Driving through the rural town of Estacada, Oregon, we watched as the wildfires engulfed the surrounding forest. Rachel, my co-producer and director, and I had teamed up to shoot a documentary on different groups labeled as extremists in America. We were driving to meet Ace, one of the Boogaloo Bois I had met a day before. Ace was a young, soft-spoken man who had strong convictions of what the Boogaloo Movement was and could talk for hours on the intricacies of his beliefs.

I had spent time speaking with Ace online before he decided he would introduce me to his Boogaloo Bois team in Oregon. The wildfires were raging, and Ace and his team agreed to take us into Estacada to document the fires past the police barricades set up to block civilians from active fire zones. 

The day before, we had attempted to document the wildfires in a different small town outside of Portland. When we arrived, armed locals, who thought we were ANTIFA arsonists, threatened to use force if we didnt leave the town immediately. Paranoia ran rampant in these small towns as sensationalized and sometimes fake news about arsonists starting fires were spreading like the wildfires themselves. The locals were heated, scared, and ready to defend their home from any outside threat. Yesterday, in our mostly black, urban garb, we looked a lot like potential ANTIFA. But today, the Boogaloo Bois had a plan. 

The Boogaloo Bois decided that instead of arriving in Estacada empty-handed, they would come fully armed and kitted with assault rifles, sidearms, body armor, helmets, and gas masks and act as a security detail for Rachel and me. We were more than happy to accept the offer. We wanted to get as close to the fires as possible and see the Boogaloo Bois in action, putting their pro-2A, libertarian mantras to the test. 

The thick, brownish smoke and ash-filled air produced by a wildfire leave you with a tired, achy lethargy that slowly poisons your body. Apathy can easily creep in when you don’t feel the immediacy of a burning fire in front of you. This wasn’t one of those times. The jitters from having met the quick-to-draw locals yesterday continued to sporadically jolt my nerves. I couldnt help but think to myself if meeting fire with fire would really result in peace and cohesion. However, I was eager to document the wildfires and was overtaken by curiosity as to where this situation would lead. And when we met with the Boogaloo Bois off the highway at the Estacada city limit, we knew they meant business. 

Boogaloo Bois
The Boogaloo Bois pose with their team flag that is a symbol for the Boogaloo Movement. The igloo insignia on the flag as well as the Hawaiian print stripe represent nicknames for the movement that have grown online, mainly due to online censorship. (Stanton Sharpe)

What is the Boogaloo Bois Movement?

The Boogaloo Bois is a nationally decentralized group. Its beliefs center around mostly the libertarian, pro-2A, and sometimes anarcho-capitalist movements. It formed online, mainly through social media and chat rooms like Facebook, 4chan, and Reddit. It has since moved into mainstream social media platforms like Instagram. “Boogaloo” is a name for the “second civil war” that its members believe may soon come to fruition in the United States. If you’ve seen photos online of armed men at protests in Hawaiian shirts, armored vests, and combat helmets, chances are they were Boogaloo Bois.

It’s very difficult to universally define what a Boogaloo Boi or the Boogaloo Movement is. There are parts of the Boogaloo Movement that have been usurped by white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and violence accelerationists. Instances of domestic terrorism and, in one instance, international terrorism, have been loosely tied to the movement. But in general, a majority of the Boogaloo Bois openly discredit those beliefs and actions that stem from outside the mainstream Boogaloo Movement ideology.

The above is a feature of decentralized movements that start online: The minute they take shape, they can easily be appropriated by other individuals and groups, leaving the core movement misidentified in the public eye. However, two sentiments that seem to be fairly universal in the Boogaloo Movement are the right to keep and bear arms and a serious concern that the United States government is overreaching in its authority, and they consider the police force a significant player in that. These two sentiments are the common thread that unites many factions of the Boogaloo Movement online.