Note: Zach D. Roberts is either the most courageous member of the Palast Investigations team or the craziest, or both. For the past two years, photojournalist Roberts has been investigating the ultra-Right, traveling–sometimes openly, sometimes under cover–with the Proud Boys and other wannabe storm troopers. It was Roberts who took those horrific photos of neo-Nazis beating a Black school teacher, DeAndre Harris, nearly to death. Photographing the perpetrators while a gun was pointed at him, Zach’s photos put five neo-Nazis behind bars.
How can Trump steal 2020? Violence is part of the recipe, Roberts reports… But, there’s another part. As detailed in our new one-minute film PSA, the massive, illegal purge of voters of color, barely reported in the network news, can result in 1.8 million voters blocked at the polling station, as happened in 2016. To prevent another Jim Crow outcome, the Palast Fund has created a website, SaveMyVote2020.org, where voters in Michigan and other states can look up to see if they have been, or are about to be, purged from the voter rolls.
Please: if you know someone in Michigan, make sure they look up to see if they are on the purge list. If so, there’s a link to re-register; it’s not too late.
We had to create the list for Michigan because the prior Administration of the state used Kris Kobach’s racially poisonous Crosscheck list—”aggressively” as these GOP officials told me.
But now that the Democrats have taken control of all statewide offices, why hasn’t Michigan’s new Attorney General returned 152,807 wrongly purged voters to the rolls? In Georgia and Wisconsin, our work has received support and thanks from Stacey Abrams and Mandela Barnes, Lt. Governor of Wisconsin. I can’t help but notice that both these officials are African-American. By contrast, the Democratic Party of Michigan, as I said in the chapter Michigan Mishagass of my book How Trump Stole 2020 , has ignored the GOP attacks on Black, Arabic and Hispanic voters. Why? Fear of a Black Party that would scare away whites? Ignorance? I just don’t know.
I bring up this uncomfortable fact because, in my decades of work on vote suppression, I’ve found that racist attacks on voters are often instigated by Boogaloo bigots and partisan pols like Kris Kobach. But, to be blunt, Jim Crow anti-voter tactics are only sustained by the silent complicity of white politicians who should know better.
– Greg Palast
Michigan Kidnapping, Nooses and the Boogaloo Militia
Nine months ago, I sat across the table sharing a pizza and a beer with a man who almost certainly was armed.
I asked him, “How do you think tomorrow is going to go?”
He replied, “Either nothing’s going to happen or we’re going to lynch the Governor.”
I awkwardly chuckled, the man across the table did not join me in the laugh. A couple of minutes later he excused himself, grabbing his keys that were sitting on the table which was attached to a U.S. ARMY lanyard.
The next morning, the militiaman, Boogaloo Boys, Proud Boys and thousands of others descended on Virginia’s capital for a rally against the governor’s proposed gun ownership restrictions. No lynching. Not yet.
I thought of that conversation when I heard the news about the thwarted plot to kidnap the Governor of Michigan riled by Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s ‘lockdown’ of the state to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
If you know anything about militias, you probably know about the Michigan militia. But the media portrayed them as a benign curiosity. Back in 1995, the Chicago Tribune described its founder, Norm Olson, as merely “feisty”. This was just two months after one of their associates,Timothy McVeigh, working with members of the militia, murdered 168 men, women, and children at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
The vast threat of the militia movement wasn’t taken seriously then (they were feisty, not dangerous, remember?), and its potential for violence and unrest hasn’t been taken seriously until (hopefully at least) now.
Today, the arrests of the six men facing federal charges around a conspiracy to commit kidnapping of the Governor of Michigan should come as no surprise. Just last month, a Dallas field office FBI internal report, obtained by Ken Klippenstein of The Nation, discussed the threat of “Boogaloo Adherents Likely Increasing Anti-Government Violent Rhetoric and Activities, Increasing Domestic Violent Extremist Threat in the FBI Dallas Area of Responsibility.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray earlier this year noted that the greatest domestic threat to America are these right-wing gangs. However, Wray’s attempt to protect us from these gangsters is frustrated in part by Donald Trump’s restructuring of the Department of Homeland Security’s domestic terror operations and by a far too friendly relationship between these groups and law enforcement.
Now we are dealing with a militia movement that is emboldened by the President’s rhetoric to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and accelerated by disinformation on the internet. No better example of that was seen in Gettysburg over the July 4th holiday where hundreds of militia members and other ‘concerned citizens’ descended on the historic town carrying enough firearms to restart the Civil War.
Which may have been their point.
The men connected to the conspiracy to kidnap the Governor of Michigan, blow up a bridge and potentially murder law enforcement are not quite the militia of Commander Norm Olson’s days. While they train in the woods, wear tactical gear and give themselves fake military rankings, they’re closer to the ‘Boogaloo Movement.’
The Boogaloo Movement is anarchist in philosophy—true anarchists dreaming of a stateless society, an extreme libertarian community of “preppers” —prepared for civil war. Which is why they are armed to the teeth and training with whatever established groups they can.
The Boogaloos take their name from the cult film “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.” The movie (not a good one) has nothing to do with a civil war but like so much of our current internet meme culture has evolved from an inside joke to a racist meme to violence in the streets.
Boogaloo Boys are not fascist-leaning like the Proud Boys or the Patriot Front groups. But, in the confusing Venn diagram of far-right extremist movements, will often work together at the same events.
They have no official hierarchy. People who might call themselves Boogaloo in Cleveland, Ohio, could easily disagree with everything that some “Boog” in Lansing, Michigan might believe. Like most groups led by an internet meme, it’s an ever-moving target. Some even attended a Black Lives Matter rally to protect protesters from police! Yet, in the next town, they were seen protecting a Hobby Lobby.
The arrested members of the Wolverine Watchmen, the would-be kidnappers, also adopted Q-Anon and “Three Percenter” memes about child-trafficking. The Watchmen also defended Kyle Rittenhouse who was arrested for killing two progressive protesters in Wisconsin.
One of the accused, Pete Musico, is a fan of both Infowars and prominent Proud Boy, Joey Biggs.
Much like how the Michigan Militia distanced themselves from Timothy McVeigh after the Oklahoma City Bombing but were vital to his plot to murder Federal employees, there’s no doubt that the groups that these Wolverines followed will deny any connection to the plot.
This keeps Bill Fulton, a researcher on domestic terrorism, up at night. The author of The Blood of Patriots, told me, “They’ve always worked together. You’ve always had that, the Venn diagram becomes a circle when it comes to the sovereigns [citizens] and the militias and the hate groups and some of these, more radical evangelical groups, they share massive amounts of membership.”
The question now is, how do these troops read their “Commander’s” signal to, “Stand back and stand by”?
Stand by…for what?
Zach D Roberts is an investigative photojournalist who covers far-right extremism and voter suppression in America. He covered the Unite the Right Rally in Chalottesville and his work there helped put four white extremists in jail. He co-produced Greg Palast's films The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Vigilante: Georgia's Vote Suppression Hitman. Roberts is a Palast Investigative Fund Fellow and Puffin artist grant recipient.