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Jelle van Buuren Explains American Boogaloo Boys

A particular group of counter protesters have been sighted at numerous Black Lives Matter protests that were held in the United States. An extreme right movement known for its characteristic Hawaii Shirts and heavy weaponry that calls itself the Boogaloo Boys. Which is cause for concern among the American intelligence agencies. Lecturer and terrorism expert Jelle van Buuren was interviewed by the Dutch NPO Radio 1 programme "Bureau Buitenland'.

Jelle van Buuren is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs. His research interests lie in, among other things, European police cooperation, intelligence cooperation, and border management. He is currently researching what role conspiracy thinking is playing in processes of delegitimisation.

Who are the Boogaloo Boys?

The Boogaloo Boys are part of the broad extreme right spectrum in the US. They defend the right to bear arms, want more individual freedoms from the authorities and the government and are opposed to the police, who they perceive as legitimate targets. Their goal is to ignite what they like to call 'the second civil war' and, in order to achieve this, they take part in anything and everything that creates unrest, or causes an uproar in the country and that widens the gap between opposing sides. The second civil war is expected to be about free citizens rising up against the tyranny of the federal government. They hope to establish a new order in the country afterwards, which seems to be overly ambitious.

Violence and Freedom

This American anti-police feeling is not new, according to Van Buuren.  There has long been a tradition of fear that the authorities will take guns away from civilians. A violent component has even arisen within this group. 'Sovereign civilians' have attempted to murder police officers. Up until now, the resulting violence has incidental and widespread. Authorities are concerned that elements of the federal government have now become a target. This becomes more and more problematic now that this heavily armed group seems to have taken to the streets, which could be seen as a threat against security.

De Boogaloo Boys. Photo: Eli Hartman/Odessa American via AP

Hawaii Shirts and Boogaloo music

The name and appearance of the group are a typical result of digital culture. The Hawaii Shirts and Boogaloo music are the type of joke or irony that have become code words that cannot be understood by the outside world. This irony also allows for room to play with who you are. Hawaii shirts are usually seen as fun and cheerful. The Boogaloo genre is a mixture of Latin and Soul music that is commonly played at parties. By now, the heavy weaponry has become a representation of the apocalyptic idea that the social order is about to crumble and that civilians should begin to help prepare for the upcoming 'civil war'.

International Break Out

Although this has been a long-standing tradition, these days it is being spread a lot faster and more easily and is becoming mainstream as a result of social media. It also mixes with other types of unrest in society on a regular basis. During the corona virus lockdown, this group also frequently demonstrated to oppose the measures that were put in place. The internet knows no boundaries but the chance that this movement will show up in the Netherlands any time soon is highly unlikely. In the Netherlands, possessing weapons is not really part of a tradition neither is defending the right to do so. In America the anti-government sentiment been around a lot longer too. However, similar ingredients are present outside the US as well. There is an increasing distrust of authority, the media and science. There have been demonstrations in the Netherlands and other European countries during the corona crisis against the curtailment of individual freedom.

To listen to the entire "Bureau Buitenland' radio interview with Jelle van Buuren (in Dutch), click here.

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