Pride & Prejudice: The Violent Evolution of the Proud Boys

Combating Terrorism Center at West Point 

https://ctc.usma.edu/pride-prejudice-the-violent-evolution-of-the-proud-boys/?fbclid=IwAR1vTniwUVW7MmsTr7PGV9cofIK5Rtnq3YqZAX33i1KFBYLzOxhUh168W3k

JULY/AUGUST 2021, VOLUME 14, ISSUE 6

Authors:MATTHEW KRINERJON LEWIS

Abstract: The Proud Boys have emerged as both a manifestation of and driver for polarization and political violence in the United States since their inception in 2016. Characterized by their use of political violence in defense of what they perceive to be Western values and society, the evolution of the Proud Boys has seemingly culminated in the central role members of the group allegedly played in the storming of the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential election. Accelerationist factions of the Proud Boys have been pushing violence within the organization, as well as networking with neo-Nazi terrorist organizations. Looking ahead, despite enhanced scrutiny from law enforcement on individual members of the group in the wake of their activity on January 6, the Proud Boys appear galvanized, participating in numerous events in recent months that have descended into violence. Emboldened by the relative impunity with which they seemingly continue to operate, the group appears to be using the flashpoint of January 6 as an opportunity to further position themselves as the tip of the spear for extreme far-right political mobilization.

On January 6, 2021, videos and images broadcast worldwide showed an individual—later identified by the U.S. government as Proud Boys member Dominic Pezzola—using a stolen U.S. Capitol Police riot shield to shatter windows of the U.S. Capitol and leading fellow rioters into the building.1 A month later, the Canadian government proscribed the Proud Boys as a terrorist organization, citing an “escalation towards violence for this group” since 2018.2 Allegations set forth by federal prosecutors identify members of the Proud Boys as having played a central role in the degeneration of the January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally into a riot intended to prevent the certification of the 2020 U.S. general election. As federal investigations continue into the various individuals, networks, and movements alleged to have been present, this article assesses the scope of the Proud Boys’ involvement in the planning, organization, and execution of the January 6 Capitol Hill siege and examines its history of instigating and perpetrating politically motivated street violence.

This article will begin with a brief overview of the Proud Boys and how the political context in which it emerged impacted the group’s identity formation. It will then explain how its leadership and organizational features have contributed to the radicalization of its members and their use of violence. Through an analysis of both primary and secondary sources including court records, as well as insights shared by Proud Boys expert and ethnographic researcher Samantha Kutner, the article will explore the history of political violence by some Proud Boys members, assess the role of Proud Boys in the January 6 Capitol Hill siege, and discuss the group’s evolution in the aftermath of January 6.

Who Are the Proud Boys?
Gavin McInnes, a Canadian-American extreme far-right commentator, founded the Proud Boys in New York City in 2016.3 McInnes announced the group’s formation in Taki’s Magazine, a self-described libertarian webzine that previously employed white nationalist Richard Spencer as its managing editor.a According to McInnes, the group’s existence was necessary due to the inability for society to let menb be proud of Western culture.c Since that publication, the Proud Boys have continued to describe themselves as “Western chauvinistsd who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world”4 and claim to be primarily a libertarian-oriented fraternal drinking club. In reality, the Proud Boys serve as a radicalization to violence vector that seeks to ‘red pill’e recruits and sympathizers from mainstream conservatism. The group’s narratives amplify latent anti-Marxist and anti-communist sentiment in certain ideographs of American patriotism, and distorts those sentiments by mixing in misogynistic, fascistic, and ethno-nationalist worldviews.5 The group has long held a “permeable barrier”f with white supremacist groups like Identity Evropag and the Rise Above Movement,h as well as neo-Nazi accelerationist terror groups like Atomwaffen Division and the Base, fighting alongside them at protests and sharing members.6

