Proud Boys

far-right neo-fascist organization in the USA

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Proud Boys
FounderGavin McInnes
LeaderEnrique Tarrio
Foundation2016; 5 years ago (2016)
CountryUnited States (active)
Canada (dissolved May 2021)
MotivesOpposition against left-wing and progressive groups
Active regionsUnited States
Ideology
Political positionFar-right
Major actions
StatusActive

The Proud Boys is a far-right, neo-fascist, and exclusively male organization that promotes and engages in political violence in the United States.[2]

The group originated in the far-right Taki's Magazine in 2016 under the leadership of Vice Media co-founder and former commentator Gavin McInnes, taking its name from the song "Proud of Your Boy" from the 2011 Disney musical Aladdin.[3] Although the Proud Boys emerged as part of the alt-right, McInnes distanced himself from this movement in early 2017, saying the Proud Boys were alt-lite while the alt-right's focus was on race.[4] The re-branding effort intensified following the white supremacist Unite the Right rally.[5] Enrique Tarrio has been the chairman of the Proud Boys since late 2018.[6][7][8] According to a former federal prosecutor and the transcripts of a 2014 federal court proceeding, Tarrio had previously served as an informant to both federal and local law enforcement.[9][10]

According to the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, the group believes men and Western culture are under siege, their views having elements of the white genocide conspiracy theory.[11] Though the group officially rejects white supremacy, members have participated in many racist events and events centered around fascist, anti-left, and anti-socialist violence.[11] The Proud Boys glorifies violence, and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has called the group an "alt-right fight club" that uses rhetorical devices to obscure its actual motives.[12][13][14] The organization has been described as a hate group by NPR's The Takeaway and the SPLC.[15] The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has described the Proud Boys as "extremist conservative" and "alt lite", "overtly Islamophobic and misogynistic", "transphobic and anti-immigration", "all too willing to embrace racists, antisemites and bigots of all kinds", and notes the group's promotion and use of violence as a core tactic.[16]

The group has been banned from numerous social networks, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter,[17] as well as YouTube.[18] On February 3, 2021, the United States Justice Department announced the indictment of members for conspiracy related to the 2021 United States Capitol attack. The Canadian arm of the group folded after being officially designated a terrorist organization on the same day.[19][20][21][22] Since then, at least two dozen Proud Boys members and affiliates have been indicted for their alleged roles in the insurrection.[23][24][25]

History and organization

Gavin McInnes co-founded Vice magazine in 1994, but he was pushed out in 2008 due to "creative differences". After leaving, he began "doggedly hacking a jagged but unrelenting path to the far-right fringes of American culture", according to a 2017 profile in the Canadian Globe and Mail.[26] The Proud Boys organization was launched in September 2016, on the website of Taki's Magazine, a far-right publication for which white nationalist Richard B. Spencer had once served as executive editor.[27] It existed informally before then as a group centered around McInnes, and the first gathering of the Brooklyn chapter in July 2016 resulted in a brawl in the bar where they met.[28] The name is derived from the song "Proud of Your Boy" originally created for Disney's 1992 film Aladdin but left out following story changes in production, and later featured in the 2011 musical adaptation. In the song, the character Aladdin apologizes to his mother for being a bad son and promises to make her proud. McInnes interprets it as Aladdin apologizing for being a boy. He first heard it while attending his daughter's school music recital. The song's "fake, humble, and self-serving" lyrics became a running theme on his podcast. McInnes said it was the most annoying song in the world but that he could not get enough of it.[28]

The organization has been described as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)[29] and NPR's The Takeaway.[30] Spencer, McInnes and the Proud Boys have been described as hipster racists by Vox[31] and Media Matters for America.[32][33] McInnes says victim mentality of women and other historically oppressed groups is unhealthy, arguing that "[t]here is an incentive to be a victim. It is cool to be a victim." He sees white men and Western culture as "under siege" and described criticism of his ideas as "victim blaming".[26] According to the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, their views have elements of the white genocide conspiracy theory.[34][35] According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the group is part of the alt-lite and is "overtly Islamophobic".[36] The ADL reports that "[i]deologically, members subscribe to a scattershot array of libertarian and nationalist tropes, referring to themselves as anti-communist and anti-political correctness, but in favor of free speech and free markets."[36] In October 2019, members of the Denver chapter of the Proud Boys marched with members of the Patriot Front and former members of the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party.[36] According to the ADL, "[t]hese relationships show the Proud Boys to be less a pro-western drinking club and more an extreme, right-wing gang."[36] In early 2017, McInnes began to distance himself from the alt-right, saying their focus is race and his focus is what he calls "Western values". This rebranding effort intensified after the Unite the Right Rally.[4][5][37] In 2018, McInnes was saying that the Proud Boys were part of the "new right".[38]

