Right-wing provocateurs continue to instigate violence at BLM protests and elsewhere
Boogaloo Bois and others join both BLM and pro-Trump actions to further goal of societal collapse
This story was updated on Jan. 15, 2021.
Violence at political protests has long been inflamed by provocateurs, including by those who seek to infiltrate the demonstrations and cause violence to make the cause look bad. That happened in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, the anti-war demonstrations of the 1960s, and the anti-nuclear protests of the 1980s, among others.
In the present case, Donald Trump claimed the leftist-anarchist network Antifa was behind the initial burning of buildings and other violence in Black Lives Matter protests over police killings of African Americans. Trump claimed Antifa was a terrorist organization, wrongly and cynically saying the largely anarchistic movement that has existed in some form since at least the 1970s was operated by Democrats.
But it’s more likely that those who have nothing to do with Antifa — including far-right Trump supporters — have been doing much of the violence at BLM protests and other places, according to media reports. And at least one of the groups infiltrating BLM to commit violence — the right-leaning, anti-police, pro-gun, pro-chaotic violence Boogaloo Bois — also joined many Trump supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Trump and sycophants escalated claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump without presenting any evidence, leading to the Capitol attack.
Here are a few of many incidents:
- On Jan. 6, 2021, Trump incited his supporters to violently storm the U.S. Capitol and disrupt Congress’ ceremony of certifying the election. Five people, including a police officer, died, and many more were injured in the insurrection. Intruders, who included military and off-duty police officers with concealed weapons and zip-tie handcuffs, unsuccessfully tried to locate Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and others. Pelosi’s office and other parts of the Capitol were badly damaged. Trump then lied that he shared no blame. Every suspect arrested has been a Trump supporter, including retired Air Force Lt. Col. Larry Rendell Brock Jr. of Texas, who has posted on social media references to far-right, anti-government militias Oath Keepers and Three Percenters. Numerous Oath Keepers and Ohio militia members, including a former Marine, also reportedly forced their way into the Capitol to try to intimidate Congress members into throwing the election to Trump.
- On Nov. 5, 2020, former Trump campaign leader and White House adviser Steve Bannon said that Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray should be beheaded and have their heads placed on pikes in public outside the White House as a “warning to federal bureaucrats. You either get with the program or you are gone.” Twitter permanently suspended Bannon’s account, and he faces federal fraud charges related to a wall fundraising scheme.
- On Oct. 31, Trump supporters in vehicles reportedly tried to run a Biden campaign bus off a highway in Texas.
- On Oct. 8, some 13 members of right-wing, Trump-supporting militias were arrested for plotting to kidnap and kill Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to help incite a civil war. At least a few members were tied to the far-right Boogaloo Bois, an anti-government group whose members wear Hawaiian shirts while trying to incite violence in hopes of societal collapse.
- On Oct. 28, a member of the far-right, Trump-supporting Proud Boys was arrested in North Dakota for threatening to bomb a polling site.
- On Aug. 25, 17-year-old Trump supporter Kyle Rittenhouse reportedly killed two BLM protesters during protests of another police shooting in which James Blake was shot seven times in the back in Kenosha, Wis.
- On July 25, boogaloo members marched carrying semi-automatic rifles in a BLM protest in Richmond, Va. They “spearheaded” the night of violence that saw a dump truck set ablaze and business windows broken, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said.
- On May 30, two boogaloo members were arrested during a BLM protest in Columbia, S.C. Paramedic Kevin Ackley threw a water bottle at police during the protest, while Joshua Barnard was charged with breaking into a car and looting, authorities said.
- On May 30, three suspected boogaloo members who plotted to cause violence at protests in Las Vegas were arrested by FBI agents. Stephen Parshall, Andrew Lynam, and William Loomis planned to toss Molotov cocktails at police during a BLM protest that night, according to the FBI.
