Under the bright glare of the car’s interior dome light, the man in the military jacket and makeshift balaclava didn’t waste much time making introductions.
“This is SaigaMarine,” he said into a camera broadcasting live on the Internet. “This is Black Powder Ranger,” he added, pointing to the man in the passenger seat, dressed in camouflage and a keffiyeh hiding his face.
“We’re going to go see what these f—– dindus are up to,” he said, using Internet slang insulting toward African Americans.
The two men were on their way from the Minneapolis suburbs to the burgeoning Black Lives Matter protest near downtown — but not to join in the demonstration. Instead, they were agents provocateurs.
If their racially charged words didn’t already betray their intentions, their gun would.
“And yes,” SaigaMarine said, holding up a pistol for online viewers to see. “We are locked and loaded.”
The brash and bigoted video, which streamed online sometime last week, might have faded like so many before it into Internet obscurity.
Instead, it became infamous.
On Monday night, three white men in masks opened fire on a group of predominantly African American protesters, injuring five, according to Minneapolis police.
Although no link has been publicly established by police between these men and the violence, the shooting has drawn increased attention to the threatening video, whose racial epithets and promises of “fire” appeared to foreshadow the tragedy.
On Tuesday, police announced they had arrested three white men in connection with the shooting, which they were investigating as a possible hate crime, according to the Star Tribune. Police have not yet officially released their names.
It is also not known whether those arrested are the men in the video.
A police spokesman told the Huffington Post that authorities are aware of the video, but police have not said whether the shooting suspects and the men in the video are one and the same.
— Lorena de la Cuesta (@LorenadlaCuesta) November 24, 2015
Whether or not the video proves connected to the shooting, the footage is just the latest in a string of online threats and pranks to upend peaceful demonstrations across the country.
In Missouri, two men were arrested after posting anonymous threats to university protesters on the anonymous messaging app called Yik Yak. Black students, particularly Black Lives Matter protesters, also have been threatened at Howard, Bowie State and Western Washington universities.
Meanwhile, “white student unions” have reportedly spread to more than 30 campuses, although it is unclear whether they are real groups or merely Internet pranks.
These threats and pranks share two things in common: They appear to be a reaction to the growing power of the Black Lives Matter movement, and, like that movement, they are using the Internet to their advantage.
From Minnesota to Missouri, the people behind the threats and pranks are often using the same Internet tools as the protesters themselves: anonymous apps such as Yik Yak or pastebin; streaming Internet sites; social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
In some cases, including the shooting in Minneapolis, police appear slow to catch onto the mushrooming technology.
Indeed, the video of SaigaMarine and his sidekick Black Powder Ranger brandishing a gun on their way to the protest wasn’t exactly hidden from authorities, even if their faces were.
In the video, SaigaMarine claims that they are broadcasting their video live online.
“Check it out, you guys,” he says. “We’re going to be driving down there. It’s going to take us about 10 minutes to get down there. We’re going to take a little while and shut the camera off in a little bit.
“We just wanted to give everyone a heads-up on /pol/ we are on our way,” he says, referencing a chat room on the anonymous message board 4chan where people share politically incorrect, often offensive views. SaigaMarine then again uses the word “dindu,” which is abbreviation of “dindu nuffin,” a racist Internet meme insulting toward African Americans.
“We are going to knock this s— out. We are going to see what these f—– dindus and dindu-ing about,” SaigaMarine says before making a reference to Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old African American man who was fatally shot by Minneapolis police on Nov. 15 after allegedly interfering with paramedics. (An attorney for a police officer involved in the shooting has claimed that Clark grabbed the officer’s weapon. Civilian witnesses have said, however, that Clark was handcuffed at the time of the incident. State and federal authorities are investigating.)
“Apparently fighting police and fighting paramedics is good enough to let you off with a slap on the wrist, especially when you go for an officer’s weapon,” SaigaMarine says in the video. “So yeah, [we’re going to do] a little reverse cultural enriching.
“We’re going to make the fire rise,” he adds in apparent impersonation of Bane, an anarchic character in the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises.” “The fire rises.”
“Anyways, you guys, keep on watching the stream,” SaigaMarine says near the end of the video. We are going to get on the freeway here in a few minutes and we’ll be there in no time.
“We’ll catch y’all later,” he signs off cheerily. “Stay white.”
That same night, video footage taken by protesters and journalists appears to capture SaigaMarine and Black Powder Ranger mocking demonstrators behind their backs. In one snippet, Black Powder Ranger dances like Michael Jackson as protesters huddle around open fires. In another, Black Powder Ranger sarcastically asks a protester, “Why couldn’t this have happened a while back? We’d be standing in nicer weather. It’s a very inconvenient time [for Clark] to get shot.”
In another clip, the two men give an interview to Unicorn Riot, a volunteer media collective.
“The fire is rising. The fire is rising. Things are getting heated. We don’t know if this is part of their plan, to just stand here. … They almost expect one of us to do something. They expect one of us to be in the wreckage of all of this. It’s boiling man. It’s boiling. It’s going to be happening. It’s going to be happening soon. We don’t know how. We don’t know when. But it’s going to be happening. It’s just crazy. S— is going crazy all over the f—– world, not just here but everywhere. That’s basically why we are here. We are here to see the fire rise.”
When asked what kind of justice they would like to see for Jamar Clark, the two men respond sarcastically.
“All these folks here should get the justice and peace that they deserve,” says Black Powder Ranger before adding with a laugh: “What we really need to do is reach out to our communities, especially our melanin-enriched communities.”
Another video shows a protester confronting the two men, asking them why they were making insulting comments.
“Take it easy, brother,” Black Powder Ranger says. “We’re on the same side here.”
“I don’t believe that,” the protester answers.
By Friday, protesters had clearly realized that their demonstration had been infiltrated.
“ALERT: Last night 2 white supremacists, one carrying a pistol, showed up to our peaceful protest at the 4th precinct,” the group wrote in a Facebook post on Friday. “After community members on livestream started questioning them they left without incident, then we later found a video of them en route to the protest brandishing a pistol and making comments including ‘stay white’ and justifying the killing of Jamar Clark.
“It has come to our attention that members of this group plan on returning tonight to our candlelight vigil at 4:30, some may come armed,” the alert continued with a link to an exchange on pastebin allegedly showing the men in the video and others planning to return to the protests, possibly with a gun, to sow chaos.
On Monday night, someone did just that.