(WXYZ) — Domestic terrorism is on the rise across the country. The plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer is the latest in a string of crimes all tied to an anti-government movement.
“This is not a militia. It is a domestic terror organization. We need to call it out,” said Whitmer on Good Morning America Friday about the suspects.
Law enforcement officials say the 13 men arrested as part of the plot to kidnap Whitmer and attack the state capitol have ties to something called the Boogaloo movement.
“It is primarily an anti-govt movement that wants to incite violence at these protests. We’ve seen recently it wants to engage in violent acts and bring about the collapse of society,” said Jon Lewis, Research Fellow with the Program on Extremism at George Washington University.
“It’s a fragmented disparate set of individuals, anyone can join, I can go put on a Hawaiian shirt in my closet and say I’m a member of the Boo movement,” said Lewis.
The term Boogaloo comes from the 1984 movie Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo. Lewis says it roughly translates into a bad sequel, snowballing on the dark web into a term for a second civil war.
“Six to eight months ago, it started developing a more offline identity, so it moved from that online meme based 4chan phase, to offline at protests with the Hawaiian shirt and the plate armor and the AR-15,” said Lewis.
Law enforcement sources say 11 of the 13 men are associated with a militia group called the Wolverine Watchmen.
Michigan has a long history with militias. But sources tell the 7 Investigators that other legal militia groups consider the 13 suspects as very much on the fringe.
“So the Boogaloo threat is in a way separate and distinct [from militia], but what we’re seeing now in the United States under this broader umbrella of far-right terrorism. You’ve got different strands – you’ve got militia groups, you’ve got Boogaloo, you’ve got white supremacists, you’ve got neo-Nazis. Sometimes they stay in their own worlds and their own lanes and sometimes they cross over,” said Javed Ali.
Ali spent 16 years in counter-terrorism and intelligence in the federal government and was on President Trump’s national security council until 2018. He’s now teaching at the University of Michigan. Ali says the current political climate is prompting more extremist groups to act out.
“It’s the pandemic, it’s the protests and it’s politics. So 3 ‘P’s.’ The politics and the discourse on both sides of the aisle-- it’s not one side vs. the other – it’s not helpful. I think it’s fueling the anger and the grievances that are out there for people who are inclined to act violently.”