The organization glorifies political violence against antifa[27] and leftists, re-enacting political assassinations, wearing shirts that praise Augusto Pinochet's murders of leftists and participating directly in political violence.[39][12] In April 2016, McInnes, who believes violence is "a really effective way to solve problems", has said: "I want violence, I want punching in the face. I'm disappointed in Trump supporters for not punching enough."[39][27] In August 2017, he further stated that "[w]e don't start fights [...] but we will finish them."[40] Heidi Beirich, the Intelligence Project director for the SPLC, said that this form of intentional aggression was not common among far-right groups in the past. She further said the far-right's claim that "[w]e're going to show up and we're intending to get in fights" was new.[41] In late November 2018, it was reported, based on an internal memo of the Sheriff's Office in Clark County, Washington, that the FBI had classified the Proud Boys as an extremist group with ties to white nationalism.[42] Two weeks later, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Oregon office clarified that the FBI did not mean to designate the entire group, only a number of members of the group, ascribing the error to miscommunication.[43][44][45] During the conference, the FBI recommended referring to classifications about the group by the SPLC and other outside agencies.[43]

The organization is opposed to feminism and promotes gender stereotypes in which women are subservient to men.[26][27] The organization has a female-member-only auxiliary wing named "Proud Boys' Girls" that supports the same ideology.[46] The ADL states that the Proud Boys are an "extremist conservative group".[47] According to the ADL, McInnes and the Proud Boys are misogynistic who call women "lazy" and "less ambitious" than men and "venerat[e] the housewife".[48] McInnes has called for "enforced monogamy" and criticized feminism as "a cancer".[48] Some men who are not white, including Enrique Tarrio, the group's chairman and the Florida State Director of Latinos for Trump,[49] have joined the Proud Boys, drawn by the organization's advocacy for men, anti-immigrant stance, and embrace of violence.[50] The Proud Boys claim to condemn racism, with Tarrio stating that the group has "longstanding regulations prohibiting racist, white supremacist or violent activity". However, the ADL has deemed the group as having antisemitic, Islamophobic and racist views, with the group known to threaten, intimidate or violently assault anti-racism protesters.[51] The group has claimed there is an "inherent superiority of the West", going to great lengths to mask members' connections to white supremacy.[52] The ADL states that the Proud Boys' "extreme, provocative tactics—coupled with overt or implicit racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and misogyny and the fact that the group is so decentralized, inconsistent, and spread out—suggest the group should be a significant cause for concern".[47]

The Proud Boys have been banned by social media platforms Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.[18] In August 2018, Twitter terminated the official account for the group along with McInnes' account under its policy prohibiting violent extremist groups. At the time, the group's profile photo showed a member punching a counter-protester.[53] Facebook and Instagram banned the group and McInnes in October 2018.[54] That same year, YouTube banned the Proud Boys founder for copyright violation in December 2018.[55] On June 16, 2020, Facebook announced it had removed 358 accounts from its platform and 172 from Instagram that held ties to the organization.[56]

Membership and doctrine

Proud Boys stand next to Joey Gibson at a 2017 rally in Seattle

According to David Neiwert, the Proud Boys recruit with emphasis on right-wing 15-/30-year-old white males who come primarily from suburbs and exurbs.[57] The Proud Boys say they have an initiation process that has four stages and includes hazing. The first stage is a loyalty oath, on the order of "I'm a proud Western chauvinist, I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world"; the second is getting punched until the person recites pop culture trivia, such as the names of five breakfast cereals; the third is getting a tattoo and agreeing to not masturbate; and the fourth is getting into a major fight "for the cause".[12][58][59][60][61][62]

The Daily Beast reported in November 2018 that the Proud Boys have amended their rules to prohibit cargo shorts and the use of opioids and crystal meth. However, the same article mentioned that no restrictions were placed on cocaine.[63]

The total number of Proud Boys members is unknown. Reports estimate membership between several hundred up to 6,000.[64][65][66] In July 2018, the Proud Boys L.A. branch had 160 members and up to 300 pending applicants, according to the unidentified Proud Boys L.A. president.[67]

Gender and sexuality

Women and trans men are not allowed to join the Proud Boys,[27] and the unnamed president of Proud Boys L.A. told the Los Angeles Times the group admits only "biological men".[67]

According to the organization, their loyalty oath includes a statement along the lines of "I'm a proud Western chauvinist, I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world" and a pledge not to masturbate.[12][58][59][60][61][62] The masturbation policy was later modified to read: "no heterosexual brother of the Fraternity shall masturbate more than one time in any calendar month" and "all members shall abstain from pornography".[63]

Leadership

Gavin McInnes, Proud Boys founder

Gavin McInnes founded the group and served as its leader.[68][69] After the designation of a number of Proud Boys members as extremists with ties to white nationalism,[45] McInnes said that his lawyers had advised him that quitting might help the nine Proud Boys members being prosecuted for the incidents in October. During the announcement he defended the group, attacked the reporting about it, said white nationalists don't exist, and at times he said things that made it appear he was not quitting, such as "this is 100% a legal gesture, and it is 100% about alleviating sentencing, [it was a] stepping down gesture, in quotation marks."[70][71]

