The FBI believes it has credible evidence of a threat of violence on Sunday specifically aimed at the Minnesota and Michigan state capitols by right-wing extremists as part of their preparation for armed protests in every state and Washington, D.C., leading up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration next week.
The evidence is spelled out in an alert dated Dec. 29 that was written by the FBI's Minneapolis division based on what it said was intelligence from two "collaborative" sources with direct access to vital information.
The "potential activity alert" was first posted Monday by Yahoo News and verified to the Star Tribune on Tuesday as legitimate by a source who has seen the document.
The report said that some followers of the violent Boogaloo movement attended protests in early December at the Minnesota State Capitol "to identify escape points and defensible positions in the event violence occurred."
Boogaloo members "scouted general law enforcement presence" at the earlier rallies, the report noted, and "identified law enforcement numbers. … They also identified law enforcement sniper locations and considered breaking into federal buildings for use as firing locations if fighting occurred."
One movement member went so far as to say that "the building with the snipers would need to be blown up in order to protect Boogaloo fighters in the event of a gun battle during the event," the document continued. "At least one follower expressed his willingness to die for the movement."
The report emphasized that the Boogaloo movement was not plotting an attack but was planning "to use violence" should fighting occur Sunday.
The Boogaloo movement's supporters are pro-gun rights and advocate for a second civil war or the collapse of society and don't adhere to a coherent political philosophy.
The surfacing of the report comes less than a week after a mob of President Donald Trump's supporter swarmed and ransacked the U.S. Capitol in an attempted insurrection amid baseless allegations that election fraud in November cost him the White House.
Along with extensive damage to many areas of the Capitol and disruption of Congress' certification of Biden as the Electoral College victor, a Capitol police officer and three other people lost their lives during the mayhem. Another officer died by suicide days later.
On Saturday in St. Paul, about 100 Trump supporters gathered at the State Capitol, waving flags, chanting, praying and expressing support for the president's discounted election grievances. As watchful state troopers lined the steps of the Capitol facing the crowd, the protesters declared that they would stay peaceful, and they did so.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) declined to take questions about the FBI alert's contents, but DPS spokesman Bruce Gordon did say security is being ramped up for whatever might come on and near the State Capitol grounds.
"In addition to the fence around the Minnesota Capitol that has been in place since last summer, the State Patrol has increased its presence to respond to various threats and prevent unlawful entry into the building," Gordon said. "We are aware of the national reports of potential insurrection and are tracking possible protest activity as we stand ready to guard the Capitol and protect state employees from harm."
In the Michigan capital of Lansing, another Boogaloo movement adherent has suggested "using a gasoline-based device with a tripwire … to cause a distraction while other individuals 'take' the capitol," the FBI alert read. This person views himself as being "at war with the government, particularly with politicians and federal agents, and wanted to make a statement with the actions."
In response the report being leaked to the news media, the FBI office in the Twin Cities released a statement late Monday but did not comment directly the alert's content:
"While our standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products, the FBI is supporting our state, local, and federal law enforcement partners with maintaining public safety in the communities we serve. Our efforts are focused on identifying, investigating, and disrupting individuals who are inciting violence and engaging in criminal activity. As we do in the normal course of business, we are gathering information to identify any potential threats and are sharing that information with our partners.
"The FBI respects the rights of individuals to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights. Our focus is not on peaceful protesters, but on those threatening their safety and the safety of other citizens with violence and destruction of property."
The Minneapolis FBI alert was passed on to the St. Paul Police Department, the Minnesota State Patrol, and in Michigan to the Lansing Police Department and State Patrol.
The Boogaloo Bois, as they call themselves, have been a disruptive influence in Minnesota dating back to May, soon after George Floyd died while in police custody in Minneapolis.
In mid-December, one of the Boogaloo Bois pleaded guilty to attempting to provide weapons to Hamas, a designated terrorist organization, in the days and weeks following sometimes violent protests over Floyd's death. Benjamin R. Teeter, 22, who came to Minneapolis from North Carolina after Floyd's death, said in federal court that he was hoping Hamas would help him and his fellow fighters "exit the country and open a training facility" for Boogaloo Bois.
Another Boogaloo member, Ivan Hunter, is also facing federal charges related to the Floyd riots. Hunter allegedly shot a rifle 13 times into the burning Minneapolis Police Department's occupied Third Precinct in an attempt to achieve the group's goal of ramping up violence and starting a civil war.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482