By Mike Kaszuba
Four days before the November presidential election, state officials and the FBI issued a report giving police advice on how to handle potential threats and hazards at polling places in Minnesota.
While the report – which has not been previously disclosed — cautioned that there were at the time no known credible threats, the 13-page document provided an eye-opening look into how law enforcement authorities braced for trouble as Minnesotans went to the polls to vote on whether to re-elect President Trump or Democratic challenger Joe Biden. The document included tips on what police should do if voters showed up with firearms, advised police to watch for ideologically-motivated violence and described potentially violent groups that might be involved, such as the Boogaloo Boys.
The report said Boogaloo, which it added is occasionally referred to as the “Big Luau” or “Big Igloo”, is a term used to describe violent extremists from a variety of movements—including anti-government extremists, some militia extremists and white supremacist extremists—who adhere to their version of “accelerationism.” The report said the term refers to a coming civil war, or the fall of civilization.
The report also cautioned police regarding Anarchist Extremists, and described them as those who coordinate or commit violence in an attempt to change government and society in the belief that capitalism and corporate globalization should be opposed and that government institutions are unnecessary and harm society.
The report and other documents were obtained from the City of Minneapolis by Public Record Media (PRM), a non-profit based in Saint Paul. The report was prepared by the FBI and four state agencies including the Minnesota Fusion Center, a section of the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) that facilitates information sharing on suspected criminal activity. The report stated that while the U.S. intelligence community had previously observed foreign adversaries attempting to subvert America’s election infrastructure, it said that the recent civil unrest in the country had to be taken into account and posed security threats for the 2020 elections.
Though the report described 10 different extremist groups, it did not say whether authorities believed any of the groups existed in Minnesota. The report also did not raise concerns that members of local police departments might be members of the groups.
Documents reflect months of political protest, unrest
Though the November election did not produce any instances of polling place violence in Minnesota, the documents were released in the wake of a tumultuous year in the United States that saw numerous politically-motivated protests and riots – including some focused on claims of election fraud following Biden’s victory. The protests included marches in Minnesota – both at the State Capitol and the governor’s residence – and a riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 that left at least five dead as Congress met to confirm Biden’s election.
The documents’ release also came as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said that the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol might not be an isolated episode, and that the U.S. faced a growing threat from “violent domestic extremists” emboldened by the attack.
The documents show that in Minnesota federal, state and local officials worked for 18 months prior to the November 3 presidential election to monitor potential threats as Americans went to the polls in one of the most emotionally-charged elections in U.S. history.
But the documents also show that, in Minneapolis, police were instructed to walk a fine legal line – ordered to be ready to respond to trouble at polling places but also told to otherwise steer clear of them.
Election guidance for Minneapolis police
An October 14 e-mail to Minneapolis police stated: “Other than an immediate response required to protect life safety or property, no enforcement action shall be taken unless approved by [a city police] supervisor.” The memo was accompanied by a map of all polling places in the city.
“Other than providing routine patrol or responding to a call for service, officers shall not be present at a polling place,” the memo added.
Police could be at a polling place, the memo to Minneapolis police stated, if they were called by local election officials but “patrols of polling places should be limited to standard operation during active voting hours and may be intensified once the voting activities are closed to voters for the day.”
Police in Minneapolis were likewise alerted to another potentially thorny problem – voters displaying “political” or “campaign” materials.
If shirts, buttons, literature and other items expressed a political viewpoint, the memo stated, they were allowed by law. If the materials contained the name or logo of a political party, a candidate on the ballot or took a position on a ballot question, they were not allowed and election officials could ask for them to be removed.
In addition, the documents instructed police on another potential scenario — whether firearms could be brought to a polling place, and what to do if a voter reported being intimidated by a firearm at a polling place.
According to the documents, police were advised that it was not likely voter intimidation if a person with a permit carried a firearm into a polling place that does not prohibit firearms. But, the documents added, a person with a firearm – even if they had a valid permit – could be violating state and federal law if they displayed aggressive or intimidating behavior.
Police were likewise told in the document that a polling place that normally banned firearms under Minnesota’s permit to carry law could legally bar voters from bringing in a firearm. But if the polling place was in a facility that otherwise allows firearms, it could not separately ban them.
Similarly, local police were told that while polling places were under the state’s face-covering mandate related to the COVID-19 pandemic, voters refusing to comply would not be denied the right to vote. The report added however that a voter’s refusal to comply with the face-covering mandate should be recorded in an incident log.
Watching for suspicious activity, extremist groups
As Election Day approached, law enforcement officials in Minnesota were told to report suspicious activity, including attempts to access election computer systems, or attempts to get into polling places or into facilities used to store election and voting equipment. The report also advised police to report unexplained disruptions at polling stations or at locations where voting officials received training.
In addition to the Boogaloo Boys, the report described nine other extremist groups that police and election officials in Minnesota were to be aware of.
The groups included Black Supremacist Extremists, who were described in the report as those who use violence to oppose racial integration and/or to eliminate non-blacks and Jews.
Also included were Militia Extremists, who were described as those who believe the government is deliberately stripping Americans of their freedoms as part of an attempt to establish a totalitarian regime. The report said Militia Extremists opposed many state and federal laws, especially those related to firearm ownership, and often conducted paramilitary training to resist perceived government oppression, or to overthrow the federal government.
The report meanwhile added that White Supremacist Extremists – another group described for local police and election officials – were those who engaged in violence aimed at the federal government, ethnic minorities or Jews. The group, according to the report, believed that Caucasians are intellectually and morally superior to other races, and that the government is controlled by Jews.