As of November 2018, the group named its leaders as Enrique Tarrio, designated as chairman, and the "Elder Chapter", which consists of Harry Fox, Heath Hair, Patrick William Roberts, Joshua Hall, Timothy Kelly, Luke Rofhling and Rufio Panman (real name Ethan Nordean).[72][73] Jason Lee Van Dyke, who was the organization's lawyer at the time, had been briefly named as chairman to replace McInnes when he left, but the organization announced on November 30 that Van Dyke was no longer associated with the group in any capacity, although his law firm still holds Proud Boys trademarks and is the registered agent for two of the group's chapters.[74]

Enrique Tarrio became the national chairman of the group in 2018

Although McInnes had earlier said that any Proud Boy member who was known to have attended the Unite the Right rally was kicked out of the organization, the new chairman Tarrio admitted to having attended the event, but "he had misgivings about the torchlight march and did not participate in it."[62]

In November 2020, Kyle "Based Stickman" Chapman said he would "reassume [his] post as President of the Proud Boys", though it is not evident that Chapman has ever been president of the group.[75] He also announced that the group, which denies being a racist or white supremacist organization,[76][77] would take on an explicitly white supremacist direction,[77] and that he intended to refocus the organization on the issues of "white genocide" and the "failures of multiculturalism".[76] He also announced that he would change the logo and rename the group to the "Proud Goys", a term used among the far-right to signal antisemitism.[75][76][77] The attempted coup is not believed to have been successful,[77] and the Proud Goys name has not been adopted outside of Chapman's social media.[76][77][78]

Evidence of further disarray within the leadership of the Proud Boys emerged in February 2021, in the aftermath of the 2021 United States Capitol attack and the many arrests of Proud Boys that followed. The Alabama state chapter issued a statement saying, "We do not recognize the assumed authority of any national Proud Boy leadership including the Chairman, the Elders, or any subsequent governing body that is formed to replace them until such a time we may choose to consent to join those bodies of government." The state chapters of Indiana and Oklahoma endorsed the Alabama statement.[79]

Connection with Roger Stone

In early 2018, ahead of an appearance at the annual Republican Dorchester Conference in Salem, Oregon, Roger Stone sought out the Proud Boys to act as his "security" for the event; photos posted online showed Stone drinking with several Proud Boys.[80][81][82]

In February 2018, the Proud Boys posted a video on Facebook which they described as Stone undergoing a "low-level initiation" into the group. As part of the initiation, Stone says, "Hi, I'm Roger Stone. I'm a Western chauvinist. I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world," making him a "first-degree" member, which Kutner characterizes; as being a "sympathizer." Stone denies being a member of the group. In July 2020, Facebook announced it had shut down the accounts and pages linked to Stone and Proud Boys. This network of more than a hundred Facebook and Instagram accounts spent over $300,000 on ads to promote their posts and included false personas.[83]

In late January 2019, when Stone was arrested by the FBI on seven criminal counts in connection with the Mueller investigation, Enrique Tarrio, the chairman of the Proud Boys, met Stone as he left the courthouse in Florida. Tarrio, who wore a "Roger Stone Did Nothing Wrong" T-shirt, sold by a company owned by Tarrio, told a local TV reporter that the indictment was nothing but "trumped-up charges" and was later seen visiting Stone's house. The next day, in Washington D.C., a small number of Proud Boys demonstrated outside the courthouse where Stone pleaded not guilty to the charges, carrying "Roger Stone did nothing wrong" signs and others that promoted the InfoWars conspiracy website. The Proud Boys got into an argument with anti-Stone hecklers.[84][85][86] Tarrio was later filmed behind President Donald Trump in February 2019, during a televised speech in Miami, where he was seen wearing the same message on a T-shirt.[87]

Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes said Stone was "one of the three approved media figures allowed to speak" about the group.[88] When Stone was asked by a local reporter about the Proud Boys' claim that he had been initiated as a member of the group, he responded by calling the reporter a member of the Communist party.[82] He is particularly close to the group's current leader Enrique Tarrio, who has commercially monetized his position.[82]

The Washington Post reported in February 2021 that the FBI was investigating any role Stone might have had in influencing the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers in their participation in the attack of the Capitol.[89]

Activities and events

2017–2018

At the 2017 March 4 Trump rally in Berkeley, California, Kyle Chapman was recorded hitting a counter-protester over the head with a wooden dowel. Images of Chapman went viral, and the Proud Boys organized a crowdfunding campaign for Chapman's bail after his arrest. After this, McInnes invited Chapman to become involved with the Proud Boys, through which he formed the Fraternal Order of the Alt-Knights.[41] On April 15, 2017, an alt-right rally was organized in Berkeley by the Liberty Revival Alliance, which did not seek or receive a permit, and was attended by members of the Proud Boys, Identity Evropa (an American neo-Nazi group)[90][91][92] and Oath Keepers.[93][94][95][96][97] Many of these people traveled to Berkeley from other parts of the country. The rally was counter-protested and violence broke out, resulting in 21 people being arrested.[98][99]

