The apocalypse wasn’t happening fast enough.
Nov. 2 came and went without incident.
“The Virginia luau kicks off in one month so start training as you fight,” a second person—a then-school security guard—posted a month ahead of a January 2020 pro-gun protest.
“Nobody booged today and I am disappointed,” another posted when that event, too, concluded non-violently.
By March 2020, desperation was setting in. “I hate to say this but is there a way to ‘make’ this happen or should we let it naturally?” one person wrote.
For more than a year, members of the so-called “Boogaloo” movement planned for insurrectionary violence in a private group chat. Those hundreds of thousands of messages, released Thursday by the nonprofit media collective Unicorn Riot, reveal the makings of the Boogaloo scene, a loose far-right and libertarian coalition united around a fixation on fighting—and in some cases, inciting—a second civil war called the “Boogaloo.”
Since the movement’s formation, at least two dozen Boogaloo-associated men have been arrested for alleged plots ranging from murders of law enforcement to attempted kidnappings of elected officials.
Although the movement has outwardly painted itself as acting defensively against gun laws, the leaked chats show members actively encouraging brutal violence, including that which would target civilians, particularly on the left. And despite the movement’s stated hatred for federal agents and law enforcement, many members boasted of a cozy relationship with power, including one man who claimed to be an Army soldier working special operations with Mexican federales, and the school security guard in Long Island, who said he was angling for a cop career after interning with a local sheriff.
Perhaps most glaring: an avalanche of straight-up racist bile that places the budding movement more firmly on the far right.
The security guard, Christopher Dark, a 24-year-old Long Island resident, was one of the most prolific posters on Patriot Wave, a Boogaloo group that set up a private chat room on the messaging platform Discord in March 2019. When members of Patriot Wave made one of the Booagloo movement’s earliest public appearances at a Jan. 20 pro-gun rally in Richmond, Virginia, Dark was one of the lead organizers, helping members coordinate their outfits and weaponry.
Although most of the thousands of non-Boogaloo protesters at that rally were there to protest new gun laws, the Boogaloo crowd had a secondary motive. The “Boogaloo” (sometimes the “big igloo” or the “big luau”) refers to a period of chaotic violence, during which members of the movement plan to take up arms and shoot their way to the top of a new social order.
In the days before that rally, Boogaloo-ers in the Patriot Wave chat were salivating over the potential for the protest to turn violent, making their civil war dreams a reality.
In a statement, a Discord spokesperson told The Daily Beast, “This server, and its users, were proactively banned from Discord in early July. We have a zero-tolerance approach to hate and threats of violence on our service and take immediate action when we become aware of it, including banning users, shutting down servers, and when appropriate reporting to the proper authorities.”
One man, who claimed to be from North Carolina, talked of potentially setting police vehicles on fire, disabling generators, and assembling a “standing army” to outnumber and encircle police at the event.
Dark, who posted under the username “thedarkness05,” gave more specifics. “Someone needs to brew up a batch of great uncle molotovs famous flamin cocktails so we can crack a cold one with the boys in blue,” he wrote. The North Carolina man responded with a recipe for a homemade explosive.
Talk of violence against law enforcement is a running theme in Boogaloo circles, sometimes even leading participants to join recent protests against police brutality. But offline, many members of the movement have personal ties to police. Dark, for instance, said he was an armed school security guard who had also completed an internship with the Suffolk County, New York Sheriff’s Office, and applied for a job with them, as well as to be a Border Patrol agent.
“Im gonna let you in on a not-so-secret secret,” Dark wrote in the group chat in January, just days before he talked about throwing molotov cocktails at cops. “Ya boi here is trying to get into a local LEO position, and at one time had an academy date to be a CBP [Customs and Border Protection] fed.”
In a conversation with The Daily Beast, Dark initially denied being behind the Patriot Wave posts, but backtracked when pointed to a picture he had shared in the group chat, of him and his Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office internship class all holding certificates with their first and last names. The Sheriff’s Office confirmed that he participated in their internship program in 2018, and that he submitted a job application, but said he was rejected for a job.
