On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice brought first-degree murder and attempted murder charges against active duty Air Force Sergeant, Steven Carrillo and his accomplice, Robert A. Justus Jr. for the killing of a federal security officer outside of a U.S. courthouse in Oakland, California and the wounding of Santa Cruz police officers in a subsequent armed confrontation that concluded the eight-day manhunt that resulted in Carrillo’s capture.
The original crime was carried out in a “drive-by” shooting that occurred during a protest at the Oakland courthouse on May 29 over the brutal slaying of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Justus, the getaway driver, as well as Carrillo, the shooter, have been linked to an amorphous online extremist group dubbed Boogaloo in the media, whose members have self-described as a “libertarian,” while also expressing support for BLM on occasion, according to Forbes and lending credence to pushback offered by some members against claims it is a right-wing outfit. Some followers have even called the group the real Antifa.
The group’s name is said to come from a mid-80s dance battle movie called “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” although followers reject the moniker and use that name only to denote what they believe will be a new civil war triggered by the government’s confiscation of guns, reflecting the common ground among members of various viewpoint, who communicate through online forums like 4-Chan and Reddit, of support for originalist sentiments about the second amendment.
The group has sought to visually differentiate themselves by wearing Hawaiian shirts when participating in public rallies, in a quasi-branding practice that has become ubiquitous in the age of social media. But, the group also recently made headlines when three of their members were apprehended over a supposed plot to “terrorize” protestors at a rally in Las Vegas that took place in April.
According to the criminal complaint in that case, the broader goal of these violent acts is to force “the government to show its hand” and bring about some kind of revolution in the United States. So far, members of the group have been arrested for trying to incite violence in five different states and a large portion of those apprehended have ties to the U.S. Military, which in itself, raises suspicions about the true nature of the group and its ostensibly seditious plans.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, so-called Antifa and Black Lives Matter (BLM) groups have continued to prolong the ant-police brutality protests, entrenching themselves around the country in large gatherings reminiscent of the Occupy movement.
So-called “autonomous” zones have sprung up in cities like Seattle, where a protest outside of a police precinct had seen clashes between demonstrators and police over several days until Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan deescalated the situation by issuing a 30-day moratorium on tear gas and ordering the evacuation of the police precinct. Protestors have since remained in the area, declaring it a “police-free zone.”
Originally called Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), it has been renamed Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) by its BLM contingent. CHOP has attracted hundreds of people to the 11th and Pine intersection on Capitol Hill for a largely peaceful expression of civil disobedience. Despite the reality on the ground, conservative news media outlets like Fox and The Blaze, among others, have tried to characterize it as an agglomeration of “domestic terrorists,” going so far as doctoring photos to push that narrative forward.
Fox News was forced to issue a formal apology after it published digitally-altered photos combining images of CHOP with older images of smashed windows and other acts of vandalism that occurred in other parts of the country. In one photo, an armed man is superimposed onto a stock photo of a sign at one of the zone’s barriers to propagate a false story that claimed armed guards were protecting the area and that demonstrators were extorting local businesses.
The egregious disinformation put out by Fox has even led other conservative news media outlets, like Politico, to call for people to ignore their coverage. The inflammatory language used by Fox News hosts and others describe the scene at CHOP as a “totalitarian takeover” and disseminating racist dog-whistles such as the portrayal of rap artist, Raz Simone as the “Black George Zimmerman” and “rapper-turned-warlord” who is leading “a privatized police force” on the streets of Seattle.
These blatant misrepresentations are nonetheless acquiring a life of their own on platforms like Twitter and Reddit, where tensions based on literal “fake news” are buttressing the narratives coming out of the White House, which has consistently blamed the George Floyd protests on “external actors” and the so-called Antifa movement; itself a vague category of supposed provocateurs.
The acrimony that has built up in the United States over the last several years and which has reached fever pitch ever since the public execution of another unarmed Black man is being fueled by the prevailing news media paradigm intent on stoking the flames of division.
In both the case of the “boogaloo bois” and Antifa, the real nature and composition of these groups continue to be a mystery for the viewing public, which serves to feed into the imaginations of under-informed people looking to place blame on something for the ills of a system on the brink of collapse.
Both of these ostensibly separate ideological groups are calling for radical reform and fundamental transformation of the policing structure in America. Curiously, they each seem designed to appeal to either side of the political divide in the United States. While Antifa captures the impetus of multi-cultural viewpoints and proponents of identity politics, the “boojahideen” attract the more nationalistic-minded, free-market Second Amendment types also intent on replacing the current shape of government.
The contrast between their high visibility and clear lack of organization or cogent demands raises doubts about the sincerity behind either of these so-called movements. In the case of the Boogaloo, in particular, the tell-tale signs of a contrived psyop seem almost too obvious. Reuters reported a surge of tens of thousands of people joining the group’s Facebook groups over a 30-day period between March and April of this year. Together, with their apparent ties to the U.S. Military, the dubious assortment of gun-rights activists angling for war against the liberal establishment, according to the ADL, dovetails perfectly with the Q-Anon phenomenon so popular among large segments of Trump’s base.
The wild anti-government theories of Q-Anon believers and their loyalty to the pathologically mendacious man sitting in the White House have revealed a disturbing reality of modern-day America, where misinformation and preposterous conspiracy theories guide the choices of the electorate and effectively neuters informed assessments of the actual policies being enacted in Washington and at the state level.
The same can be said about the “extreme” left, as Antifa is often described, which concentrates on the most particular aspects of social justice and balkanizes the grander concept of civil and equal rights into ever-more minute silos and, thereby, renders it powerless. In both cases, the calls for justice ring hollow.
Feature photo | People, including those associated with the boogaloo movement, pray as they demonstrate against business closures due to concern about COVID-19, at the State House in Concord, N.H., May 2, 2020. Michael Dwyer | AP
Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.
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