The political climate in which the Proud Boys was forged has played a crucial role in its outgroup formation and adoption of violent tactics as a solution to these motivating topics.i Since its formation in 2016, the Proud Boys have acted as a physical wedge for societal polarization in America, engaging in politically motivated street fighting to purportedly defend Western society from forces the group views as degenerate and threatening Western values, such as Islam and immigration into the West.7 Doggedly focused on opposing what the group perceives as far-left movements, the Proud Boys have regularly stood in opposition to immigration, feminism, social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter (BLM), LGBTQ+ movements, and most notoriously anti-fascist (herein referred to as antifa) mobilization.j Proud Boys and their leadership have vilified each of these spaces as “cultural Marxism” or communism, and regularly leverage conspiracy theories that view Democrats and liberals as evil and corrupt.8Members of the group have engaged in targeted acts of violence, predominantly against left-wing protesters and protest movements and Democrat-heavy municipalities like Portland, Oregon.k Strategically, these targets represent symbolic and physical manifestations of the existential threats purportedly facing Western culture. Practically, these actions provide a visceral mechanism for radicalization to violence that tie the group’s successes and survival to the diminishment of its adversaries via hostile actions.9

True to their overt championing of ‘traditional’ Western society and ‘conservative’ values, the Proud Boys are deeply supportive of former President Trump and his Make America Great Again (MAGA) political agenda, routinely wearing red MAGA hats and carrying Trump flags in their street-level activities.10 The group was heavily galvanized by President Trump’s stated desire to label antifa as a domestic terror organization and his “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by” comments during the first presidential debate before the 2020 general election, with many members viewing it as an endorsement by the president of their actions and beliefs.11 Throughout its existence, the Proud Boys have latched onto conservative movement narratives, iconography, and campaigns, corrupting them to their own purposes and using them to recruit and mainstream their radical views. For years, the organization heavily promoted the “Blue Lives Matter” narrative and movement, framing itself as pro-police and as standing side-by-side against their perceived shared adversary (antifa and Marxism) only to turn on police just before the January 6 rally in Washington, D.C., stating “the police are starting to become a problem,” even though “we’ve had their back for years.”12

Despite assertions to the contrary by McInnes, the group’s violence and its views are inextricably linked with emergence of the so-called alt-right movementl and so-called ‘men’s rights’m narratives that gained notoriety leading into the 2016 election cycle. In a similar way to the European Identitiarian movement, which was deeply influenced by the 2015 immigration crisis, American “alt-right” views on immigration, socialism, and other culturally divisive topics deeply informed the Proud Boys’ hyper-masculine and xenophobic aesthetic, as well as its intrinsic belief in the utility of violence as a means to a political end. To that end, the so-called alt-right movement served as a mechanism to radicalize and organize within a new generation of men, as well as a convenient obfuscation of the Proud Boys’ deeper connections to extreme far-right organizing. This dynamic is best illustrated by the presence of Proud Boys members at numerous “alt-right” organized protests and violent street clashes throughout 2017, which was capped off by the Unite the Right event in August of that year.n The event was organized in large part by Jason Kessler, a former member of the Proud Boys, and a leader of the so-called alt-right movement.13 After the murder of Heather Heyer at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Proud Boys leadership attempted to publicly distance the group from the “alt-right” movement and made concerted efforts to diminish the perception of the group as racist.14 Yet, despite the distancing efforts from Charlottesville’s fallout and the alt-right label, members and chapters continued to engage in street-level provocations, politically motivated violence against leftist demonstrators, and persisted in utilizing narratives that heavily overlap with “alt-right” principles and views.15

Like the “alt-right,” the Boogaloo movement, and other contemporary extreme far-right hate movements born of the internet’s troll factories and echo chambers, social media has played a crucial role in the organizing and evolution of the Proud Boys brand.16 The Proud Boys have leveraged evolutions in digital culture to generate iconography and narratives, often through memes, that can have multiple meanings and manifest offline in the form of apparel, flags, and more.o Online, the group’s racist, fascist, and misogynistic beliefs are often hidden behind a veneer of irony and trolling in its larger forums and social media groups.17 This has allowed the group latitude in their attempts to reframe negative reporting and coverage of their activities as biased expressions of a corrupt media and the product of a leftist agenda seeking to undermine them as patriots.18

