Minneapolis, MN – Unicorn Riot has obtained documents used to train Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) staff on political extremism. The training presentation is entitled “Political Extremists / Anarchists, a brief summary of groups that border the line between protest and domestic terrorism.” The MPD documents discuss the so-called Boogaloo movement as well as the anti-fascist movement known commonly as Antifa. The training materials prepared by an MPD intelligence analyst reveal their targeting of individuals for expressing political speech. Additionally, the MPD demonstrates a misunderstanding of Antifa as well as the threat posed by Boogaloo members.
According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), “Boogaloo adherents increasingly attended protests and riots, and they often sought to capitalize on high tensions to incite violence and chaos.” This accelerationist strategy aims to propagate a new civil war that would destroy the Federal government. Boogaloo members often exploit civil unrest and racial justice protests as a means to appear more moderate while concealing widespread white supremacist and other bigoted views.
Members of the Boogaloo movement often dismiss attempts to be labeled as left or right-wing From the CSIS: “While Facebook and other social media platforms allow Boogaloo adherents to communicate and organize themselves into local groups resembling cells or chapters, there is no overarching organization that coordinates Boogaloo activity nationally. Boogaloo adherents are anchored by such ideologies as accelerationism and anti-government action rather than membership in any organization.”
A review of over 240,000 messages from Boogaloo Discord chats in 2020 shows that the ‘boogaloo’ is not a single coherent group but represents a decentralized informal online movement of devoted adherents “consistently reproducing hierarchical right-wing social values despite their superficial opposition to government authority.”
Many participants in the Boogaloo chats were also very active on 4chan’s /k/ board focused on weapons, which has long been a hub for armed white supremacists to plan meetups, shooting practice, and camping trips. 4chan /k/ enthusaist and neo-Nazi Allen Scarsella was sentenced to to 15 years in prison for a mass shooting at a Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis in 2015.
Yet at a handful of protests across the nation since George Floyd was killed, young armed white men claiming to be Boogaloo Bois have been seen along with racial justice protesters.
Political Bias and the Antifa Boogeymen
Through misunderstanding or political bias, the MPD analyst made wildly inaccurate claims about the organization and structure of Antifa. Antifa is famously decentralized and it has no official headquarters nor leadership, contrary to the near conspiracy theorizing present in the MPD documents. In contrast, the Boogaloo’s apolitical dynamic was noted by the MPD intelligence analyst who assembled the training materials.
As with many paranoia-soaked reports about antifascists, MPD conflates different types of protests and activity under a sprawling label of Antifa. Local mutual aid projects and ‘black bloc’ style direct actions, as usual, are implied to be part of the dreaded Antifa octopus rather than disparate, sometimes overlapping elements of the contemporary political scene.
MPD’s slant attempts to roll a giant Antifa snowman out of the deep drifts of discontent wafting through Minneapolis. This kind of fabrication could entice prosecutors to file conspiracy charges on the basis of political orientation. As far back as 2017 some authorities in that state sought to label antifascists as ‘street gangs.’ Last year, at least five attendees at a violent pro-Trump ‘Patriot March’ in San Diego also attended the January 6 insurrection attempt just three days earlier. “Participants in the Patriot March, conversely, engaged in violent acts, seemingly without consequence,” the Appeal added. In the aftermath of this event, conspiracy charges were selectively levied by San Diego prosecutors against alleged antifascists last December. Defendants allegedly joined the conspiracy “by liking and sharing” social media posts, authorities claimed in their legal reasoning.
Kieran Knutson, President of Communications Workers of America (CWA) local 7250, offered his perspective on MPD’s analysis: “My initial reaction is that this is a very superficial understanding of political forces – like someone who doesn’t know much probably got paid a lot of money to play on Google for a few hours…There is no Antifa HQ, there’s not even a Torch HQ.”
The MPD presentation wrongly claims that Antifa entered the modern scene at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The presentation failed to mention the white supremacist terror attack on anti-racist counter-demonstrators that killed Heather Heyer and injured 35 others. This is of import as the neo-Nazi who attacked the counter demonstration was driving a car when he plowed into the crowd, a tactic that would become increasingly prominent both locally in Minneapolis but also nationally.
Antifa, a shortened moniker for the anti-fascist movement, began as a leftwing movement composed of various political ideologies including socialists, anarchists, and communists but also less ideological people concerned with racism, totalitarianism and fascism. The objective of Antifa has always been simple: to counter the rise of fascism, specifically Nazism in Europe.
