Federal agents posing as members of Hamas arrested two men from an extremist group that used the BLM protests as a cover for anti-government violence. In a strange twist, some media jumped on the incident as an excuse to mistakenly identify the group as right-wing extremists in an attempt to divert blame for the violence away from the left-wing. The opportunity was so enticing that in a rare headline, the New York Times actually identified Hamas as a terrorist organization.
Two members of the Boogaloo Bois, an anti-government extremist movement, were arrested on Thursday for allegedly conspiring and attempting to become “assets” to a foreign terrorist organization that shared their “anti-US government views.” The two first came to the attention of authorities when they attended a George Floyd riot in May while carrying weapons. Witnesses reported that Michael Robert Solomon and Benjamin Ryan Teeter identified themselves as members of the Boogaloo Bois and the subgroup Boojahideen. The two told witnesses had intentions of “committing acts of violence against police officers” and had goals of “overthrowing the government and replacing its police forces,” according to the criminal complaint. They discussed raiding a National Guard Armory to steal weapons and “bombs” and would seek out “assassinating” white supremacists while someone else recorded it, according to the criminal complaint.
In June, federal authorities were told by an informant that the two communicated with an FBI agent posing as a senior member of Hamas that they wanted “to employ themselves as ‘mercenaries’ ” for Hamas, prosecutors said. Solomon told the FBI agent that he and Teeter “would be an asset to Hamas” because “we’ve got to be pretty valuable because two American-born white boys, right? We can move around like nothing. I can take anything anywhere,” according to the criminal complaint.
Their intention was to destroy “government monuments, raiding the headquarters of a white supremacist organization in North Carolina, and targeting politicians and members of the media,” prosecutors said.
In one of the taped conversations, Teeter expressed a desire to “take down twenty senators while they’re f***king playing baseball.” This is similar to a shooting that took place in 2017 during a practice session for the annual Congressional Baseball Game for Charity in Alexandria, Virginia. The shooter was a left-wing activist and the targets were Republican Congressmen.
Following a meeting in late July, the suspects allegedly delivered a device designed to convert a gun to shoot automatically, which they believed Hamas would use to attack Israeli and U.S. soldiers, according to court documents.
Hamas denied any connection with the two.
“The Islamic Resistance Movement – Hamas denies knowledge of the ‘Boogaloo Bois’ group or any of its members and denounces the US administration attempt to link between the movement and any of these group members,” Hamas said in a statement.
“We, in Hamas, are strongly aware of the oppression suffered by people of color in America. We express our solidarity with them and hope one day their rights will be acknowledged, as well as our inalienable rights.”
J.J. MacNab, a fellow at George Washington University who studies anti-government extremism, explained in a tweet that the group is loosely organized with widely divergent views that make classifying it difficult.
The Boogaloo movement is not cohesive.
While there are pockets of white supremacist Boogaloos, the younger and bigger groups are generally not.
While there are Boogaloos that strongly support Trump, the younger and bigger groups hate him.
— JJ MacNab (@jjmacnab) May 30, 2020
Some participants in the movement claim that the group and its ideology are nothing more than online jokes; however, law enforcement and researchers maintain that people connected to the groups have been implicated in plans to commit real violence. Some elements of the movement espouse white supremacy while others reject it outright. They have been seen at peaceful left-wing protests, arriving heavily armed claiming to be protecting the protesters from the police. Others claim to be protecting the protesters from white supremacists. Some elements claim to be anarchist while others reject that description. Some elements support President Trump while others hate him. Since 2019, at least ten people affiliated with the boogaloo movement have been charged with crimes, including disruption related to the George Floyd protests and the killings of two security and law enforcement officers.
This ambiguity was displayed in a CNN interview with Teeter in June.
“I’m a member of the LGBT community,” said Teeter, who described himself as a non-voting “left anarchist…People think I’m part of a Nazi group; I’m not.”
Perhaps the most confusing aspect of the incident was the reaction by the New York Times which reported it under the headline, “The Justice Department Charges Two With Trying to Support Terrorist Group Hamas.”
“Justice Department on Friday charged two American citizens with ties to a far-right extremist group with trying to support the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas – a case that shows that extremists have sought to turn protests against racism into opportunities to commit violence, but that also runs counter to President Trump’s assertions that those extremists are predominantly from the far left,” the NYT reported. “…the Justice Department has predominantly charged members of Boogaloo with crimes, contradicting claims by Mr. Barr and Mr. Trump that far-left extremists are responsible for the violence and crimes that have occurred at protests.”
CAMERA, a media watchdog, has called out the NYT on several occasions for downplaying Hamas terrorism. In 2018, the NYT described Hamas as “essentially a Palestinian national movement whose main effort is directed against Israel.”
“From start to finish, [the] Times article about fighting between Hamas and Israel downplays the extent of Hamas violence while suggesting Israel is responsible for the terror group’s rocket attacks, CAMERA wrote in response. “Meanwhile, Israeli retaliatory strikes on Hamas targets are portrayed as being no different than the Hamas’s indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians — largely because the article fails to mention even once that Hamas is a terror group, or that it is sworn to Israel’s destruction, or that the rockets it fires are indiscriminately lobbed toward Israeli civilians in their towns and cities in violation of international law.”
The NYT has been traditionally noncommittal in defining Hamas in terms of terrorism. When Hamas was attacking Israel, its classification as a terrorist organization was, for the NYT, a subject of debate. But when there is a connection between an ambiguously maybe-extreme right-wing group and Hamas that could be weaponized by the NYT to delegitimize claims that the left-wing is responsible for the violence, then Hamas’s definition as a terrorist organization became a sure-thing posted proudly in the headline.