Following their ban from mainstream social media sites—Facebook, Instagram,19 and Twitterp—the Proud Boys embraced Telegram and alternative platforms such as Gab and Parler. On Telegram, the group’s more explicitly white supremacist and accelerationist factions increasingly took center stage.20 In some Telegram channels, the group’s deep-seated hate mongering, racism, and fascist proclivities are on full display with memes and references frequently overlapping with content found in deeper neo-Nazi accelerationist communities.q In recent years, the QAnon movement and other conspiracy theories have increased influence in the Proud Boys’ ideological pantheon, as evidenced by the Proud Boys’ central role in promoting and aiding the “Stop the Steal” campaign, which culminated in the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.r

Leadership
The leadership of the Proud Boys has been instrumental in driving the group’s embrace of political violence. Despite explicit calls for violence as a tool to push a political agenda, the group’s leadership, particularly at the national level (sometimes referred to as the Elders Council), has stopped short of embracing terrorism.21 Instead, national leadership has assumed a loose command and control position for overseeing demonstrations and mobilization against perceived enemies, while simultaneously making veiled overtures to, and allowing dual membership in, explicitly violent terrorist groups such as the Atomwaffen Division.s

This tone was set by Gavin McInnes, who spent the first two years of the Proud Boys’ existence as its chairman, overseeing the initial formulation of the group’s hyper political and violent engagement tactics within society. McInnes resigned from the role in 2018 to distance himself from the group in the face of growing legal challenges stemming from a violent assault conducted by Proud Boys members in Manhattan in October 2018.t McInnes was succeeded by Enrique Tarrio, the current chairman of the organization. Tarrio, a Cuban-American from Miami, Florida, first engaged with the group in 2017 and attended the Unite the Right rally.22 He quickly rose to become the Miami chapter leader. Tarrio’s reign as chairman has seen the group take on a larger role within the extreme far-right at the national level, as well as an overt pro-Trump stance.u Tarrio has used his ethnicity, as well as other non-white members’ ethnicities, as supposed evidence that the Proud Boys are not white supremacists, an approach that has helped the group push back against critiques of its racism and hew to the party line of being a “group of guys that hang out and drink beer together and just have a good time.”23 Yet, Tarrio has been present at many Proud Boys rallies and has himself engaged in antagonistic and alleged unlawful behavior. Two days before the January 6 Capitol Hill siege, Tarrio was arrested in Washington, D.C., on charges related to his own admission of responsibility for destruction of property stemming from the burning of a local church’s Black Lives Matter banner during the December 12, 2020, Proud Boys demonstrations in Washington, D.C.v Reports that surfaced after his arrest that he was a “prolific” informant for local and federal law enforcement may complicate his ability to continue to lead the group.24 Recent reports suggest that Tarrio plans to step down as national chairman in September, in order to “focus on his chapter in Florida.”25

Ethan Nordean and Joseph Biggs, both under criminal investigation related to January 6, are illustrative of two distinct leadership features in the Proud Boys. Nordean, aka Rufio Panman, is from Washington state and gained prominence within the Proud Boys due to a video depicting him “fending off two baton blows from a masked counter-protester. He then flattened his assailant.”26 The incident earned Nordean the accolade of “Proud Boy of the Week” in the Proud Boys magazine and catapulted his persona into the forefront of Proud Boys across the nation. In an interview with conspiracy website Infowars’ Alex Jones after the incident, Nordean responded to a question about the incident saying, “Like Gavin McInnes says, violence isn’t great, but justified violence is amazing.”27 Nordean’s ascent to national prominence and eventually to the inner circle of leadership on January 6, 2021 (detailed later in the article), highlights how regional chapters effectively serve as proving grounds for higher leadership and how violence plays a key role in what motivates the Proud Boys.

