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Who Are The 'Boogaloo Bois' — And Why Has Facebook Banned Them?

Who Are The 'Boogaloo Bois' — And Why Has Facebook Banned Them?

This week, Facebook announced it had deleted 220 Facebook accounts, 95 Instagram accounts, 28 Pages, and 106 groups associated with the so-called boogaloo movement. The movement is a loose network that promotes anti-government violence. 

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Facebook claims that the move was made in order to reduce the amount of hate speech and organized violence being posted on the social media platform and it plans to continue purging boogaloo-related accounts as time goes on.

The boogaloo movement has gained headlines in recent weeks when members of the group started showing up at Black Lives Matter protests, often with guns and other tactical gear. In some cases, they were supportive of anti-police sentiment. In other cases, they were trying to start riots that they could then blame on the rest of the crowd. The philosophy proliferates online and boogaloo sympathizers congregate in Facebook groups to share ideas, memes, and sometimes actual plans for violence. 

Who are the boogaloo bois — and why did Facebook ban them?

What is the boogaloo movemement about?

During the weeks of Black Lives Matter demonstrations, there have been isolated instances of violence or armed individuals showing up to threaten people participating in the events. They aren't actually affiliated with Black Lives Matter and aren't really there to promote the social justice goals that demonstrators have been asking for since the death of George Floyd. Instead, the boogaloo bois are there to stir up violence in an attempt to overthrow what they called a tyrannical government regime. In fact, the origins of the boogaloo movement include overt calls for race wars. 

What does the word "boogaloo" mean in this context?

The name of there group comes from the movie title Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. The title had become a template for jokes on the internet before it was adopted by people hoping for a second civil war. They co-opted the joke, calling for "Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo" and eventually shortened the idea to just boogaloo. 

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The movement has been around for about a decade. 

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, when it began, the boogaloo meme popped up in both anti-government and white supremacist online forums starting around 2010. At that time, "boogaloo” was associated with racially-motivated violence and overt calls for race war. These days, there are two schools of boogaloo thought: the libertarians who feel oppressed by the government and want to dismantle it through violent uprisings and the white nationalists who want to spark a race war so they can rebuild America as a racist and fascist empire. 

The boogaloo bois are in favor of violence.

No matter what their guiding principle is, the boogaloo bois all share a proclivity for violence. One of the common threads in their forums is discussion of firearms and the fear that the government will confiscate guns. The members of the groups often have excessive amounts of tactical gear and weaponry, which they seem to want to use to shoot cops, liberals, politicians, or non-white people. Members of boogaloo groups were among the heavily armed protestors who showed up at the Michigan Capitol in May. In January, they took part in marches in Richmond, VA to protest proposed gun safety bills in that state. More recently, boogaloo adherents were arrested for shooting courthouse security guards in California

Why do boogaloo bois wear Hawaiin shirts?

One way to identify boogaloo bois is by their clothing; they have adopted floral Hawaiin shirts as their unofficial uniform. This came out of an inside-boogaloo joke that the word "boogaloo" sounds like "big luau." They liked the idea so much that they started wearing the iconic shirts along with their bulletproof vests, gun and ammo belts, helmets, and other tactical gear.

It's an odd and disconcerting sight to see heavily -rmed men wearing shirts like evoke images of backyard barbeques or beaches, but some experts say that's the point.“It’s by design,” says Patrick Blanchfield, an associate faculty member at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research. “That confusion is what they’re trying to exploit, which means it’s important to keep an eye on the big picture, or what’s right in front of you. If you see an image of a man wearing tactical gear with a gun and a Hawaiian shirt, the most salient thing there is that the guy has a gun and tactical gear.”

Boogaloo bois with guns and Hawaiin shirts. 

Why did Facebook ban the boogaloo movement?

Facebook made a massive sweep this week and banned hundreds of boogaloo-affiliated groups, in particular the ones promoting violence against the U.S. government. In a press release, the social media giant explained, "Today we are designating a violent US-based anti-government network as a dangerous organization and banning it from our platform. This network uses the term boogaloo but is distinct from the broader and loosely-affiliated boogaloo movement because it actively seeks to commit violence."

Facebook went on to say that they are designating anti-government boogaloo accounts as "Dangerous Individuals and Organizations" and will continue to remove them from the platform as the spring up in the future. That designation is based on the groups' offline activities, in addition to their online postings. Prior armed demonstrations by boogaloo members were considered but a recent string of violent attacks, including a drive-by shooting at an Oakland, CA courthouse, was what finally led facebook to make this decision. 

The bans by Facebook were driven, at least in part, by major brands like Unilever refusing to buy ads on the platform due to the site's reluctance to deal with misinformation and hate speech

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Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. She is the creator of the blog FeminXer and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.