes:
- Two other men involved in the Minneapolis protests, Michael Robert Solomon and Benjamin Ryan Teeter—the latter of whom traveled in conjunction with Hunter—were indicted in September for conspiring to provide material support for a foreign terrorist organization. The men had hoped to join the forces of the “Boojihadeen” with the radical Islamists, though the man with the Middle Eastern accent with whom they shared the plans was in fact a federal informant.
- The three Las Vegas-area Boogaloo Bois arrested for building Molotov cocktails as part of a larger campaign to wreak havoc around the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests over police brutality did not plan to attack BLM—as most “Patriot” and “Proud Boy” groups have done over the past three years—but instead sought to use the BLM protests to target police officers and power infrastructure as a way of ramping up the violence around the protests.
- A Texarkana, Texas, man who intended to spark the Boogaloo by ambushing police officers was caught by officers who were alerted by his attempt to livestream his planned killing spree. They went to his location and arrested him shortly thereafter.
- A Boogaloo enthusiast who posted comments on Facebook about bringing his rifle to a protest against stay-at-home-orders in Denver attracted the interest of FBI agents, who upon visiting him at his home discovered a cache of homemade pipe bombs. The man openly expressed his intent to use them to kill any federal agents who tried to invade his home.
- Another Boogaloo Boi planned to livestream his ambush on police officers at an Ohio national park, but was arrested by FBI agents before he could pull off the plan.
Some Boogaloo activists have attempted to claim that the movement is “about peace” and supports Black Lives Matter and other protesters—including last week’s gathering on the steps of the Michigan state capitol in Lansing. The reality, however, always reveals itself in situations like these: Namely, the Boogaloo movement may attract a broad range of participants with widely varying political ideologies, but the core of the movement—which eventually determines its direction and its behavior over time—is built around beliefs from the radical racist right.