Joseph Biggs, who claims he spent time in the U.S. Army, has led numerous marches and organized events for the Proud Boys across the country.28 Biggs’ alleged military background is not atypical for the Proud Boys, and he has used it to shape the group’s discipline on the ground at demonstrations and clashes. Biggs has consistently used war-like references when speaking of engaging counter-protestors and preparing for demonstrations he has helped organize:

When we set out to do an event, we go, OK, what is our main objective? That’s the first thing we discuss. We take three months to plan an event. It’s like, you’re literally planning to go into a combat zone. It’s not just like, Hey man, we’re going to D.C., we’re going to Portland. It’s like, Alright, we’re going to Portland. I need satellite imagery. I need to talk to people on the ground. I need them to scout out these alleyways … when we have an escape route, we have four or five ways in and out, in case police close things off or whatever.29

Biggs’ leadership position and the calculated approach he demonstrates highlights how intentional and carefully Proud Boys activity is planned in advance.

Organizational Features
Organizational Structure
Organizationally, the Proud Boys have a national apparatus with local chapters that operate on a semi-autonomous level. The relationship between the national leadership and local chapters is dynamic and diffuse, which has provided latitude to members in determining the activities of their local factions, as well as facilitated the creation of offshoot or splinter groups. In recent years, the level of involvement from national leadership into local chapters’ jurisdictions has often been dependent on the location and focal point of a given activity or campaign. As the group has expanded, oversight into chapter creation was minimal, leading to a wide variance in chapter characteristics that was affected by geography, underlying cultural trends of the region or locale, and the local pool of recruits.wSome chapters and members, particularly on the West Coast, are far more involved with traveling to engage in street brawls or staging armed political protests.x Others are more confined geographically, limiting their activities to local endeavors and drinking parties.30

Throughout the history of the Proud Boys, three geographic regions have held primacy in the groups’ organizational activities. The chapters in the Pacific Northwest, Miami, and New York have been the most actively involved in street fighting (particularly in Portland, Oregon) and getting involved in political activism (particularly the Miami chapter due to Enrique Tarrio’s connections to Roger Stoney and failed attempts to run for Congress). Others, like the Michigan chapter, have taken on the characteristics of the far-right extremists who have historically operated in the local area, styling themselves more like a militia and engaging in activity long associated with militia-type activism.31 Like the Boogaloo movement, what an individual or local clique brings to the Proud Boys is often just as important as what the movement provides to the individual.

The minimal oversight of expansion and individual chapter autonomy has contributed to varying degrees of radicalization and commitment to violence within the ranks of broader group membership.32 Additionally, rank-and-file members frequently display symbols and espouse rhetoric that is more extreme than those of the leadership. Proud Boys members frequently display racist and fascist iconography on apparel (e.g., “Right-Wing Death Squad”z images, “6 million was not enough,” swastikas, and more), and several members and chapters have openly shown affinity for overt fascist organizations.

Initiation and Climbing Levels
To gain membership and rank in the Proud Boys, a man must perform four rituals from a hierarchical initiatic system that functionally serves to promote adherence to the group’s identity and is central to the radicalization to violence within the group.33 First, to become an initiate of the group, an individual must publicly declare his desire to be a Proud Boy and Western chauvinist, often through repeating a phrase like “I’m a Proud Boy. I’m a Western chauvinist. I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.”34 The explicit purpose of this ritual is to instill pride in both the Proud Boys and Western culture. To ascend to the second rank, an initiate must submit to a ritualistic assault-by-punching from at least five members. The punching only ends once the initiate has named five breakfast cereals.aa Once this ritual is complete, an initiate can become an official member. Founder Gavin McInnes made clear that the purpose of this ritual is to weed out unsuitable initiates and mentally harden members for future fights.ab To get to the third rank, a man in good standing (e.g., having remained committed to the first two rank requirements) must tattoo “Proud Boy” on their body.ac The fourth and final rank is achieved when a member has engaged in intentional violence on behalf of the Proud Boys.ad

