What Are ‘Boogaloo Bois,’ and What Do They Even Want?

When armed Air Force Sgt. Steven Carrillo gunned down Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller and injured three other law enforcement officials in a short but violent June crime spree, it thrust the Boogaloo group in which he claimed membership into the national spotlight. Carrillo, who used a homemade weapon, faces additional charges for gunning down a federal officer in Oakland.

In the weeks that followed, Police also arrested Carrillo’s alleged accomplice in the Oakland shooting, another man with ties to Boogaloo.

Then on Aug. 27, Gilroy resident Alan Viarengo was arrested for allegedly sending 24 anonymous, threatening letters to Santa Clara County Health Officer Sara Cody. Investigators serving a search warrant at his home found 138 firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition and explosive materials.

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office also received threatening letters, as did Gutzwiller’s family, and Santa Cruz sheriff’s deputies are investigating whether those letters have any connection to Viarengo, who worked for Nordic Naturals, a Watsonville-based nutritional supplement company, and had his own ties to Boogaloo.

Despite the high-profile Boogaloo Boi cases, there’s no evidence that the movement has a particular foothold in the region, although law enforcement and civil rights experts are still learning about the underground group.

Origins of the Boogaloo name trace back to 1960s New York City, where a man named Joe Cuba invented a Latin-American dance by the same name. Then came a 1984 movie titled Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, a B-movie about evil developers trying to demolish an urban recreation center, and the plucky dancers who try to stop them.

The film was largely forgettable in the cinematic world, save for an endearingly amateurish rap song from a young Ice-T, but the “Boogaloo” term took on new meaning when a loose-knit group of anti-government activists adopted it.

Anti-government activists began sharing memes playing on the film’s title, with variations like “Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo,” according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Per the ADL, Boogaloo members built the movement around preparing for the civil war they believe will lead to the collapse of the U.S. government and society.

On the Fringe

The Boogaloo group is not mainstream nor even particularly well understood, says ADL Regional Director Seth Bryst.

“It still is very much a fringe group,” he says, “not something where we have any particular imminent threats, none that we’re aware of or that are being reported about.”

The FBI declined to comment directly for this story, but instead emailed a prepared response that the term “Boogaloo” does not refer to a single, cohesive group.

“It is a loose concept discussed on internet platforms, which has become a rallying point for a variety of actors motivated by several different ideologies,” the statement reads. The bureau says its concern is not about ideology, but potential violence.

The pandemic may be fueling more interest in the group. Bryst explains that members associated with Boogaloo have increasingly made appearances at public demonstrations, many of them expressing frustration with restrictions in response to the pandemic.

Some, Bryst says, are hoping to stoke racial tension as a catalyst for what they believe is a coming civil war. Others, he adds, claim not to be racist but are merely protesting what they frame as government overreach.

The Boogaloo movement also sometimes uses similar-sounding words such as “big igloo”—hence the igloo images sometimes connected to it—and “big luau,” which is why many members wear Hawaiian print shirts. (One symbol for the group is a modified black-and-white American flag with a Hawaiian-print stripe and an igloo on it.)

In addition, some members have used hashtag terms such as “#CNN” and terms like “CNN Bois,” Bryst says. These terms are both a way to identify themselves to other members and to hide their activities from those who aren’t in the know, he says.

Because it isn’t a membership organization and it has no leadership structure, it’s difficult to determine the prevalence of the movement, Bryst says.

Bryst says law enforcement should pay attention to the activities of the Boogaloo movement, even when they are engaged in constitutionally protected activities.

“It’s not a bad idea to make law enforcement aware, because sometimes it can be a harbinger and sometimes it can help to establish a pattern, or be helpful in terms of a future investigation,” Bryst said.

Spokespeople from the Santa Cruz and Watsonville police departments and the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, all had similar statements: yes, we’re aware of the group but no, we’re not concerned that there’s any imminent threat from the Boogaloo movement.

“We do pay attention to various hate groups in the city and in the county,” SCPD spokeswoman Joyce Blaschke said.

Boogaloo Speaks

Boogaloo members claim that their community is peaceful, and not a hate group.

Duncan Lent, who goes by “Boogalooboi” on social media, lives in the Appalachian region. He estimates that between 500,000-1,000,000 people around the U.S. identify with the movement, with members communicating largely through social media. But with platforms clamping down on language associated with Boogaloo, many are turning to local, in-person networking, he says.

Lent says he doesn’t believe Carrillo speaks for the movement, adding that the group pretty much “excommunicated” Carrillo after he was arrested for murder. (Carrillo allegedly wrote “boog” in his own blood after his crime spree—an apparent reference to the movement. He also had at least one Boogaloo patch and met his accomplice Robert Justus through the movement.)

Guns are central to the Boogaloo group’s ideology, though.

Lent says he began to identify with the term “Boogaloo” years ago while working in a gun shop, and saw lawmakers pass laws that he viewed as onerous. This includes legislation governing barrel length, and a law banning bump-stocks, which came in the wake of the October 2017 shooting in Las Vegas that killed 59 and wounded 412. Bump stocks replace the stock on a rifle, which allows the recoil to “bump” the rifle back and forth against the trigger finger, making rapid fire easier.

“The point of the Boogaloo movement is for us and generations moving forward to maintain the freedoms that this country was founded with,” Lent says.

In June, Facebook removed  220 Facebook accounts, 106 Facebook groups, 95 Instagram accounts and 28 Facebook pages associated with the Boogaloo movement, for fear they were planning violent attacks.

Bryst, of the ADL, says some companies have been more proactive than others when it comes to enforcing violations.