In June 2017, McInnes disavowed the planned Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.[26] However, Proud Boys were at the August 2017 alt-right event, which was organized by white supremacist Jason Kessler.[100] Kessler had joined the Proud Boys some time before organizing the event.[101][102][103] McInnes said he had kicked Kessler out after his views on race had become clear.[26] After the rally, Kessler accused McInnes of using him as a "patsy" and said: "You're trying to cuck and save your own ass."[5] Alex Michael Ramos, one of the men convicted for the assault of DeAndre Harris which took place at the rally, was associated with the Proud Boys and Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights.[104]

The Proud Boys have been active for several years in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.[105] Starting in September 2017 and continuing into 2018, the Proud Boys participated in several rallies organized by Patriot Prayer in Portland, Oregon, and nearby Vancouver, Washington.[106][107][108] Scenes of violence from one of these rallies was turned into a sizzle reel for the Proud Boys and was circulated on social media.[109][110] Violence erupted at two events in June 2018, leaving five people hospitalized after the far-right march on June 30 devolved into a riot in downtown Portland.[111]

2018–2019

Metropolitan Republican Club

In October 2018, McInnes gave a talk at the Metropolitan Republican Club on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.[112][113] He stepped out of his car wearing glasses with Asian eyes drawn on the front and pulled a samurai sword out of its sheath. Police forced him inside. Later, inside the event, McInnes and an Asian member of the Proud Boys re-enacted the 1960 assassination of Inejirō Asanuma, the leader of the Japanese Socialist Party; a captioned photograph of the actual assassination had become a meme in alt-right social media.[27] The audience for the event was described by The New York Times as "a cross-section of New York’s far-right subculture: libertarians, conspiracy theorists and nationalists who have coalesced around their opposition to Islam, feminism and liberal politics."[114]

Anti-fascist activists had started protesting outside the club before the event and had reportedly engaged in vandalism. Following cross-provocations between the opposing sides, the Proud Boys charged towards the protesters, who threw a bottle in response, resulting in a fight.[114][115] NYC police present at the protest reportedly did not respond.[27][116]

The fallout from the incident left the group in internal disarray.[114] After McInnes nominally left the group, the "Elder Chapter" of the group reportedly assumed control. Jason Lee Van Dyke, the group's lawyer, was appointed as the chapter's chairman.[72][117] Van Dyke was previously known for suing news media and anti-fascist activists for reporting on the group, and for making violent online threats with racist language.[118][119] The group then publicly released its new bylaw online, with the names of its "Elder Chapter" members listed and redacted. The redaction was later discovered to be botched, as the list of names can be accessed by selecting over the black bar of the released document.[72] A day later, the chapter announced that Van Dyke was no longer leader of the group, and Enrique Tarrio is the group's new chairman.[73]

Video evidence from three separate videos showed conclusively that the Proud Boys had instigated the fight after the Metropolitan Republican Club event.[120][121] John Miller, New York City's deputy police commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, said that "incidents like [the post-MRC fight] make it more likely" that the Proud Boys would be "higher on the radar" of authorities.[114]

Ten men connected to the Proud Boys were arrested in connection with the October 2018 incident.[122] Seven Proud Boys pleaded guilty to various charges including riot, disorderly conduct and attempted assault.[122][123] Two of the men who accepted plea deals were sentenced to five days of community service and did not receive jail time.[124] In August 2019, two of the Proud Boys, Maxwell Hare and John Kinsman, were convicted following a jury trial of attempted gang assault, attempted assault and riot; the jury deliberated a day and a half of deliberations before rejecting their claims of self-defense.[122] Hare and Kinsman were each sentenced to four years in prison.[125] The final defendant is awaiting trial.[122][123]

The four anti-fascist victims of the beating are not cooperating with prosecutors, even to the extent of revealing their identities, and are known only as "Shaved Head", "Ponytail", "Khaki" and "Spiky Belt". Because of that non-cooperation, the Proud Boys were not charged with assault—which requires evidence of injury—but with riot and attempted assault. The bulk of the evidence in the trial came from videos.[122][123]

Demand Free Speech rally

A Proud Boys rally called Demand Free Speech[126] took place on July 6, 2019, in Washington, D.C.'s Freedom Plaza and Pershing Park, drawing about 250 people.[127][128][129] McInnes, Laura Loomer and Milo Yiannopoulos appeared, while former Trump advisor Roger Stone and Jacob Wohl did not. A counter-protest and dance party across the street drew more people than the main rally. Police said there were only minor skirmishes between the far-right and antifa, and no arrests were made.[127][128][129] Republican candidate Omar Navarro, a perennial challenger for Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters' congressional seat, withdrew from speaking at the event, tweeting that his ex-girlfriend DeAnna Lorraine, a self-described "MAGA relationship expert", had threatened him, using cocaine and having sex with members of the Proud Boys.[126] In response to Navarro's tweets, the Proud Boys issued a video featuring former InfoWars staff member Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean—the star of a viral video showing him beating up an antifa protester—in which they "banished" Navarro from the Proud Boys. The Proud Boys' chairman Enrique Tarrio described the group as "pro-drugs". Other speakers who had been scheduled for the rally, including Pizzagate promoters Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec, had already cancelled their appearances for reasons not apparently related to Navarro's charges.[126]

