CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE)- One anti-government group that uses a 1980’s movie as code for starting a second Civil War could use peaceful protests to incite violence, experts warn.
“I think there absolutely is a concern these individuals are inspired to commit acts of violence and are intending to do so,” said Jon Lewis, a research fellow at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University.
In May, armed protesters took the streets in Raleigh to protest the governor’s stay-at-home order. At least one gun-toting protester wore a Hawaiian shirt, which is a signature of the loosely organized far-right, anti-government group, the Boogaloo Bois.
Lewis says over the past year there has been a rise in domestic violent extremism. A big motivator for militias, he says, are the public health restrictions surrounding COVID-19.
“So much of their central tenants and their ideology has been the government is trying to take away your rights and crack down on your gun ownership,” said Lewis. “When you see big government in come and try and lock people down, for lack of a better term, they then see those red flags very brightly.”
This month, investigators foiled a plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor. The conspirators, including former North Carolina Marine Daniel Harris, allegedly had ties to the Boogaloo movement. The group seeks to start another Civil War and is active in North Carolina, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.
North Carolina is considered a “moderate risk” for increased militia activity following the election, according to a recent ACLED report.
Supporters of the movement, who often bring AR-15s to protests, say it is about defending democracy.
“Most of the guys in the Boogaloo movement, they’re 20-something-odd Libertarian guys that believe in freedom, that believe in the Constitution, that aren’t looking for a fight with anybody,” said one supporter in Michigan. They just want peace.”
In June, Facebook began banning hundreds of groups with ties to the Boogaloo movement. To get around that, members started using coded phrases like “Big Igloo” or “Big Luau” to rally and recruit, Lewis said.
The states at the “highest risk” for militia activity after the election include several swing states: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to ACLED and Militia Watch.