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Proud Boys

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Proud Boys
Proud Boys flag.png
Named after"Proud of Your Boy"
Formation2016; 3 years ago (2016)
FounderGavin McInnes
TypeFar-right neo-fascist organization that promotes political violence[1][2]
Region
International
Key people
Enrique Tarrio (Chairman)[3]
WebsiteOfficialProudBoys.com

The Proud Boys is a far-right neo-fascist[8] organization that admits only men as members and promotes political violence.[2][9][10][11] It is based in the United States and has a presence in Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.[12][13] The group was started in 2016 by Vice Media co-founder and former commentator Gavin McInnes, taking its name from the song "Proud of Your Boy" from the Disney film Aladdin.[14][15] Proud Boys emerged as part of the alt-right, but in early 2017, McInnes began distancing himself from the alt-right, saying the alt-right's focus is race while his focus is what he defines as "Western values". This re-branding effort intensified after the Unite the Right Rally.[16][17]

The group sees men — especially white men — and Western culture as under siege; their views have elements of white genocide conspiracy theory.[18][19][20] While the group claims it does not support white supremacist views, its members often participate in racist rallies, events, and organizations.[21] The organization glorifies violence, and members engage in violence at events it attends; the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has called it an "alt-right fight club".[21][22][23]

In late November 2018, a news story which attracted national attention[24] reported that the FBI classified the Proud Boys as an extremist group with ties to white nationalism;[10] however, two weeks later, an FBI official denied that it was their intent to classify the entire group in this manner, and ascribed the mistake to a misunderstanding.[24][25] The official said that their intent was to characterize the possible threat from certain members of the group.[26]

The organization has been described as a hate group by NPR's The Takeaway[27] and the Southern Poverty Law Center.[28] In February 2019, despite having claimed to have broken ties with the group in November 2018,[29][30] McInnes filed a federal defamation suit against the SPLC over their "hate group" designation, saying that is was untrue and had damaged his career.[31] Shortly after McInnes filed the suit, the Canadian far-right media group The Rebel Media, for whom McInnes had previously been a contributor, announced that they had re-hired him.[32]

The organization

Gavin McInnes co-founded Vice Magazine in 1994 but was pushed out in 2008 after several years of turmoil following a New York Times interview in which he talked about his pride in being white. 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 Globe and Mail.[33]

The Proud Boys organization was launched in September 2016, on the website of Taki's Magazine, a far-right publication for which Richard Spencer was executive editor.[34] It existed informally before then as something like a McInnes fan club, and the first gathering of the Brooklyn chapter in July 2016 resulted in a brawl in the bar where they met.[14] The name mocks the song "Proud of Your Boy" from the soundtrack for the film Aladdin, which had become a running theme on McInnes' podcast hosted by Anthony Cumia's Compound Media. McInnes had heard the song at a children's talent show in December 2015 and took immediate dislike to the perceived "fake, humble, and self-serving" nature of the lyrics.[14]

The organization has been described as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center[28] and NPR's The Takeaway,[27] and Spencer, McInnes, and the Proud Boys have been described as hipster racists by Vox[35] and Media Matters for America.[36][37] McInnes says victim mentality of women and other historically oppressed groups is unhealthy: "There 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".[33] Their views have elements of white genocide conspiracy theory.[18][19][20]

In early 2017, McInnes began distancing himself from the alt-right, saying their focus is race and his focus is what he calls "Western values"; the rebranding effort intensified after the Unite the Right Rally.[16][17][38] In 2018, McInnes was saying that the Proud Boys were part of the "new right".[39]

The organization glorifies political violence against leftists, re-enacting political assassinations, wearing shirts that praise Augusto Pinochet's murders of leftists, and participating directly in political violence.[21][22] McInnes has said "I want violence, I want punching in the face. I'm disappointed in Trump supporters for not punching enough."[21][34] He stated, "We don't start fights [...] but we will finish them."[40] Heidi Beirich, the Intelligence Project director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said that this form of intentional aggression was not common among far-right groups in the past; she said: "'We're going to show up and we're intending to get in fights,' that's a new thing."[41] In August 2018, Twitter shut down the official account for the group, as well as McInnes' account, under its policy prohibiting violent extremist groups; at the time, the group's profile photo was a member punching a counter-protester.[42] In late November 2018, it was reported, based on an internal memo of the Clark County, Washington Sheriff's Office, that the FBI had classified the Proud Boys as an extremist group with ties to white nationalism.[10] Two weeks later, however, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Oregon office denied that the FBI made such designations, ascribing the error by the Sheriff's Office to a confusion over the FBI designating the group as such, as a designation made by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and other outside agencies.[24]

The organization is opposed to feminism and promotes gender stereotypes in which women are subservient to men.[33][34] The organization has a female-member-only auxiliary wing named "Proud Boys' Girls" that supports the same ideology.[43]

