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As the U.S. has seen massive protests across the nation, largely peaceful but at times destructive, in the wake of George Floyd's killing, both activists and police have been concerned by the appearance of armed extremist militias in some areas with the alleged goal of instigating violent conflict.
What makes members of this particular militia group stand out from other extremists is their odd attire of Hawaiian shirts and leis juxtaposed with assault weapons and tactical gear. They're members of the so-called "boogaloo" movement and recently became more noticeable via various protests against COVID-19 related lockdowns, according to an Associated Press report back in May.
As NBC News' Brandy Zadrozny reported earlier this year: "The term is used to describe an uprising against a seemingly tyrannical or left-wing government, often in response to a perceived threat of widespread gun confiscation. For many, the word 'boogaloo' — silly on its face — is used jokingly or ironically, but for others, the boogaloo memes are shared alongside violent text and images, seemingly to inflame an eventual confrontation."
The group doesn't have a clear unifying ideology other than being pro-gun and embracing an overarching enthusiasm for a so-called "boogaloo" — the movement's code word for a second American civil war, according to investigative reporting outlet Bellingcat.
The movement's name is rooted in online culture and is a shortening of the term "Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo" — a joke meme that first originated on various internet message boards, Bellingcat reported.
The "Electric Boogaloo" add-on is in reference to the 1984 film "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo," a poorly rated sequel about breakdancers. Though the term originated as a joke, it has caught on with movements seriously advocating for violence on a societal scale.
"Though some still use the phrase as a joke, an increasing number of people employ it with serious intent," The Anti-Defamation League said in an article about the boogaloo movement. "The boogaloo meme has spread to other movements with anti-government beliefs, primarily minarchists and anarcho-capitalists, which are essentially conservative alternatives to anarchism, as well as a few apparent anarchists."
The meme has also spread to white supremacist groups espousing anti-government beliefs as well, the ADL noted. "Accelerationist white supremacists are particularly apt to use 'boogaloo' — they seek the violent collapse of modern society in order to bring about a new, white-dominated world."
As such, the once primarily online movement has now migrated into the real world, appearing most recently during protests organized against perceived government overreach like the lockdown protests of early May to the current ongoing protests against police brutality.
Members of the movement have been seen at recent protests in Minnesota and Philadelphia following online threats to attack police departments, but there's no evidence these threats were carried out, NBC News reported.
However, law enforcement officials allege they have foiled plots by people who have connections to the movement or at least use its terminology, the AP reported.
On Wednesday, prosecutors accused three Nevada men — who said they identified as part of the boogaloo movement — with terrorism-related charges, according to the AP. Authorities allege the men intended to capitalize on recent protests in a conspiracy to spark violence.
They allegedly made Molotov cocktails to aid in the plan at the time of their arrest, the AP reported. All three of the suspects have military experience.
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