2019–2020

The Proud Boys and Joe Biggs organized an August 17, 2019 demonstration in Portland attended by members of several far-right groups.[130][131][132] The End Domestic Terrorism rally,[132] which was sometimes subtitled "Better Dead than Red",[133] was intended to promote the idea that antifa should be classified as "domestic terrorism". It received national attention, including a tweet from President Trump.[134][135] One day prior to the rally, Patriot Prayer's Joey Gibson, who had organized similar events in 2017 and 2018, was taken into custody on charges of felony rioting during a May 1, 2019 incident.[136] The Proud Boys organized the August event in response to a video that went viral of masked demonstrators assaulting conservative blogger Andy Ngo at a Portland rally on June 29, 2019.[136] The End Domestic Terrorism event drew more counter-demonstrators than participants (at least one group urged its members in advance to not attend) and ended with the Proud Boys' requesting a police escort to leave.[131]

COVID-19 misinformation

On May 1, 2020, the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism (CTEC) at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey compiled a report examining the influence of the Proud Boys on anti-lockdown protests and COVID-19 misinformation. Members of the group shared conspiracy theories about Bill Gates, a "plandemic", and COVID-19 vaccines on social media, especially Telegram.[137]

On May 10, 2020, a bulletin on COVID-19 protest disinformation campaigns by the Colorado Information Analysis Center (CIAC) described how "the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, has been active in spreading conspiracy theories regarding Covid-19 on Twitter, Facebook, and Telegram," suggesting that "a faction of elites are weaponizing the virus, and a vaccine would likely be a tool for population control and mind control."[138] The CIAC bulletin also warned that "spread of disinformation has the potential to cause civil unrest and mass panic".[138]

On October 1, 2020, The Guardian reported several United States agencies variously described the Proud Boys as "a dangerous 'white supremacist' group", "white supremacists", "extremists" and as "a gang", with law enforcement showing concern "about the group's menace to minority groups and police officers, and its conspiracy theories", including COVID-19 misinformation and conspiracy theories.[138]

Anti-BLM protests
The Proud Boys at a Second Amendment rally in Richmond

In January 2020, the Proud Boys attended a large Second Amendment rally in Richmond, Virginia. They are opposed to Black Lives Matter protests and see attempts to remove statues of Confederate leaders and other historical figures as a "left-wing plot to destroy American history".[139]

On May 30, 2020, Facebook officials reported that internal systems flagged activity from Proud Boys-related accounts encouraging "armed agitators" to attend protests following the murder of George Floyd.[56]

The group remained active in the Pacific Northwest and had a dozen chapters in Idaho, Oregon and Washington by 2020.[140] In June 2020, members of the Proud Boys rallied at the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle, Washington, in an effort to confront protesters.[139]

The Proud Boys at an Ohio event in 2020

Washington resident and Proud Boys member Tusitala "Tiny" Toese, known for brawling in the streets of Portland and Seattle during political protests,[141] was arrested in Washington on August 28, 2020.[142] He was wanted for multiple probation violations related to his 2018 misdemeanor assault conviction that left a protester with stitches and a concussion in June 2018.[142][143] Toese, previously affiliated with Patriot Prayer, had been observed participating in other assaults with members of the Proud Boys, including an assault at a Clark County, Washington mall in May 2018[144] and an assault in Seattle in June 2020.[143]

Texas-based Proud Boys member Alan Swinney was arrested on September 30, 2020 and held in Oregon on "multiple assault charges, pointing a firearm at another, unlawful use of a weapon and unlawful use of tear gas, stun gun or mace."[145] Swinney had been recorded firing airsoft pellets at protesters and journalists, and at one point brandished a revolver at his opponents during a Portland, Oregon protest in August 2020.[146]

2020 presidential debates

In the first 2020 presidential debate on September 29, 2020, President Donald Trump was asked by moderator Chris Wallace: "Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups, and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha, and as we have seen in Portland?" Trump replied: "Sure. Sure, I am willing to do that." He then asked for clarification, saying: "Who would you like me to condemn?" Wallace mentioned "white supremacists and right wing militia". During the exchange, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden replied "Proud Boys" and Trump replied: "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by, but I'll tell you what, I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left, because this is not a right-wing problem."[147] Shortly after, Joe Biggs, one of the Proud Boys organizers, shared through his Parler social media account a logo with the president's words "Stand back" and "Stand by".[148]

External video
video icon The Proud Boys: How the right-wing extremist group gained prominence. The Washington Post, September 30, 2020.