Some men who are not white have joined the Proud Boys, drawn by the organization's advocacy for men, anti-immigrant stance, and embrace of violence.[44]

Membership

Proud Boys at a rally in Seattle, 2017

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."[22][15][45][46][47][48]

The Proud Boys have adopted a black Fred Perry polo shirt with yellow piping as their unofficial uniform.[49] Fred Perry was previously associated with the Mod subculture and skinhead groups,[49][50] including the British National Front.[51] 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."[50]

Women and transgender men are not allowed in the organization.[52][34]

The Proud Boys discourages its members from masturbating and watching pornography so as to motivate them to get "off the couch" and meet women.[47] McInnes added no masturbation to the group's core ideas after interacting with Dante Neo, a relationship expert and comedian with a podcast on Riotcast, who came to serve as a sort of "pope" for this idea within the organization.[53]

Leadership

Gavin McInnes founded the group and served as its leader. In November 2018, shortly after news broke that the FBI had classified the Proud Boys as an extremist group with ties to white nationalists — a claim later disavowed by an FBI official, who said they only intended to characterize the potential threat from some members of the group[26] — McInnes said that his lawyers had advised him that quitting might help the nine 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", and said it was a "stepping down gesture, in quotation marks".[29][30]

As of November 2018, the group said its leaders were 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.[54][3] Jason Lee Van Dyke, who was the organization's lawyer at the time, had been briefly named as chairman to replace Gavin McInnes when he left the group, 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.[55] In December 2018, arrest warrant was issued for Van Dyke over his death threat to a person he previously sued.[56]

Although McInnes had earlier said that any Proud Boy member who was known to have attended the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 was kicked out of the organization, the new chairman, Enrique Tarrio, admits to having attended the event.[48]

Events

New York University

In February 2017, McInnes arrived at New York University to give a speech, accompanied by a group of about ten Proud Boys. Minor scuffles broke out between Proud Boys and antifa protesters, and the NYPD said that eleven people faced criminal charges. One member of the Proud Boys encouraged others to fight the "faggots wearing black that won't let us in", and was later arrested for punching a reporter from DNAinfo.[57][58][21]

2017 Berkeley protests

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, and Oath Keepers; many of these people travelled to Berkeley from other parts of the country. The rally was counter-protested and violence broke out. 21 people were arrested.[59][60]

2017 Islamberg

In 2017 Proud Boys joined a caravan to ride through Islamberg, New York, a community of around twenty black Muslim families who moved upstate to escape the racism and violence of New York City, and which has been a target of conspiracy theories from various islamophobic hate groups and right-wing terrorist plots.[61][62][63]

Portland protests

In 2017 and 2018 Proud Boys participated in several rallies organized by Patriot Prayer in Portland, Oregon and nearby Vancouver, Washington.[64][65][66] Scenes of violence from one of these rallies was turned into a sizzle reel for the Proud Boys and was circulated on social media.[2][67]

Disruption of Halifax Indigenous Peoples' Protest

On July 1, 2017, five Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members who self-identified as Proud Boys disrupted a protest organized by indigenous activists, in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Canada Day; Halifax had been debating how to deal with statues of Edward Cornwallis, who had placed a bounty for scalps of Mi'kmaq people after they had rebelled against the British. The Proud Boys carried the Canadian Red Ensign flag from the time of Cornwallis and one of them said to the indigenous protesters, "You are recognising your heritage and so are we."[12] General Jonathan Vance, the head of the CAF, later stated that the five would be removed from training and duties as the military investigated and reviewed the circumstances surrounding their actions. General Vance also indicated that the members could possibly be released from the CAF permanently.[68][69] Rear Admiral John Newton, Commander of the Maritime Fleet of the Royal Canadian Navy, was "personally horrified" by the incident and said the Proud Boys were "clearly a white supremacist group and we fundamentally stand opposed to any of their values."[70]

On August 14, 2017, the CAF confirmed that the investigation had been concluded.[71] Later that month, Newton announced that four of the members had returned to duty, stating that the CAF had taken "appropriate measures to address individual shortcomings" and warning, "Any further inappropriate behavior could result in their termination from the Canadian Armed Forces."[72]

Unite the Right rally

In June, McInnes disavowed the then-upcoming Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.[33] However, Proud Boys were at the August 2017 alt-right event, which was organized by white supremacist Jason Kessler.[73] Kessler had joined the Proud Boys some time before organizing the event.[74][75][76] McInnes said he had kicked Kessler out after his views on race had become clear.[33] After the rally, Kessler accused McInnes of using him as a "patsy" and said: "You're trying to cuck and save your own ass."[17] 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.[77]

2018 Metropolitan Republican Club

In October 2018 McInnes gave a talk at the Metropolitan Republican Club on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. 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 murder of Inejiro Asanuma, the leader of the Japanese Socialist Party; a captioned photograph of the actual murder had become a meme in alt-right social media.[34] 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."[78]