The initiation ritual illustrates how political violence is an inherent characteristic of the Proud Boys identity, as every step of the way is steeped in socio-political world views in need of physical defense against degenerate forces. In a Newsmax appearance, Gavin McInnes stated bluntly, “And I cannot recommend violence enough. It is a really effective way to solve problems.”35 The initiation also serves as a pro-social radicalization mechanism that justifies an increasing commitment, willingness, and necessity to both the Proud Boys as an adopted identity and the use of violence against the groups’ adversaries. With each ascendence to the next rank, expectations among peers grow for increased dedication to the Proud Boys as a defining identity. Ultimately, each phase is designed to diminish an individual’s natural empathy toward others, while simultaneously increasing the belief that violence is the only true solution to effecting political change.36

Size
It is not clear how many men are members of the Proud Boys or how many have climbed to the highest ranks. Some researchers have estimated between 3,000-8,000 members in the United States, while the Proud Boys leadership has previously suggested upwards of 22,000 globally, with Tarrio claiming that the aftermath of then President Trump’s election loss and the subsequent embrace of the “Stop the Steal” narrative by the mainstream right “was the moment we really united everybody under one banner.” Tarrio asserted that the Proud Boys recruited over 20,000 new members in the time period between November 2020 and January 2021.ae Despite the variance in membership estimations, the group’s hard-core members have shown a willingness and capability to punch above their weight by traveling around the United States to maximize perceptions of the group’s operational reach. It is also unclear just how many individuals sympathize with the Proud Boys, but do not hold formal membership. However, as is the case with other extremist movements, there is a risk in overemphasizing the importance of known, formal membership at the expense of recognizing the ability of the Proud Boys (and the narratives the underpin the group) to inspire mobilization and incite violence in the name of their causes.

A Proud Boy supporter listens to speeches at a Second Amendment rally in Salem, Oregon, on May 1, 2021. (Paula Bronstein/AP Photo)

The Violent Road to January 6
The Proud Boys may be best known for their street-level activities that border on gang-like or paramilitary mobilization.af Adorned in their customary coopted black and yellow Fred Perry shirtsag and often shouting “uhuru” (a Swahili word for freedom) in unison, the group is a frequent staple at right-wing political events and protests that center on hot-button political topics (e.g., freedom of speech on campuses, social media content moderation, immigration, and more). From 2016 to early 2021, Khalifa Ilher Research Fellow Samantha Kutner has verified that the Proud Boys have engaged in approximately 135 incidents where the group targeted, co-attended, or organized offline activity.ah The group’s repertoire is largely comprised of violent acts of antagonism toward political opponents, though it has also acted as “security” for conservative political figures and rallies, and some members launched ill-fated political campaigns.37 Since its emergence in 2016, the Proud Boys group has regularly deployed as counter-protestors and agitators at demonstrations.ai

The goals of their engagement style appear to be designed to draw media attention, frame media perception, generate recruitment, manifest narratives, initiate members into higher ranks, and shift what is palatable within American political discourse. And, according to Kutner, their offline tactics also exhibit “a pattern of staging multiple rallies in different cities that may be designed to maintain the illusion of larger presence.”38 The Proud Boys’ tactical engagements resemble hooligan and far-right street movements in the United Kingdom and Europe, which have relied on physical intimidation and brawling to assert their political agendas. These tactics have made the Proud Boys a frequent destination for accelerationists as they share doctrinal goals of generating friction within society that can lead to widespread violence.

Early domestic offline activity related to the Proud Boys included incursions and patrols into what the group claimed to be sharia zones, such as the 2017 ‘March Against Sharia’ event that featured Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, and Soldiers of Odin.39 aj The persistent offline mobilization of Proud Boys members continued unabated, with violent clashes occurring in such places as Berkeley, California; Portland, Oregon; New York City; and Washington, D.C.40