One researcher said that Proud Boys memberships on Telegram channels grew nearly ten percent after the debate. The Washington Post reported that Trump's comments were quickly "enshrined in memes, including one depicting Trump in one of the Proud Boys' signature polo shirts. Another meme showed Trump's quote alongside an image of bearded men carrying American flags and appearing to prepare for a fight."[149]

On September 30, President Trump clarified his statement, stating that he "doesn't know what the Proud Boys are" and that "they should stand down. Let law enforcement do their work."[150][151] On October 1, Trump said on Sean Hannity's show: "I've said it many times, and let me be clear again: I condemn the KKK. I condemn all white supremacists. I condemn the Proud Boys. I don't know much about the Proud Boys, almost nothing. But I condemn that."[152][153][154]

During the second and final presidential debate on October 22, Democratic candidate Joe Biden mistakenly referred to the Proud Boys as "poor boys", a slip that went viral on social media.[155]

Foreign disinformation during the 2020 presidential campaign

During the 2020 presidential campaign in October, threatening emails claiming to be from the Proud Boys were sent to Democratic voters in Alaska, Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania, the last three of which were swing states in the upcoming election. The emails warned: "You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you." Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio denied the group's involvement and said he had spoken to the FBI about it. Tarrio told The Washington Post that "[t]wo weeks ago I believe we had Google Cloud services drop us from their platform, so then we initiated a url transfer, which is still in process. We kind of just never used it."[156] Miami New Times reported that the emails came from info@proudboysofficial.com, one of two websites belonging to the Proud Boys, and which Tarrio said had not been updated in a year and a half. Tarrio added that an authentic email from the Proud Boys would come from proudboysusa.com.[157] The FBI announced that Iranian intelligence was responsible for the spoofed emails sent to intimidate Florida voters, and added that Russia was also working to influence the election. Officials from each country denied the accusations.[158]

2021

D.C. black church incident and criminal charges against Tarrio

On December 12, 2020, members of the Proud Boys targeted Ashbury United Methodist Church, the oldest historically black church in Washington, D.C., after pro-Trump protests earlier that day.[159] They flashed white supremacist hand signs and tore down and burned a Black Lives Matter sign that had been raised by the church.[160] Police said that more than three dozen people were arrested and four churches were vandalised.[161] Reverend Ianther M. Mills, the church's pastor, described the acts as "reminiscent of cross burnings" and expressed sadness that local police had failed to intervene.[162] Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio claimed responsibility for the incident, which police have designated a hate crime.[163] Tarrio was arrested on January 4, 2021 after police found weapon magazines in his car during a traffic stop. He was charged with one count of destruction of property (a misdemeanor) and two counts of possession of high-capacity ammunition feeding devices (a felony).[164] Tarrio pleaded guilty to both charges and on August 24, 2021 was sentenced to almost six months in jail, starting on 6 September.[161]

The Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, which was also vandalized on December 12, 2020, sued the Proud Boys and Tarrio.[165][166] The judge in the case also issued an injunction banning Tarrio from entering the District of Columbia, except for limited exceptions related to court matters.[167]

Participation in the 2021 Capitol attack
Ethan Nordean leads a contingent...
...of the Proud Boys, as they pass the U.S. Supreme Court on their way to the Capitol building on January 6, 2021
Proud Boys from Arizona marching to the Capitol building wearing orange hats

On January 6, 2021, many members of the Proud Boys participated in the attack on the United States Capitol building,[168] where some members of the group appeared wearing orange hats.[169] Some members wore all black clothing, rather than their usual black and yellow attire, as Tarrio had suggested in a Parler post days earlier, which prosecutors said was an apparent reference to mimicking the appearance of antifa members.[170] Analysis by CNN found at least eleven individuals with ties to Proud Boys had been charged by February 3.[23] The Justice Department announced on February 3, 2021 that two members had been indicted for conspiracy.[22] Five individuals affiliated with Proud Boys were charged with conspiracy on February 11, followed by six more on February 26.[171][172] Federal grand jury conspiracy indictments of others followed.[173] Federal prosecutors were considering whether to pursue charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which is typically used to prosecute organized crime syndicates.[174]

A review by the Wall Street Journal of social media posts from Proud Boys members showed that the group repeatedly invoked Trump's messages as a call to action,[175] and were disheartened by the arrests and what they perceived to be Trump's lack of action in the days leading up to Joe Biden's inauguration.[176]

According to the ADL, a former member of the Proud Boys founded the neo-Nazi extremist group NSC-131 in 2019.[177] NSC-131 also attended the January 6th attack on the Capitol, and have bragged about stealing police gear such as helmets and batons.[178]

On February 16, 2021, Representative Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the United States House Homeland Security Committee, filed a federal lawsuit against Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, and Proud Boys International LLC. The lawsuit alleges that the events at the Capitol on January 6 violated the Third Enforcement Act of 1871.[179] The chairman of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, called the lawsuit "frivolous".[179]

The New York Times reported in March 2021 that the incident had caused Proud Boys and other far-right groups to splinter amid disagreements on whether the attack had gone too far or was a success, and doubts about the leadership of their organizations, raising concerns of increasing numbers of lone wolf actors who would be more difficult to monitor and might pursue more extreme actions.[180][181][182]

