A small group of armed white men (and two white women)—adherents of the right-wing ideology “boogaloo,” which fetishizes the Second Amendment and overthrowing the government—marched near the Capitol Building Friday afternoon to demand that the state reopen despite the threat of the coronavirus. 

In North Carolina, it is against the law for “any person participating in [a] demonstration upon … any public place” to “willfully or intentionally possess or have immediate access to any dangerous weapons.” 

The Raleigh police did nothing.

The show of force stemmed from ReOpenNC’s protest on Tuesday, in which four members of that organization, including leader Ashley Smith, were arrested outside of the Executive Mansion on charges of violating an executive order and resisting arrest. 

In response, some paramilitary conspiracy theorists formed “Blue Igloo”—a reference to the alt-right’s code word “boogaloo,” a play on the 1984 breakdancing movie Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, which, as a sequel, has come to refer to a second Civil War—to show off their guns in downtown Raleigh. 

“It’s amazing how much friendlier [police are] to well-armed men than soccer moms and nurses,” said Blue Igloo protester Stephen Wagner, aka “Pat Riot.”

Two pistols hung from holsters around his shoulders. He wore an American Flag tank top and sunglasses. 

Wagner also organizes ReOpenNC and attended Tuesday’s protest. 

“‘Boogaloo’ is the term that the gun guys use when they do the overthrow of the government,”  Elon University computer science professor Megan Squire told Triad City Beat. “Last summer—May, June, July—white supremacists started also using the word.”

After the term went mainstream last year, it morphed into variants like “Big Luau.” 

In keeping with that theme, the group of less than a dozen, clad in Hawaiian shirts and military garb, converged in the residential neighborhood outside the gates of Oakwood Cemetery around 8:00 a.m., drawing a gaggle of reporters and TV crews. Nearby, residents walked their dog, and kids rode bikes.

Police officers told them they couldn’t protest with their weapons, so they put away their signs and stood quietly before making their way downtown around noon.

Gripping assault weapons, they walked down Wilmington Street as dozens of police officers stood guard around the Capitol grounds, where it is also illegal to openly carry guns.

In North Carolina, it is illegal to participate in a protest while in possession of a weapon. But no one was arrested. 

“It shall be unlawful for any person participating in, affiliated with, or present as a spectator at any parade, funeral procession, picket line, or demonstration upon any private health care facility or any public place owned or under the control of the state or any of its political subdivisions to willfully or intentionally possess or have immediate access to any dangerous weapons,” the relevant state statute says. “Violation of this subsection shall be a Class 1 misdemeanor.”

Yet the Raleigh Police Department says no one broke this law. 

Asked how that could possibly be true, Raleigh police spokeswoman Donna-maria Harris said the gun-toting protesters were not, in fact, protesting. 

Here’s a direct quote: “The people carrying weapons at today’s event were not protesting.”

Worth noting: This is the same Raleigh Police Department that interrogated Takiyah Thompson, a black woman, at a Women’s March in 2019 because the stick she was using to hold up her sign could be used as a weapon. 

What Blue Igloo did in Raleigh on Friday was the same thing paramilitary extremists did in Michigan on Thursday: Use the threat of force to try to force the state to reopen. (President Trump praised that group as “very good people” on Friday morning.)

They are, by definition, protesters, participating in an “action expressing disapproval of or objection to something”—in this case, the stay-at-home order. 

Basking in the attention of a gaggle of reporters, the don’t-call-them-protesters rambled on with bottom-shelf conspiracy theories about how the coronavirus was manufactured by the Chinese government (nope) and how 5G is killing us with radiation (huh?).

One woman dressed in black with a gun strapped to her hip said she believed she came down with the coronavirus a few weeks ago but recovered.

“I’ve already been sick. Have I been testing? No. I don’t trust the testing right now,” said Debbie (she only gave her first name), 67, who lives in Garner. “There’s too many people, dates, and who, and China—there’s too many people involved in this, and they are pushing too hard for a vaccination. There’s something not right about this. They never push vaccination for the flu.”

But your doctor tells you to get a flu shot every year, a reporter replied. 

“But they don’t push it. Now they are pushing it,” Debbie responded. “How many places have testing to see if I have the swine flu? They haven’t.” (Swine flu, or H1N1, appeared in 2009, but the World Health Organization declared an end to the global pandemic in 2010.)

Debbie also said she believes the coronavirus was made in a Chinese lab.

Overhearing her, Wagner began talking about how internet routers kill plants left nearby. 

The not-protesters then began asking what restaurants would allow them inside with guns, (They ended up going to Subway. Eat fresh.) 

Police did not respond to the INDY’s questions about how the Blue Igloo whatever-it-was could somehow be classified as something other than a protest, which it quite plainly was, even if it was small and pointless. 

They were trying to influence public policy while displaying their guns in an effort to intimidate public officials. 

One only had to look at their Facebook page to see their intent. After Ashley Smith’s arrest, the Blue Igloo account posted: “Are we just going to let this happen? Or is everyone going to show up on May 1st?”

A supporter replied: “They’re called guns. Show up ready to use them.”

And another: “Let’s find out if King Cooper’s goons are willing to murder and attempt to murder citizens who happen to be keeping and bearing arms.”

That is a protest with guns. That’s breaking the law. 

RPD chose not to enforce the law against armed white men who use the same language as white supremacists and right-wing insurrectionists.  

Meanwhile, one woman staged her own counter-protest. She walked around downtown wielding her kid’s son’s Nerf gun. Not all heroes wear capes, y’all.

Contact Raleigh news editor Leigh Tauss at ltauss@indyweek.com. 

DEAR READERS, WE NEED YOUR HELP NOW MORE THAN EVER. Support independent local journalism by joining the INDY Press Club today. Your contributions will keep our fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle, coronavirus be damned.

5 replies on “Raleigh Police Say Armed Right-Wing Protesters Weren’t Protesters, No Arrests Made”

  1. I find it interesting that when they are armed, far-left wing protesters and activists you don’t label them as such, you simply label them as protesters or rally attenders. You only mark extremism when you see it on the right

  2. Any more pathetic leftist bias, and maybe Leigh Tauss could go work for CNN fake news. With articles like this, she would fit right in over there.

    The police did nothing probably because the Carolina statute sounds unconstitutional. Leigh bad mouths protestors in this article and I agree the bricks through windows was too far…yet I bet she and other leftists supports domestic terrorist groups like BLM and ANTIFA who many times are much worse then some broken windows.

    But what is far more dangerous to this nation then ANYTHING else, is progressivism/liberalism. Some of the responses to Leigh’s whining are excellent, and more important, true. Yet right here she labels them under her pathetic “Note to trolls” as ‘alt right knuckle draggers’…typical of leftists to quickly slap labels one anyone either not agreeing with them and or speaking truth.




  3. I love how you feel the need to share your opinion about people carrying guns, pretending it’s “fearless independent local journalism.” If you took a minute to talk to these people and have them the benefit of the doubt, you would see that they’re reasonable folks that are pissed off about what’s being done to them.

    I bet you wouldn’t bash the Black Panthers.

  4. …and yet, the Indy Week saw it fit to endorse a person for Mayor of Raleigh (Mary-Ann Baldwin) who gladly took cash from Republican mega-donor John Kane, the same man who has raised tens of thousands of dollars for the president who is actively encouraging armed protests. Funny how all that works out, huh?

Comments are closed.