Dark told The Daily Beast that at the time of the posts (and his then-pending Sheriff’s Office application), he was still thinking of himself as a potential good cop, distinct from those he discussed targeting with molotovs. Dark has not been charged with any crimes in connection with his Boogaloo activity.
“I was still looking at it as an aspect of this department that I’m joining,” Dark said in a phone call. “I’m fixing to be on the better side of things. Sheriff's offices are more constitutional. If I’m there doing things I can at least do the most I can to make my interactions fair and constitutional and not violate anybody’s rights and still do the job and protect people.”
(He told The Daily Beast he stopped working as a school security guard several months ago, and claimed he had pulled his Sheriff’s Office application after the outbreak of racial justice protests earlier this year, out of opposition to police. The security firm that employed him as a school guard confirmed that he no longer works there.)
Dark was not the only group member mulling a career in law enforcement. And despite his stated preference for fairness, both he and other would-be law enforcement officers in the chat group voiced views that could violate police codes of conduct—not to mention rattle Americans at a time of reckoning with right-wing vigilantism, including among active law-enforcement.
“i may get some flak for this, but im gonna re aplly [re-apply] for the local sherrifs opffice [sic] again,” one member, who claimed to be from New Mexico, wrote in August 2019. (Elsewhere in the chat, he shared a “show your pride” meme depicting a man flying a Nazi flag, and an alt-right meme accusing Black people of theft.)
Other members of the chat offered suggestions to the would-be cop: “Just don’t go around confiscating guns when the boogaloo happens,” one suggested.
Another: “Shoot black people.”
Although Dark acknowledged in the chat that he’d applied for a CBP gig, federal agents from “alphabet” agencies also serve as villains in Boogaloo circles. Another user, moments after denying that he was “a fed,” acknowledged that “I technically am contracted by the alphabet bois but I’m not one.” He added that a non-disclosure agreement prevented him from saying more, but that “I make sure shit that goes boom doesn’t get on planes.” (A CBP spokesperson said the agency had no information about any application submitted by Dark.)
Some members indicated that their participation in the violent movement could lose them their jobs in the law enforcement, military, or intelligence sector.
“this channel is what’s gonna get my security clearance removed,” one user posted in July 2019.
A staggering number of users claimed, with varying credibility, to be current or former military, consistent with a trend of veterans and active-duty troops participating in the Boogaloo movement. Multiple men arrested in Boogaloo plots, including a trio who allegedly planned to set off explosives at a Black Lives Matter rally in Nevada this year, had military backgrounds. Steven Carrillo, a Boogaloo adherent accused of murdering a federal law enforcement officer and a police officer in May and June, is an Air Force staff sergeant.
At least one prolific participant in the leaked chats claimed to be an active-duty staff sergeant in the Army. The man, who invoked anti-Semitic and anti-Black slurs, said he worked in a task force overseen by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Once again, despite the Boogaloo movement’s professed distaste for federal agents, the soldier claimed to work with them: in this case stating that his task force worked with Mexican federales in anti-cartel measures. The man called those Mexican colleagues “honest to god war criminals.”
He claimed he’d seen one pistol-whip a child, and that due to “very loose ROE [rules of engagement] … our LT could basically tell us to kill someone and we’d be ok to do it but we all held back. They’d accuse random people of being cartel members with like zero proof and then go kill or detain and rob them.”
A defense official cast serious doubt on the man’s claims of working in Mexico, telling The Daily Beast that U.S. Special Operations Forces “have not and are not conducting drug raids in Mexico with Mexican military units and police.”
Unlike many in the chat, the alleged staff sergeant said his military experiences taught him that “a boog in the US is a very undesirable outcome,” that would lead to senseless violence.
Likewise, Dark, though he appeared to speak highly of the coming Boogaloo, told The Daily Beast it would be an upsetting event, one he hoped could be avoided.