With the election of Donald Trump and subsequent rise in white supremacist violence, Antifa has grown across the country and includes many who do not closely identify with radical politics outside of opposing a resurgent rightwing.
There is no electoral strategy nor much of an agenda beyond mass mobilization to challenge and halt any such totalitarianism from taking root. Among organized antifascist groups, the leading focus is researching white supremacists in their region, reducing the degree of secrecy they enjoy and hopefully deterring racially motivated harassment and violent attacks.
The Twin Cities have a lengthy history of anti-fascist protest which includes some of the first modern organized anti-racist groups in the country, The Baldies, who are featured in the PowerPoint. Not featured is the fact that The Baldies led directly to Anti-Racist Action, also mentioned in the report.
The MPD’s PowerPoint mythologizes Antifa and falsely claims it has a national headquarters as well as internal processes and accreditations that simply do not exist. There are no bylaws, nor master plans, nor officialdom of any kind with Antifa – its organizing typically occurs in response to planned rightwing demonstrations and members spontaneously come and go. Leftwing organizing in the U.S. takes this approach specifically due to historical repression and surveillance of leftist movements.
The MPD documents claim that “Minneapolis is unconfirmed as being Torch verified but social media posts indicate the process has begun.” MPD also falsely claims Portland, OR is the “national AF headquarters,” and Torch “is responsible for accreditation of national Antifa Chapters.”
“While there is no one ANTIFA Inc. there are collectives and networks of anti-fascists, including the Torch Network – which has its origins in the old Anti-Racist Action Network. While Torch has some serious activists and projects, including Rose City Antifa – Torch represents a small percent of militant antifascists around the country,” explained Knutson.
The accreditation claim was not followed by any of the alleged posts but specific Twitter users were targeted due to their supposed “high probability of either being Antifa leaders, members, affiliates or ground supporters.” Labeling Twitter users who expressed political viewpoints the MPD decided (based upon no defined metric) as high level operators in Antifa is a dangerous portent of things to come, especially when resolutions have been introduced to label Antifa as a domestic terrorist organization.
While labeling Antifa dangerous, the presentation slants dismissive toward the dangers posed by Boogaloo members who fetishize guns and violence and openly express a desire for a second civil war.
Knutson explains, “this is not the first time that local law enforcement has attempted to criminalize anti-fascists in the Twin Cities.”
This is political posturing by a police department that previously tweeted debunked Project Veritas content disparaging of a Congresswoman immediately before her reelection. A department perennially under investigation for civil rights abuses. A department whose officer federation was led by Bob Kroll, who was sued by the outgoing Police Chief Medaria Arradondo years ago for racist misdeeds including wearing a white supremacist patch on his jacket. Therefore, it may not be surprising that the MPD’s intelligence analysts would have such a wildly inaccurate portrayal of anti-fascists / anti-racists.
The presentation explained previously that Boogaloo members organized online and eventually became active in the streets. Yet despite the MPD’s supposition that the internet is key toward their organizing abilities, no list of Boogaloo social media accounts are listed as was done for antifa.
Further evidence of this political posturing and bias comes from a slide covering the Boogaloo movement titled ‘Tactics.’ The slide states, “The Boogaloo movement is not clearly defined by a set of rules, actions, or social media guidelines like ANTIFA.” The alleged antifa guidelines and rules are not included, likely because they do not exist.
Conspiracy theorists routinely spread fake documents such as Antifa membership cards or checks from George Soros to hype and further mythologize Antifa, as a menacing organization with far reaching tentacles, which is simply not the case. The ‘Tactics’ slide also explains that Boogaloo members are “brash” online and “proudly portray affiliation,” however no dossier of potential leaders, members, affiliates, etc is included.
Two Boogaloo members, both since incarcerated, were mentioned in a slide titled Notable MPD Interactions. One of the members, Benjamin Teeter, who sold weapon stocks to an undercover FBI agent, is featured for his participation in unrest in downtown Minneapolis in late August 2020 – Docs Show MPD Communicating With Military About Boogaloo Members.