The New York Times reported in March 2021 that the FBI was investigating communications between an unnamed associate of the White House and an unnamed member of Proud Boys during the days prior to the incursion. The communications had been detected by examining cellphone metadata and were separate from previously known contacts between Roger Stone and Proud Boys.[183]

Citing private Facebook messages, prosecutors alleged in a March 2021 court filing that during the weeks preceding the attack, Florida Oath Keepers leader Kelly Meggs had contacted Proud Boys who he said could serve as a "force multiplier" and that he had "organized an alliance" among the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and the Florida chapter of the Three Percenters.[184] A US district court in Portland also charged two Oregon brothers who are members of the group with the federal crimes of violence and terrorism for actions related to the attack at the capitol.[185][24]

In June 2021, federal judge Royce Lamberth declined to release Proud Boys member Christopher Worrell prior to his trial, citing Facebook posts he had made threatening retribution against who he believed "ratted" him out to the FBI.[186]

Actions post-2021 Capitol attack

Following the 2021 Capitol attack, Enrique Tarrio was discovered to have been an informant to both federal and local law enforcement between 2012 and 2014.[187] The Proud Boys of Alabama officially stated on Telegram regarding Tarrio, "We reject and disavow the proven federal informant, Enrique Tarrio, and any and all chapters that choose to associate with him."[188]

On August 23, 2021, the Proud Boys held a rally in Portland, Oregon, where they clashed with antifa counter-demonstrators.[189]

Response

Government

United States

In late November 2018, an internal memo from the Clark County Sheriff's Office showed that the FBI had designated the Proud Boys an extremist group, but it later clarified that only certain members were extremist threats with ties to white nationalism.[42][43]

In 2019, the 22-page Violent Extremism in Colorado: a Reference Guide for Law Enforcement from the Colorado Information Analysis Center (the state's version of the DHS) and the Colorado Department of Public Safety was released, with the organizations discussing the Proud Boys under the "White Supremacist Extremism" heading. In coverage from The Guardian, it was reported that member organizations of the national network of counter-terrorist centers had issued warnings about the Proud Boys.[138] Calling Proud Boys a "threat to Colorado", the guide related them to neo-Nazi terrorist group Atomwaffen Division and how violent clashes in 2018 with the Rocky Mountain Antifa ended in the arrest of two members of the Proud Boys. Guidance about the Proud Boys in the report involved describing them as "a dangerous white supremacist group", as a white supremacist extremist threat, and with a "concern that white supremacist extremists will continue attacking members of the community who threaten their belief of Caucasian superiority".[138]

Also in 2019, the Austin Regional Intelligence Center (ARIC) compiled a Special Event Threat Assessment of potential dangers to the Austin Pride Parade. The ARIC identified the Proud Boys as being associated with a "growing backlash against Pride Month" which has emerged in the form of the straight pride movement, noting that a June 2019 transgender pride event in Seattle, Washington was disrupted by the "alt-right Proud Boys organization".[138]

Canada

Bill Blair, Canada's minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, announced in January 2021 that Canada was considering designating the Proud Boys a terrorist organization.[190]

On January 25, 2021, the House of Commons of Canada unanimously passed a motion calling on the government "to use all available tools to address the proliferation of white supremacist and hate groups, starting with immediately designating the Proud Boys as a terrorist entity."[191][192]

On February 3, 2021, the Proud Boys were officially designated as a terrorist entity in Canada.[19][193] Bill Blair, the Minister of Public Safety added 13 new groups (including four ideologically motivated violent extremist groups, Atomwaffen Division, the Base, the Russian Imperial Movement, and the Proud Boys) to the Criminal Code list of terrorist entities.[191][194]

Section 83.01() of the Canadian criminal code defines a terrorist entity as "a) an entity that has as one of its purposes or activities facilitating or carrying out any terrorist activity, or b) a listed entity, and includes an association of such entities."[195] A listed entity means an entity on a list established by the Governor in Council under section 83.05.[195] The Cabinet of Canada can list an entity on the recommendation of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness if the Governor in Council is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that (a) the entity has knowingly carried out, attempted to carry out, participated in or facilitated a terrorist activity; or (b) the entity has knowingly acted on behalf of, at the direction of or in association with an entity referred to in paragraph (a).[195]

Under section 83 of the Criminal Code, it is an indictable offence to provide use or possess property for terrorist purposes.[196][197] As a result of the listing, no person in Canada or Canadian outside Canada can knowingly deal with the property, provide financial services or facilitate any transaction for the group.[195] Financial institutions cannot process payments or offer loans to known members, and are required to report property or transactions to regulators.[191] The listing does not mean the group is banned or that membership is a crime.[198] Membership of the Proud Boys is not criminalized. Providing property or financial services to a listed entity is a crime, which makes paying membership dues to the group a terrorism offence in Canada. Purchasing Proud Boys merchandise could be a criminal act, and travel restrictions may apply to people associated with the group.[199] Additionally, participation and contribution where the purpose of this participation is to enhance the latter's ability to facilitate or carry out a terrorist activity is also criminalized. Such behavior includes recruitment of trainees, crossing an international border, and providing or offering to provide skill or expertise.[191]