“What we do find is that extremist groups like this have found it easier to spread their messaging in the age of social media,” Bryst says, “and there are some social media platforms that have done a better job of eliminating those that violate their terms.”


  1. Two points –

    The first: the lack of evidence of Boogaloo Bois in SCC (besides the high profile criminal arrests of three Boogaloo members in the county, one strapped to the teeth), and the general lack of knowledge about them in law enforcement, may be related to politically-motivated blindness in the Trump administration. The former head of intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security last week filed a whistleblower complaint that he had been pressured by political appointees to downplay extremist threats seen as reflecting poorly on the President, including white supremacist extremism, and to alter his reports to focus on those groups seen as opposition to the President, including Antifa and BLM. Comparing this article to the BlueLeaks, it seems evident that federal, regional and local law enforcement is tracking BLM much more closely than the Boogaloo Bois.

    Second point: there are many parallels between the ideology of the Boogaloo Bois and some of the more disturbing elements of the Qanon conspiracy movement, which is becoming more mainstream everyday. Qanon predicts an event of massive violence they call “the Storm,” an armed clash between Trump supporters and liberals that will supposedly end with a military takeover followed by some sort of pro-Trump Christian utopia. At the same time that we see Boogaloo Bois loading up on guns, Trump administration officials like Michael Caputo are explicitly telling supporters to buy ammo and prepare for an armed civil conflict, while the President talks about invoking the Insurrection Act to unleash the military on civilians on Election Day, Roger Stone openly talks about seizing ballots so that they can’t be counted, and Mark Levin says that Trump needs to be prepared to mass-fire the military brass when they resist the order to move against American citizens. People are being primed for this on every level – it’s not something that is being hinted at, it’s something that’s being openly talked about.

  2. Saint Nick

    Wow, you’ve got it bad. I bet you followed and read the whole Mueller Report, are sure Putin runs America, think Trump’s impeachment was justified, Bugalo did all the rioting, killing, looting across 20 cities over the past four months, and think chaining yourself to a mailbox is going to save the republic.

    It is shocking that your leaders can justify the mental abuse they have perpetrated on you and those like you. Aren’t you tired of being sick? I knew a someone with an eating disorder once and she said she got over it one day when she woke and said to herself, I am tired of being sick.

    When will you wake up?

  3. Sounds like a Bois de Boulogne to me. Bryst celebrates their circumscription; excommunicate them for Lent.

  4. Kulak, you respond to facts with ad hominem insults. This does not prove you to be a free thinking intellectual.

    This is a repeated pattern – ignoring the substance of someone’s argument because it doesn’t fit into your worldview. By refusing to grapple with anything I said, about the DHS whistleblower or the real comments coming from the President and his prominent supporters, you can just insult me and pretend like those things don’t exist.

    This sort of behavior is the reason why our country is so divided. It’s the reason why we’re getting close to political violence – because we’re not listening to each other. If I talk about real things that are happening, you call me “sick” for it instead of trying to convince me that those things are not happening or explaining why my interpretation of it is incorrect. That is not the kind of discourse that leads to convincing anyone, it only leads to people doubling down and hating each other more.

    Clearly you have your mind made up and are not capable of dialogue. What would be great for you to recognize is the fact that that’s not healthy, personally or for our society. A lot of us like to pretend that we’re right about everything, or that our perspective is the only one that can be right. That’s a childish way of thinking, and when people give up on listening it only encourages your enemies to see violence as the only method of untying the Gordian knot you have created. This is true for the right and the left.

    I try to genuinely understand why people disagree with me. I try to engage people with respect for their mental faculties and to base my disagreements on facts that can be clearly articulated and defended. Maybe you see yourself as doing the same – but that is not what you are doing here, with either your response to this article or your response to me.

  5. Those are not ad hominem attacks, I am not attacking your person. I am attacking the mental sickness you have attained via freebasing MSNBC/NYTimes/SJI propaganda. I am not making fun of you, I feel sorry for you. It is a pity to see so many well educated people so brainwashed.

    I see no reason to try to convince anyone of anything, you are too far gone. I will show you how your shortsighted self-delusions hurt the poor the most and intellectuals like yourself.

    It is quite clear that the Democratic Party is in a schism, with a violent progressive wing burning down cities with the tacit support of DAs and City Councils unwilling to do anything about it. I have already seen increases in values and rents in my red county properties as a result, with zero crime and violence. I think we are down to two week inventory in most of them. But in progressive markets, violent crime is skyrocketing. And its not Bugalo, its BLM/Antifa, it rogue DAs, its progressive City Councilmembers and Mayors.

    Fine by me, all you are doing is improving Trump’s chances. 10% unemployment, 200K COVID deaths and you may very well lose to a reality show host TWICE.

    The results of your brainwashing:

    You are failing poor kids – as you keep schools closed for no reason to add insult to injury of under-educating them pre-Covid

    You are failing poor families – as you expose them to violent crime which you excuse via your white guilt

    You are destroying the middle class – as you regulate small business and development into oblivion

    And you think researching and talking about Bugalo and Q is something relevant, something useful. This whole story from day one is propaganda. They are crazies, end of story. You are so misguided and programmed it is sad.

    I truly feel for your kids and neighbors.

  6. So Boogaloo Bois (can’t they spell?!) and Qanon believe that a “storm” is coming and they’re preparing by purchasing weapons, etc. Does this sound like Charles Manson and his desire to start “Helter Skelter”, a race war, back in 1969? C’mon Boogaloo “Bois” and Q. Old news – been there, done that – 50 years ago!

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