An Alleged “Antifa Leader” Speaks
Unicorn Riot spoke with one of the people whose Twitter account was named in this presentation on the condition of anonymity. “It’s pretty frightening to be labeled as an extremist because when you appear on a list like this, you never know if it’s sloppy research, or if you are in danger. It feels really unsettling to know that they are training police officers to monitor me, specifically.”
This is an individual who explained that they have never been arrested and that their activism is centered around mutual aid. When asked whether they feel targeted simply due to their online speech they explained, “It sure seems like it.”
Being named in this way by a police department with a recurring history of abuses toward activists has caused the anonymous individual to change their behavior.
“I’ve gotten more serious about information security… I called a few key people in my life to let them know I’m on this list, in case anything happens. Honestly, I could see some sort of Kyle Rittenhouse situation happening. I could see some white supremacist with a gun deciding that they are going to take me out because I am too loud, and because they are miseducated. The line between laughably bad police work and endangering me by targeting me in this way is very blurry, and they know it.”-Individual targeted as one to take ‘note’ of in the MPD Extremism PowerPoint
As previously mentioned, the metric for someone finding their way onto this list is not known. The individual we spoke with thinks, “it really does feel like folks who have been vocal about pushing back against the city, especially as it pertains to the Near North encampment [for the unhoused], are being specifically targeted.”
Another blatantly political slide speculates on two possible future paths for the anti-fascist movement. The first being a “lull in activity with the absence of Donald Trump.” The second, “Embrace a more aggressive/confident presence within the social sphere as democratic socialism becomes more widely accepted and discussed in American politics.” Again, this is pure speculation and evidence for a secret Antifa agenda is not included in the presentation.
Reality Check and Statistics
The national discourse surrounding political violence, protest, and civil unrest has been mired in anecdotes and clueless punditry. Corporate media are well known to offer false equivalencies when it comes to political discussions which often paint an overly simplistic picture of two equal and opposite sides on any number of issues. Unfortunately, this is clearly the case with the ever increasingly important issue of domestic terrorism. The MPD decided to further the paradigms of false-balance oversimplification despite its own first-hand encounters with domestic extremists.
Nationally, since the mid 1990s, incidents of rightwing violence far exceed leftwing attacks. It’s not even close. From the Guardian, “A new database of nearly 900 politically motivated attacks and plots in the United States since 1994 includes just one attack staged by an anti-fascist that led to fatalities. In that case, the single person killed was the perpetrator. Over the same time period, American white supremacists and other rightwing extremists have carried out attacks that left at least 329 victims dead, according to the database.”
In perhaps the most notorious episode of its type, Boogaloo adherents used the cover of a George Floyd protest in 2020 to target federal security agents in Oakland, killing one. The shooter Steven Carrillo, a professed Boogaloo Boi and a staff sergeant at the Travis Air Force Base said in a Facebook post he was going to “go to the riots and support our own cause.”
Alarming many civil liberties activists are new Federal changes to definitions of terrorism and extremism. With the obvious rise in rightwing violence in the United States, the Biden administration has taken “unprecedented” measures to tackle domestic terrorism.
White supremacists are now in focus but included in these efforts are those professing anticapitalist views, environmentalists and others. (In 2018 we reported on long-running Midwestern FBI probes and grand juries aimed at the left, based on documents that expose little known ‘statistical accomplishment’ incentives and internal ‘domestic terrorism’ designations which are rarely, if ever, presented to the public.)
Chip Gibbons, the policy director at Defending Rights and Dissent told Politico, “Given the lax guidelines and overall history, I think it’s very likely that these domestic terrorism resources are going to be deployed against people who are engaged not in terrorism but in speech activities,” he added. “And the targets selected for these investigations are going to reflect the same bias the FBI has always had.”
Through this political extremism training the Minneapolis Police Department has shown a lack of basic understanding of the issue at hand, spelling trouble particularly for leftwing activists who are oftentimes demonized by mainstream media outlets. This occurs during a time of increasing political violence, the majority of which is perpetrated by the far-right and the state, and a breakdown of democratic institutions while the MPD is grappling with its own legitimacy crisis.
These factors combine to make it a dangerous time to be an activist, a fact of life which also motivates many to continue their activism, against the odds. Knutson summarized the situation, “the clear motive for presentations like this is to prepare the ground for political repression.”MPD-Antifa_Boogaloo_PPT-Redacted-1
Niko Georgiades of Unicorn Riot contributed to this report. Cover image composition by Dan Feidt.