On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, about 60 people gathered outside of the Court of Appeals in downtown Washington, D.C., milling on the red brick and passing a bullhorn for a rally dubbed #EndTheDamnWars.
Promoted as a peaceful “post-partisan” event with a mission to “end regime-change wars” and “audit the Pentagon,” among other goals, #EndTheDamnWars courted speakers from a variety of causes, including the Free Julian Assange campaign, feminist progressive org CODEPINK and fringe-left political group The People’s Party. Per one reporter at the scene, numerous speakers mentioned Fred Hampton and MLK as examples of organizers who reached across political ideologies to support a common movement.
The Boogaloo movement is a loose coalition of far-right actors who portray themselves as anti-government, anti-police advocates but who have murkier motivations in private. The origin is hard to pinpoint, but Boogaloos likely came into existence on 4chan’s firearms forum, only to morph into a messy mix of violent libertarians, anarcho-capitalists and white nationalists during the 2020 election.
The word “boogaloo” was initially used as slang to refer to a Rapture-like civil war that will destabilize and remold America. Research suggests that the Boogaloo movement is not focused on white supremacy, but many Boogs continue to express racist and anti-Semetic beliefs online; others are out to push accelerationism, gathering resources and leveraging the threat of violence to widen cracks in America’s social and political structures.
There is no central hierarchy — instead, loosely organized Boogaloo groups exist in many states. Beyond semi-ironic, shitpost-y memes, Boogs have been responsible for real-world attacks, including the shooting of police officers in Oakland and a foiled plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Elsewhere, Boogs have been caught planning an arson attack at a Black Lives Matter protest to “incite chaos and possibly a riot,” as well as offering weapons and aid to Hamas.
In other words, the Boogaloo movement remains a quagmire of competing strategies and appetites for destruction. Panvidya is now trying to position himself as a stable figure in the fracas, despite the glaring evidence that any efforts toward “unity” are still in service of dismantling the U.S. government and seizing power for Boogs everywhere.
In the last year, Panvidya has hustled to court favor with a number of leftist and left-leaning organizations by falsely claiming that white nationalists have been purged from the Boogaloo ranks and offering to provide armed Boogs as security for events like “Detroit Will Breathe,” an anti-police protest in Black solidarity. For his efforts, he’s made some odd bedfellows, including Japharii Jones, aka BLM757, who has been denounced by D.C.-area Black Lives Matters organizers for, among other things, working with Boogs.
Panvidya also made mainstream headlines when he was invited to left-leaning (and highly criticized) comedian Jimmy Dore’s podcast, where the young Boog basically had an open mic to claim that the movement had reformed and was a force for good, especially thanks to “post-partisan” networking.
Panvidya’s hustle is part of a larger pattern: Various Boogaloo groups are reaching out to people on the left to offer support, often via the promise of volunteer armed security. That was the case with a group of trans anarchist ranchers in rural Southern Colorado who were under attack by local right-wing militia forces; Tenacious Unicorn Ranch’s Penny Logue told me they were surprised by the offer, but had to decline. Elsewhere, Michigan-based activism group Solidarity & Defense had a run-in with Boogs who wouldn’t take no for an answer, which led to a lengthy statement in April imploring people to beware of bad-faith collaborations. Others, such as antifascist research collective Lone Gunmen AFA, have pushed back by also digging into various Boogs’ history of far-right speech online, including Panvidya stumping for Kyle Rittenhouse.
“Antifascists, anarchists and other leftist organizers have been pretty clear they don’t want anything to do with [the Boogaloo Bois]. I think for political reasons, but also because these [Boogaloos] are walking Fed magnets, and it doesn’t make any sense to collaborate,” says “James,” an anonymous editor at It’s Going Down, which reported on the 9/11 rally. “If they were actually leftists, they’d just be seen as people who are trying to parachute around, making the cause about themselves without actually building real relationships or doing much work. I mean, I’ve listened to [Panvidya] on his podcast and they seem very interested in rehabilitating their image.”