Anti-fascist activists had started protesting outside the club before the event and had reportedly engaged in vandalism. Following cross-provocations between both opposing sides, a protester threw a bottle at Proud Boys, resulting in a fight.[62] NYC police present at the protest reportedly did not respond.[34][79] The police later said they had evidence to charge nine Proud Boys and three antifa activists with counts of rioting, assault, and attempted assault.[21]

On November 21, shortly after news broke that the FBI had classified the Proud Boys as an extremist group with ties to white nationalists — a claim later disavowed by an FBI official, who said they only intended to characterize the potential threat of some members of the group[24] — McInnes said that his lawyers had advised him that quitting might help the nine members being prosecuted for the incidents in October and he said "this is 100% a legal gesture, and it is 100% about alleviating sentencing", and said it was a "stepping down gesture, in quotation marks".[29][30]

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.[54][80] 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.[81][82] 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.[54] 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.[3]

On December 23, The New York Times reported that video evidence from three separate videos showed conclusively that the Proud Boys has instigated the fight after the Metropolitan Republican Club event. Prosecutors have stated in court appearances that the videos will show the guilt of the Proud Boy defendants. In the article, John Miller, New York City's deputy police commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism is quoted as saying of the Proud Boys that "incidents like [the post-MRC fight] make it more likely that they'll be higher on the radar." The article described the group as being "in disarray".[78]

On March 1, 2019, it was reported that two of the accused Proud Boys have accepted deals and pleaded guilty to lesser charges, receiving sentences of 5 days of community service and no jail time. The charges against the other 10 members of the group are still outstanding.[83]

Threat to Portland mayor

In January 2019, Reggie Axtell, a member of the Proud Boys, threatened Ted Wheeler, Portland, Oregon's Democratic mayor, in a Facebook video post. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Axtell said in the video that Wheeler's "days are fucking numbered ... I promise you this, Ted Wheeler: I’m coming for you, you little punk." Axtell also said that he would "unmask every [anti-fascist] son of a bitch that I come across", referring to a campaign initiated by Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson, Proud Boy Tusitala "Tiny" Toese and former Proud Boy Russell Schultz to tear off the bandanas of anti-fascist (antifa) demonstrators and taking pictures of their faces, thereby "demasking" them. The announcement of the campaign came shortly after an altercation that took place when Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer members attempted and failed to invade a chapter meeting of the left wing organization Democratic Socialists of America. The groups clashed with anti-fascist activists nearby after being denied entry to the meeting, and claimed to be attacked.[84][85][86]

Connection with Roger Stone

Roger Stone, the long-time informal advisor to Donald Trump has close connections to the Proud Boys. According to University of Nevada researcher Samantha Kutner, during Gavin McInnes' time as head of the group, Stone was "one of only three approved media figures allowed to speak" about the group. A photo of Stone, Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson and two Proud Boys in the Fox News greenroom was posted by Stone on Instagram in May 2018.

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.

Stone has used members of the Proud Boys as his personal bodyguards. In March 2018, when Stone attended the Republican Dorchester Conference near Salem, Oregon, he was concerned about his safety and used members of the Proud Boys to be his private security; Stone was photographed with the Proud Boys members. In September 2018, Stone was escorted to and from the right-wing Mother of All Rallies by Proud Boys. Stone says that the Proud Boys are "volunteers" and are necessary due to the number of death threats he has received.

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, was there to meet Stone when 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 pled "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[87][4][88]

McInnes lawsuit against the SPLC

Although Gavin McInnes has supposedly cut his ties with the Proud Boys in November 2018, stepping down as chairman,[29][30] in February 2019 he filed suit against the Southern Poverty Law Center over their designation of the Proud Boys as a "general hate" group. The defamation suit was filed in federal court in Alabama. In the papers filed, McInnes claimed that the hate group designation is false and motivated by fund-raising concerns, and that his career has been damaged by it.[31][89]The SPLC says on its website 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."[28][89] The day after filing the suit McInnes announced that he had been re-hired by the Canadian far-right media group Rebel Media.[32]

1776.shop

In February 2019, Slate magazine reported that Square, Chase Paymentech, and PayPal had pulled their payment processing services from 1776.shop, an online far-right merchandise site associated with the Proud Boys. 1776.shop lists itself as a project of Fund the West LLC, a Miami business registered to Henry Tarrio. In the past, Enrique Tarrio, the chairman of Proud Boys, has claimed that he is the "business owner" of 1776.shop, raising the probability that "Henry Tarrio" and "Enrique Tarrio" are the same person. Henry Tarrio is also the registered owner of "Proudboys LLC", which uses the same address as Fund the West.[90]

Subgroups

Fraternal Order of the Alt-Knights

In 2017, Kyle Chapman, nicknamed "Based Stickman" due to the wooden dowel incident mentioned above, formed a 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.[28]

See also

References

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Further reading