Proud Boys Canada announced that it was dissolving on May 2, 2021 and denied that it was a terrorist or white supremacy group.[200] Analysts cautioned that the group may opt to rebrand within Canada and noted that one Proud Boys chapter based in Hamilton, Ontario started to use the name "Canada First".[201][202]

Southern Poverty Law Center

Although he had supposedly cut his ties with the Proud Boys by November 2018, stepping down as chairman,[70][71] McInnes filed a defamation lawsuit in February 2019 against the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in federal court in Alabama over the SPLC's designation of the Proud Boys as a "general hate" group.[203][204] The SPLC took the lawsuit "as a compliment" and an indication that "we're doing our job."[205] On its website, the SPLC said that "McInnes plays a duplicitous rhetorical game: rejecting white nationalism and, in particular, the term 'alt-right' while espousing some of its central tenets" and that the group's "rank-and-file [members] and leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists. They are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric. Proud Boys have appeared alongside other hate groups at extremist gatherings like the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville."[29][204] McInnes is represented by Ronald Coleman. In addition to defamation, McInnes claimed tortious interference with economic advantage, "false light invasion of privacy" and "aiding and abetting employment discrimination."[206] The day after filing the suit, McInnes announced that he had been re-hired by the Canadian far-right media group The Rebel Media.[207] The SPLC filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in April 2019.[208]

Lawsuits

On May 17, 2019, Bill Burke of Ohio filed a $3 million lawsuit against the Proud Boys, Kessler, and multiple other people and groups associated with the Unite the Right rally. Burke was seriously injured in the August 2017 Charlottesville car attack which followed the event.[209][210] The 64-page initial complaint alleges that the named parties "conspired to plan, promote and carry out the violent events in Charlottesville". According to Burke, his physical and mental injuries have led to "severe psychological and emotional suffering".[211][212]

Social media bans

The Proud Boys organization has been banned by Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.[18]

Subgroups

Fraternal Order of the Alt-Knights

In 2017, Kyle Chapman, nicknamed "Based Stickman" after the 2017 Berkeley protests, formed a self-proclaimed[213] paramilitary wing of the Proud Boys called the Fraternal Order of the Alt-Knights (FOAK).[41] Alt-right figure Augustus Sol Invictus acted as FOAK's second-in-command until he left the group.[29]

Canadian chapters

Following the attack on the United States Capitol, the Ottawa and Manitoba chapters shut down.[214] On May 2, 2021, Proud Boys Canada announced on the Proud Boys USA channel on Telegram that it has "officially dissolved".[215]

Symbolism

Members of the Proud Boys can be identified by their use of black and yellow Fred Perry polo shirts, American flags, MAGA hats, and military armor. Members often carry guns.[216]

During the 2021 attack on the United States Capitol, the Proud Boys shifted to wearing blaze orange hats[217] and all-black attire.[218]

Association with Fred Perry clothing

Proud Boy in a Fred Perry polo and MAGA hat at a neo-Confederate rally in 2019

Since the early days of the group, Proud Boys have worn black and yellow Fred Perry polo shirts on McInnes' suggestion.[219][220][221] The brand, having previously been negatively associated with skinheads and the British National Front in the 1970s,[221] issued several public statements distancing themselves from the beliefs of the Proud Boys, and calling on members to stop wearing their clothing.[222][223]

In 2017, Fred Perry's CEO John Flynn denounced the affiliation with the Proud Boys in a statement to CBC Radio, saying: "We don't support the ideals or the group that you speak of. It is counter to our beliefs and the people we work with."[224] The shirts have not been sold in the United States since September 2019. In September 2020, the retailer announced that it will not sell them in the United States until association with Proud Boys has ended.[225]

MAGA hats

Proud Boys commonly wear red MAGA hats to rallies, often alongside Fred Perry black and yellow polo shirts.[226]

6MWE

"6MWE" is an antisemitic slogan that appears on some apparel associated with the Proud Boys. It is an acronym that means "6 million wasn't enough", referring to the number of Jewish Holocaust victims. The slogan may appear together with symbols of the Italian Social Republic, the Fascist government of Italy supported by Nazi Germany.[227][228]

On a January 7, 2021 episode of MSNBC's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, the anchor condemned the rioters who stormed the Capitol while wearing antisemitic clothing, including one rioter who supposedly participated in the attack while wearing a shirt with the 6MWE slogan on it.[229] However, a fact check done by The Forward found that the photo of the rioter with the slogan on his shirt had been taken at an earlier Proud Boys gathering at the Capitol in December 2020.[229]

See also

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External links

Original content from Wikipedia, shared with licence Creative Commons By-Sa - Proud Boys