- On May 29, U.S. Air Force sergeant Steven Carrillo reportedly shot two security officers in front of a federal building in Oakland as BLM protests occurred several blocks away. One officer died, and the other was severely injured. He and Robert Justus, a suspect who reportedly drove a van by the building as Carrillo fired from it, were allegedly part of the boogaloo movement. Carrillo used the BLM protests as a cover to attack the officers, according to the FBI. A friend said Carrillo changed immensely after his wife committed suicide, leaving him to care alone for his two daughters. About a week later, Carrillo reportedly engaged in a shootout at his home after authorities tried to arrest him. One sheriff’s officer died. Many conservative commentators wrongly blamed the killings on BLM members or Antifa.
- On May 28, Ivan Harrison Hunter of Boerne, Tx., fired upon the Minneapolis Police Third Precinct building with an automatic weapon during BLM protests, according to an FBI affidavit. Hunter, a member of the boogaloo movement, also looted and helped set the building on fire, according to the complaint. Two other boogaloo members who attended the late May BLM protests in Minneapolis were indicted on federal charges of attempting to provide material support to foreign terrorist organization Hamas.
- Also in late May, Matthew Lee Rupert of Galesburg, Ill., reportedly filmed himself setting another Minneapolis building on fire and taking some items from an Office Depot. He made social media posts in support of Trump and against police.
There were indications that the infiltration of BLM protests were part of a loosely coordinated campaign by far-right groups. Media reports have documented that a white supremacist channel on the messaging app Telegram encouraged followers to commit violence during George Floyd protests, according to an internal Department of Homeland Security intelligence note.
A Twitter account claiming to be from Antifa that advocated violence was actually run by the white nationalist group Identity Evropa, according to an NBC report.
That would fit a pattern in which these white supremacist groups want a kind of war to help further their goals of chaos, fear, and division. Graffiti alluding to a race war has been found in cities such as Baltimore. Groups such as the Three Percenters are growing in popularity.
Studies show that right-wing extremist groups are much more violent than left-wing ones. For instance, 90 percent of the extremist-related murders in the US in 2019 were linked to right-wing extremists, according to an Anti-Defamation League study. Between 2010 and 2016, about 35 percent of terrorist attacks in the United States were carried out by right-wing extremists ,compared with 12 percent by left-wing or environmentalist extremists, according to a University of Maryland-led consortium.
What to do about this?
It’s clear that there was a somewhat organized campaign by right-wingers, likely aided by social media and the Internet, to sow discord at BLM protests and blame the mess on BLM, and in many people’s minds, Democrats. While that’s unfair, that’s dirty politics as it is played.
Part of the burning and other violence was likely being done by some frustrated locals, especially when they got run over, tear gassed, and pushed down by police. Some of the property destruction was probably done by Antifa people or those on the left, such as the guy in a joker mask arrested in Chicago in connection with a police car being set ablaze.
The violence that erupted in cities across the country after the George Floyd killing seemed to fit a pattern that some on the extreme right wanted chaos. Trump and former AG Bill Barr upped the ante last June 1 by authorizing the use of tear gas and rubber bullets to clear out peaceful protesters by the White House so Trump could stage a photo op by a historic church. The authoritative action was done without warning protesters to leave first, and after Trump consulted with Putin. Trump also authorized National Guard helicopters to fly low over protesters and cause tree branches to fall on them.
Throughout the summer, the tactics got worse with Trump’s secret police and right-wing militias clashing with largely peaceful protesters in D.C., Portland, and other cities. Incidents slowed as the Nov. 3 election neared, then ramped back up with the January 6 violent insurrection of the U.S. Capitol.
In 1933, Hitler used the burning of the Reichstag to consolidate his power. Some historians believe the Nazis themselves set that fire to use it to seize control, though they blamed a Dutch worker with communist ties.
The election of Biden can stall Trumpism, but the movement could go more underground and rise suddenly in the form of candidates who might be as bad as Trump. For instance, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, two believers of the wacko, far-right conspiratorial network QAnon, were elected as Congress members in November. Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona probably did even more than Trump to incite the attack.
For now, prosecuting the perpetrators of these violent acts is the best way to ensure that the movement stays mostly underground. Long term, some believe better education programs could help, though individuals have to be motivated at early ages to learn. And highly educated people support Trump, as well. It’s a vicious cycle with few easy answers.
Kevin James Shay is author of the ebook, Operation Chaos: The Trump Coup Attempt and the Campaign to Erode Democracy. It is available at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and other retailers.