Even if Panvidya is earnest about creating “post-partisan” unity and empowering a broad anti-government coalition, odds are, there are too many conflicting values for such a partnership to last, notes Carolyn Gallaher, senior associate dean at American University and an expert on militias and extremists. She recalls how many American militia groups of the 1990s tried to create a national network of allies and coordinated projects, only to discover their mix of personalities and agendas led to in-fighting, not growth. And although a broad cause (like anti-war activism) may appeal to both leftists and the far-right, the values that inform that appeal are completely different, she argues.
“Let’s say your short-term gain is disruption, right? So think about the Occupy Wall Street movement. People wanted to disrupt what was happening in Congress and the bailouts, but what they wanted to happen after that were very different,” Gallaher tells me. “Right now, alliances are falling apart. What groups want is a bit unclear. So there’s a lot of shopping around that’s happening. It’s opportunism. You’re looking for the other side to help you with a short-term goal, so that you have a position of power to pursue a different long-term goal. We saw it at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville [in 2017], when white nationalists were reaching out to militia groups to march together. The goal wasn’t consensus. It was conversion.”
I reached out to the progressive and left-leaning organizations who were reportedly invited to, or took part in, the 9/11 rally: The aforementioned CODEPINK and People’s Party, as well as the Green Party and independent news site The Greyzone, whose editor Max Blumenthal reportedly spoke at the event. Greyzone and People’s Party didn’t respond by press time, but CODEPINK confirmed that a few members “stopped by out of curiosity” and met with colleagues from Free Julian Assange and The People’s Party. Co-founder Medea Benjamin also spoke at the rally to comment on the war in Afghanistan.
“CODEPINK opposes all forms of racism and violence. We reject the Boogaloo Boys. Their culture and ideology is antithetical to CODEPINK’s commitment to feminism, nonviolence, anti-racism, immigrant rights and love for the planet,” spokesperson Ariel Gold tells me in no uncertain terms. “CODEPINK did not sponsor or in any way promote the 9/11 rally because we were unsure who was backing it. We do not and will not collaborate with Boogaloo Boys. In fact, we have appeared at their rallies to protest them, holding signs saying ‘No Racism, No Hate.’”
For the Green Party, having prior intel on Panvidya was key to quashing an informal collaboration on #EndTheDamnWars, says spokesperson Michael O’Neil. The event was first spotted by a member who suggested it in a Green Party email list-serv, but was countered by a Green Party Michigan member who recognized Panvidya for his Detroit-area machinations. The D.C.-area member backed out of the rally after that disclosure. “The response to the initial suggestion was swift and informed, thanks to participants’ prior knowledge of the event and organizers,” O’Neil writes in a statement he sent to me.
“There is a history of authoritarian and sectarian groups attempting to build their ranks through anti-war movements, with varying levels of visibility and leverage within that movement. During the Iraq invasion and occupation, high-profile events were frequently organized or co-organized by what were largely understood to be front groups for sectarian organizations that were little better than secular cults,” O’Neil continues. “Regardless of whether such groups categorize themselves as ‘Leftist,’ ‘libertarian’ or something else, groups with oppressive and exploitative internal structures, secret agendas and hidden affiliations aren’t in alignment with our Four Pillars of Grassroots Democracy, Non-Violence, Eco-Logical Wisdom and Social Justice.”
The lesson may simply be that courting “post-partisan” allies requires vigilance and intel from people who are plugged into the rapidly shifting waters of social movements — and the extremists who try to gain clout through them. It’s a challenge for mainstream orgs that may not have much time to invest in due diligence, and extremist actors know that a publicly palatable message can be all it takes to garner legitimacy in the real world.
Again, the Boogaloo movement isn’t a single organism with a coherent agenda. Instead, it’s a spectrum filled with a variety of hardcore revolutionaries, paranoid gun obsessives and young edgelords looking for a subculture to support their Doomer existentialism. But what we have seen, over and over, is Boogs justifying violent and sneaky means to an end. And despite what Panvidya and others might say about a post-partisan world, the specifics of that end goal matter, even if there are shared sentiments along the way.
“Both far-right people and leftists might dislike the state as it is. But for a lot of these [Boogaloos], the long-term goal is an authoritarian society,” Gallaher says. “Ending a war is a short-term goal. But that’s not the end.”