DHS Challenge Coins Say ‘Border Patrol Lives Matter’

Challenge coins being traded in law enforcement focused Facebook Groups include appropriation of the Black Lives Matter fist and also contain an image of a Star Wars stormtrooper
Challenge coins
Image: Motherboard

A series of challenge coins made to commemorate the Portland protests in 2020 for federal law enforcement contain phrases such as “Border Patrol Lives Matter” and a fist that resembles one often used with the Black Lives Matter movement. Another coin includes the helmet of a Star Wars Stormtrooper surrounded by the emblems of various agencies, including multiple parts of the Department of Homeland Security, according to photos of the coins posted in private Facebook Groups and then shared with Motherboard.

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A source who requested anonymity to avoid retaliation first alerted Motherboard to the coins’ existence and provided screenshots from inside various private Facebook Groups where the coins were being advertised. The source also provided evidence of multiple Venmo transactions that appear to show DHS officials sending money to another account for “Portland coins” and other similar descriptions.

Do you know about any other challenge coins like these? We'd love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, or email joseph.cox@vice.com.

“Unleash the Border Portal,” one of the coins reads. Underneath an image of law enforcement officers squaring off against a crowd carrying Black Lives Matter signs the coin reads “Portland Riots 2020.” The coins carry obvious racist overtones by appropriating the message of Black Lives Matter—that of Black people pushing back against police brutality—and trying to apply it to Border Patrol itself.

After white police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, who was Black, in May 2020, protesters took to the streets around the country. In Portland, those protests lasted for more than 100 consecutive nights.

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One of the coins. Image: Motherboard.

Photos of these challenge coins and others came from private Facebook Groups with names such as “Police Challenge Coins” and “Blue Line Reserve—Extreme Challenge Coins & Patches,” according to screenshots shared by the source. Challenge coins are popular among law enforcement, cybersecurity, and other industries and sectors. Creators often use them to celebrate a certain event or to offer as prizes in competitions. Certain police challenge coins have been widely condemned; just recently, law enforcement challenge coin in Maryland read "Generation Butthurt." Maryland State Police investigated the coin and said they had identified its creator as a former member of the department. In 2019 ProPublica reported that Border Patrol agents were sharing challenge coins that mocked the task of caring for migrant children. 

Here, users share information on new coins and offer them for sale or trade. The groups typically ask for verification that any joining members are law enforcement officers.

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“Send traders for the one on the right,” one member wrote underneath a photo of one of the Portland 2020 coins.

The source also provided screenshots of multiple Venmo transactions that come from people who appear to be law enforcement officials and which include descriptions such as “Portland Coins” and “1 Portland Coin.” Some of the individuals appear to be law enforcement officials due to their LinkedIn profiles and other material posted online. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, of which Border Patrol is part, did not provide a statement in time for publication. Motherboard contacted some of the people identified in the Venmo transactions and did not receive a response.