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Home » Justice Dept. Charges 2 With Trying to Support Hamas

Justice Dept. Charges 2 With Trying to Support Hamas

WASHINGTON — The 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 on the far left.

Michael R. Solomon, 30, and Benjamin R. Teeter, 22, who were taken into custody on Thursday evening in Minneapolis, say they are members of a group called the Boogaloo Bois and of a subgroup called the Boojahideen. The groups are part of a loosely connected movement that seeks to bring about a second civil war to overthrow the United States government.

John C. Demers, the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said in a statement that Mr. Solomon and Mr. Teeter met with people they believed to be members of Hamas in order to “join forces and provide support, including in the form of weapons accessories,” to the terrorist organization.

“The defendants believed their anti-U.S. government views aligned with those of Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization, and actively developed plans to carry out violence in Minnesota and elsewhere,” Erica H. MacDonald, the U.S. attorney in Minneapolis, said in a statement.

The F.B.I. has long considered antigovernment extremists a serious and dangerous domestic terrorist threat.

The bureau opened an investigation into members of the Boogaloo Bois in late May, when protests prompted by the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis, gave way to arson, rioting and looting in some parts of the city. The F.B.I. received information that armed men associated with Boogaloo had taken to the streets of Minneapolis in the middle of the protests and that they had discussed committing violent acts during the unrest, according to court documents.

Over the past few months, protesters outraged by the death of Mr. Floyd as well as by a string of police shootings and killings of Black people have marched in cities across the country. While many of the protests have been peaceful, some rioting and looting have occurred, and some protesters have had violent clashes with law enforcement.

But right-wing activists who joined the fray to counter the calls for racial justice have also violently clashed with protesters. Kyle Rittenhouse, an Illinois teenager who staunchly supports Mr. Trump, went to a protest in Kenosha, Wis., armed with a rifle. After a melee that left two dead, Mr. Rittenhouse was charged in connection to two homicides. His lawyer has said he acted in self-defense.

Michael Forest Reinoehl, a self-professed member of the left-wing anti-fascism movement antifa, was a suspect in the fatal shooting last week of a member of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer during a protest in Portland, Ore. The shooting occurred after a confrontation between a caravan of Trump supporters and racial justice demonstrators. Mr. Reinoehl was killed by law enforcement on Thursday during an attempt to arrest him.

Mr. Trump has attributed violent and criminal activity at protests to far-left activists, and Attorney General William P. Barr has supported that assertion. Mr. Barr said this week on CNN that he had “talked to every police chief in every city where there’s been major violence, and they all have identified antifa as the ramrod for the violence.”

While the F.B.I. has hundreds of open investigations related to extremist activity, 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.

Staff Sgt. Steven Carrillo, 32, of the Air Force, was accused by the department of being linked to Boogaloo and using the protests as cover to attack law enforcement. He was charged with murder and attempted murder in June in connection with the shooting death of a federal security officer outside a courthouse in Oakland, Calif.

That same month, three men suspected of being tied to Boogaloo were charged with conspiracy to cause destruction and throw Molotov cocktails during protests in Las Vegas.

In its complaint against Mr. Solomon and Mr. Teeter, the Justice Department said that the men told an undercover F.B.I. agent, an F.B.I. informant and other witnesses that members of the Boogaloo Bois and Boojahideen had discussed assaulting police officers in order to further their goal of “overthrowing the government and replacing its police forces.”

The department said that the men were heavily armed, that they could manufacture unmarked parts for guns, and that they wanted to be “mercenaries” for Hamas to help fund the Boogaloo movement, according to court documents.

The men also discussed various methods for destroying government monuments and a specific county courthouse. They talked about raiding the headquarters of a white supremacist organization in North Carolina and expressed their desire to target politicians and members of the news media, according to government documents.

At the end of July, the men gave the undercover agent weapons intended for Hamas to use to attack American soldiers overseas, according to the Justice Department.

Mr. Solomon and Mr. Teeter appeared on Friday in Minneapolis District Court before Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung. They will remain in custody until their formal detention hearing scheduled for Wednesday. A lawyer for Mr. Solomon and Mr. Teeter could not be identified.


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