George Floyd’s death sparked a powder keg in the United States, pushing discussion on police reform as well as spotlighting a previously extreme belief of defunding police and federal agencies. Armed and unarmed groups have risen and taken to the streets to have their voices heard one way or the other, but who are they and what are they really after? This article will take an unbiased, factual look, analyzing the background, goals, organization and motives.
ANTIFA is a far left wing collective of autonomous groups with the sole intention to destabilize, oppose, and combat what they view as the far right, or white supremist organizations. The first record of ANTIFA in the U.S can be traced back to the group; “Rose City ANTIFA” which first organized in 2007 to oppose and protest a Neo-Nazi music festival in Portland Oregon. Rose City ANTIFA has also clashed with President Trump supporters, Law Enforcement Agencies and Secret Service agents at trump rallies.
The largest ANTIFA groups are comprised Anarcho-Communists (Anarchists with Communist economic beliefs), but also contain democratic socialists, Maoists, communists and countless other individuals with far left ideologies. Currently, ANTIFA has countless sub groups under the same banner, but has no “membership” per say. Notable ANTIFA actions include releasing personal information of right wing individuals, going to right wing political commentator Tucker Carlson’s home and shouting obscenities through a bullhorn, vandalizing his property with anarchist iconography, damaging corporate buildings, clashing with right wing protestors using clubs, firearms, explosives and dyes, as well as tearing down republican statues.
The most common “uniform” for ANTIFA individuals is any civilian clothing in all black, almost always with a black or red face covering. The combative ANTIFA affiliates can be seen with bats, clubs, makeshift shields, weaponizing feces and urine, long guns, as well as bats with poles with ANTIFA flags as a weapon. There is no clear estimate on the numbers of those that identify with the ANTIFA movement, as there is no clear membership either, however, rough estimates of how many people identify with the ANTIFA movement is upwards to the tens of thousands.
On the other end of the spectrum is The Proud Boys, a far right, male only Neo-Nationalist group started by Canadian and Vice News co-founder Gavin Mcinnis.
The group has a 4 stage enlistment process; “The first stage is a loyalty oath, on the order of "I’m a proud Western chauvinist, I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world"; the second is getting punched until the person recites pop culture trivia, such as the names of five breakfast cereals; the third is getting a tattoo and agreeing to not masturbate or watch pornography; and the fourth is getting into a major fight "for the cause.” or fighting left wing protestors or any individual they deem a threat to western causes. As founder Mcinnis stated in a conference “Violence doesn’t feel good, justified violence feels great and fighting solves everything.” The Proud Boys are organized by "Chapters", akin to how there are Lodges in Masonry. There are chapters across the globe, including Africa, North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. In the united states alone there are multiple chapters in every state.
The Proud Boys have a very uniform appearance, almost always with Fred Perry black polo shirts as well as patriotic iconography (American Flags, Gadsden Flags, MAGA Hats.) Equipment for armed members includes clubs, bats, an assortment of firearms as well as pepper spray, however the most common form of fighting for the Proud Boys is good old’ fisticuffs.
The first non-group on our list, but extremist centrist ideology/movement is the media dubbed “Boogaloo Boys”. The first reference to the Boogaloo was on message board 4chan back in 2012, the conversation started about a coming second civil war or “Civil War Part 2: The Electric Boogaloo” due to what is perceived as an increased encroachment on personal rights and the governments furthering of gun control with events such as Ruby Ridge and Waco as a call to action against the federal government. Followers of the boogaloo movement don’t so much have a social drive like the Proud Boy’s or ANTIFA, and most arrive to protests not in outcry of the deaths of say George Floyd or Breonna Taylor, but to watch and take part if widespread combat breaks out or if the police happen to infringe on either right or left sides. The Boogaloo movement is unique, because it shares similarities with both extremes of the Proud Boys and ANTIFA.
Actions of “Boogaloo Boys” Include the shooting of 6 federal agents and local sheriffs by two Boogaloo boys, one a USAF veteran in may of 2020, the plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Whitne as well as various minor standoffs and incidents. The uniform and equipment of the “Boogaloo Boys” is by far the most flamboyant, yet prepared. Almost all Boogaloo followers found in public during protests are in tactical gear and weapon systems equivalent to a special operations warfighter (Plate Carrier, night-vision capabilities, high end weapons platforms including 50 Caliber Anti-Material Rifles) the only difference being the consistent wear of Hawaiian Print shirts, in reference to the slang term for the boogaloo, the big luau (to avoid federal agents when posting on the internet.)
Black Lives Matter, or BLM as it will be referenced is, like the Boogaloo Boys, a movement, not an organized group, composed of mild to extreme leftists. The BLM movement first appeared in 2014 in response to police killings of mostly unarmed black men such as Tamir Rice as well as perceived consistent use of force violations by white officers against black communities. BLM Calls for stringent police reform with some wanting a full defunding of the police in turn for more social services such as public housing, youth services, health care and free resources such as psychiatry, therapy, and education. Police abolitionists within the BLM movement state that the role of police would be replaced with community leaders, and that with the increase of social services, crimes and the need for gangs for illegal sources of income would immediately cease. The majority of BLM focuses purely on the education and protest of racial discrimination, which followers believe is a more prevalent issue than ever. BLM is a very interesting movement, as it includes followers from all of ANTIFA, as well as some of the boogaloo boys. However, a majority if not all of BLM peaceful protests are hijacked and gaslit by ANTIFA members and in turn combatted by Proud Boys and right wing groups, then imbedded with Boogaloo Boys.
CNN Reported on September 1st; "The vast majority of demonstration events associated with the BLM movement are non-violent. In more than 93% of all demonstrations connected to the movement, demonstrators have not engaged in violence or destructive activity. Peaceful protests are reported in over 2,400 distinct locations around the country. Violent demonstrations, meanwhile, have been limited to fewer than 220 locations — under 10% of the areas that experienced peaceful protests. In many urban areas like Portland, Oregon, for example, which has seen sustained unrest since Floyd’s killing, violent demonstrations are largely confined to specific blocks, rather than dispersed throughout the city."