Why far-right protesters are wearing Hawaiian print

From 4chan meme to Aloha shirts, armed Americans prepare for 'The Boogaloo' 

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 17 June 2020 09:34 BST
Armed protesters storm Michigan Capitol to protest stay-at-home orders

Emerging from a hack joke trope and in far-right memes in racist and homophobic corners of the Internet, armed extremists wearing Hawaiian or "Aloha" print shirts at protests across the US are signalling support for a "second Civil War" over stay-at-home orders and perceived threats to the Second Amendment.

The 1984 breakdancing film Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo launched three decades of overused jokes relying on its title format, with its latest iteration in far-right memes casually invoking "Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo".

Shortened to Boogaloo or The Boogaloo, the phrase caught on with gun rights advocates — conjuring casual threats of mass violence, often under the guise of an ironic "joke" or "meme" — over the last several years, spiralling out of 4chan and into call-to-action hashtags and Facebook groups, warning Americans to stock up on guns and ammunition and spreading a conspiracy that Democrats and "the left" are "coming for" Americans' right to own firearms.

"Red flag" laws that allow governments to temporarily seize firearms from people who are dangers to themselves or others would "bring on the boogaloo", according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Spin-offs followed — big igloo and big luau among them, with images of igloos and floral prints (or igloos with floral prints) spreading online, including on Facebook.

Armed militia members and far-right demonstrators appeared wearing floral-print shirts at recent protests against statewide quarantine measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Hawaiian natives have accused the groups of appropriating their culture, fearing that the "Aloha" print could be labelled a hate symbol or associated with violent iconography.

"I know this all seems like a joke and easy to dismiss, but that is part of their strategy to lure in young men and downplay what they are talking about," wrote Reece Jones, author of Violent Borders and chair of the Department of Geography and Environment at the University of Hawaii. "It is deadly serious. These men are preparing for a civil war."

Boogaloo memes have also appeared among white supremacists, signalling that a civil war is not just against liberal governance but will accelerate social collapse to make way for white dominance, the Anti-Defamation League reports.

"Some promote boogaloo-related phrases alongside hashtags such as #dotr or #DayOfTheRope, both of which are references to neo-Nazi William Pierce's The Turner Diaries, a novelised blueprint for a white revolution," the organisation reports.

Some groups have distanced themselves from racist offshoots and claimed that an armed revolution won't represent a monolithic ideology.

Facebook page Big Igloo Bois, which has more than 30,000 "likes" on the platform, claims that the coming revolution is "not a race issue", pointing to the recent protests in Minneapolis following the police killing of George Floyd.

"For far too long we have allowed them to murder us in our homes, and in the streets," one administrator writes. "We need to stand with the people of Minneapolis. We need to support them in this protest against a system that allows police brutality to go unchecked."

Following armed protests during the Covid-19 crisis, Boogaloo followers have promoted plans for mass armed marches, Fourth of July rallies and other open-carry events on social media.

"However irony-drenched it may appear to be, this is a movement actively preparing for armed confrontation with law enforcement, and anyone else who would restrict their expansive understanding of the right to bear arms," write Robert Evans and Jason Wilson in their in-depth investigation into the Boogaloo movement. "In a divided, destabilised post-coronavirus landscape, they could well contribute to widespread violence in the streets of American cities."

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