INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) —An anti-government extremist movement known as the “Boogaloo Bois” is believed to have a presence in Indiana, according to a former federal agent and researchers studying fringe groups.
Suspected followers of the Boogaloo movement in other states have been charged with crimes including murder and attempting to conspire with terrorists.
The loosely organized band of extremist Libertarians does not appear to pose an immediate threat of violence in Indiana but social media activity reveals some Hoosiers identify with the Boogaloo Bois’ violent ideology, said Doug Kouns, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent.
The movement is rooted in Internet meme culture and derives its name from “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” a 1980s breakdancing movie.
Supporters use the word “boogaloo” to reference a coming civil war or violent government overthrow.
Boogaloo Bois sometimes wear Hawaiian shirts and igloo patches because “boogaloo” sounds like “big luau” or “big igloo,” according to Alex Friedfeld, an investigative researcher at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.
“Boogalooers believe the government is trying to take away their rights and the boogaloo will happen when the American people rise up to restore their freedoms, even if this means sparking a civil war,” Friedfeld said.
He began researching the movement in late 2019, months before suspected Boogaloo Bois in Hawaiian shirts were spotted at protests across the nation in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Friedfeld said he was concerned by the “very young” movement’s rapid increase in visibility and the growing list of criminal charges against people linked to the Boogaloo Bois.
“We have already seen multiple arrests of Boogaloo supporters for a whole variety of crimes, including murder,” he told News 8.
Steven Carrillo, 32, and Robert Justus, 30, were charged in the May 29 shooting death of a federal security officer in Oakland, Calif.
The two men met through a Boogaloo-related Facebook group and traveled to Oakland to assassinate law enforcement officers during “Black Lives Matter” protests, according to authorities.
Kouns, who founded a private investigation and security firm in Carmel, Ind. after 22 years with the FBI, suspected Boogaloo followers took advantage of nationwide unrest to advance their own anti-police rhetoric.
“They may or may not really believe in the [Black Lives Matter] movement that’s happening but it’s a protest. It’s an anti-government protest. And the idea of ‘the enemy of your enemy is your friend for now’ may be applying here,” Kouns told News 8.
Weeks after Facebook and Instagram deleted hundreds of groups, pages and accounts associated with the Boogaloo Bois, Kouns said he found several Facebook accounts that appeared to belong to users in Indiana with ties to the movement.
Indianapolis police officials declined an interview request from News 8.
Federal authorities declined to confirm any ongoing investigations in Indiana linked to Boogaloo activity.
Friedfeld called on social media companies to increase efforts to tamp down extremist activity on their platforms. But policing Boogaloo activity on the Internet is a daunting task, he said.
Boogaloo Bois have quickly evolved their identifying symbols and slang as social media platforms move to flag certain keywords.
A YouTube account with suspected ties to the movement does not appear in search results for “boogaloo,” “big igloo” or other phrases associated with the Boogaloo Bois. It’s called the “Hibiscus Society,” an apparent reference to the flowers on supporters’ Hawaiian shirts.
Banning accounts like the Hibiscus Society will not stop the spread of Boogaloo ideology, Friedfeld warned.
Followers have moved beyond mobilizing in private social media groups and are growing increasingly visible in public.
“When you see these guys, treat them with concern. They are not necessarily here to be your friends and they can have very violent intents,” said Friedfeld.