“Unfortunately I do,” the former school security guard said when asked whether he expected children would be hurt in the Boogaloo. “But like any kind of civil war, any kind of point of change, people are going to get hurt.”
Others were more eager. In message after message, group members shared ingredients for explosives and encouraged the destruction of critical infrastructure, like power stations. (In fact, one trio of Boogaloo believers, who are not known to have participated in the chat, are charged for allegedly discussing violent plots including an attack on a power station this year.) Several recommended a notorious neo-Nazi terror manual, while one recommended a manifesto by the white supremacist group Patriot Front.
One member caught a reprimand for asking whether he could target “liberal civvies [civilians].” Others responded that civilians should be off-limits, but then encouraged “target[ing] politicians, CEOs,” as well as government workers as low-level as postmen. Elsewhere in the chat, memes about murdering liberals and the media were received more warmly.
“Like legit just wanna sit on my roof and shoot at people,” one person who claimed to be an Army veteran posted.
Although the chat group had rules—“14. No terroristic or seditious activities will be tolerated. 15. The N word is not allowed”—even the moderators who posted those rules sometimes broke them. The moderator who posted the rule against terroristic activities repeatedly posted ingredients for serious explosives, as well as a meme advocating attacks on power stations.
That moderator also shared image galleries of Nazi propaganda and memes explicitly calling for “eco-fascism” and “defeating Jews.” His Nazi affinity was apparently known throughout the chat. Dark shared a cartoon of a Adolf Hitler saving a man from suicide (by a gun with a Star of David on it) and tagged the moderator. “Figured you’d enjoy this,” he wrote. (Asked about the meme, Dark told The Daily Beast that he came across it “in my travels” and shared it for the moderator who was “on the more fascist side of things.”)
Racist and anti-Semitic remarks were fairly common motifs throughout the chat. Dark, who is white, complained of other races “play[ing] the victim,” and stated that it was “not our fault we are better at being humans” and leading military conquest. One person suggested that “self-hating Whites” should get a “bullet to the back of the head.”
Dark participated in that conversation without condemning the calls for violence, posting a picture from inside a school building he was apparently guarding at the time. He also told The Daily Beast he empathized with some of the “pain” experienced by Black communities targeted by police, and by extension, agreed with some anti-racist protest actions.
Despite posting for months in anticipation of violent scenarios, many Patriot Wave members appeared worried about the optics of starting the second civil war themselves.
“If we attack cops or military it would turn the people against us. We need to ‘defend’ ourselves,” one posted in March, after multiple events hyped as possible Boogaloo-starters failed to materialize.
Until this week, Dark ran a Boogaloo page on Facebook. Facebook removed the page during the reporting of this story, stating that it violated the site’s ban on Boogaloo content. Though Dark said he’s seen the movement lose some momentum due to Facebook bans and the rise of other protest movements, his page promoted the movement’s gameified violence, sometimes literally suggesting meme-y “side quests” like freeing the Unabomber, disabling the national power grid, and turning “urbanites” into “fertilizer” (ie. explosive material).
When pressed, Dark said the posts were jokes.
“Some of the side quest stuff, nobody expects people to go out there and do that,” like loading a dildo fist in a gun and shooting federal agents with it, he said. “That’s just a hilarious misnomer or something.”
But some Boogaloo adherents are accused of acting on more lethal threats. Carrillo, the Air Force staff sergeant accused of murdering two law enforcement officers, allegedly referenced memes while being pursued by police, writing “boog” and other movement slogans in blood on the hood of a car.
“That’s their own personal choice,” Dark said of adherents accused of enacting real-world violence. “I don’t have any personal interactions with that gentleman [Carrillo]. I’m not sure if he was a fan of the page or any of the pages I’m involved with.”
Carrillo likely “felt like this was his way of rectifying some of the wrongs in the world,” Dark said. “And a bunch of people did get hurt.”