For a period of time, a key vehicle for the Proud Boys’ violence and links to extreme-right terrorist groups was its paramilitary, accelerationist offshoot the Fraternal Order of the Alt-Knights (FOAK), which allegedly counted Enrique Tarrio among its ranks. In April 2017, Gavin McInnes announced the formation of the FOAK via Twitter, calling the new group the “military division of the Proud Boys” and said it would be headed by Proud Boys member Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman.ak FOAK acted as a pathway to the most extreme elements of the far-right, with members of the FOAK overlapping in groups like the Vinlanders Social Club, the Wotan network, as well as partnering with neo-Nazi accelerationists at demonstrations such as the Unite the Right rally.41 For example, the FOAK’s second-in-command, Augustus Sol Invictus, is a self-professed accelerationistal and has provided legal services for white supremacist and American Front leader Marcus Faella. Eventually, the FOAK crumbled in 2018 under the weight of infighting and Chapman’s continued legal battles.42

Despite being short-lived, the Proud Boys’ merger with the FOAK allowed the Proud Boys to embrace the overtly violent extremist elements of the “alt-right” and accelerationist communities while simultaneously maintaining a mainstream pool of support. The Proud Boys has acted as a ‘gateway’ for even more extreme groups. Former Proud Boys lawyer Jason Van Dyke sought, but was denied, membership in the neo-Nazi terrorist group The Base.43Multiple individuals, including Base members Yousef O. Barasneh44 and Chris Hood,am are reported to have considered joining the Proud Boys prior to joining groups such as The Base and the Nationalist Social Club (aka NSC131).45

Within the MAGA movement, the revival of the “Stop the Steal” narrative quickly became a focused rallying cry for Proud Boys mobilization.46 The skirmishes that had characterized the group since its inception intensified throughout the 2020 presidential election cycle. On December 12, 2020, hundreds of Proud Boys descended on Washington, D.C., to demonstrate against the 2020 presidential election results and antagonize local antifa activists into conflict.47 Drawing on the tactical playbook the group had perfected in Portland, the Proud Boys marched across the city, drinking and seeking conflict with counter-protestors.48 The group’s activity culminated that night in clashes in Washington, D.C., wherein four people were stabbed.an The day’s events serve as both a reminder of the group’s long-tenured role as drivers of politically motivated violence and a harbinger for the principal role they would assume in the alleged instigation of violence on January 6 at the U.S. Capitol.

In the aftermath of the December 2020 street violence in Washington, D.C., the Proud Boys reportedly received more than $100,000 in donations via the ‘Christian’ crowdfunding site GiveSendGo.49 As Proud Boys members made their final preparations to be in Washington, D.C., on January 6, more than $113,000 was reportedly raised for the ‘Enrique Tarrio Defense Fund’ in response to his January 4 arrest. In addition to the Tarrio fund, a review by The Washington Post found that “at least $247,000 has been raised for 24 people — including at least eight members of the Proud Boys — who claimed online that the money was intended for travel, medical or legal expenses connected to ‘Stop the Steal’ events, including the January 6 rally.”50 ao By then, the group was using livestream and vlogging to drive brand development, grow their audience, and raise funds. Ironically, these streams have taken center stage in investigations surrounding the extent to which Proud Boys leaders Ethan Nordean (aka Rufio Panman) and Joseph Biggs were planning the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol in advance.51

The Proud Boys and January 6
“I want to see thousands of normies burn that city to ash today,” expressed one user in a group chat used by the Proud Boys’ leadership on January 6, 2021.ap

Six months on from the events of January 6, 2021, the scope of the Proud Boys’ role in the insurrection continues to slowly come into view.52 While the federal investigation continues into the 529 individuals federally charged in relation to their alleged criminal activity at the U.S. Capitol and hundreds of individuals remain unidentified, Proud Boys members are alleged to have played a central role in the vanguard of the Capitol Hill rioters, with preliminary research by the Program on Extremism identifying more than 30 individuals charged in connection to the Capitol riot with links to the Proud Boys.53

According to court records, Proud Boys organizers are alleged to have issued orders or directives to members of their groups, encouraging them to travel to Washington, D.C., in advance of January 6.54 These hierarchical networks are alleged to have conspired to attend protests on that day with specific advance plans to breach the Capitol.aq The allegations set forth by the U.S. government suggest that the conspiracy to disrupt the certification of the electoral ballots for the 2020 presidential election began long before January 6.55 The group’s extensive history with using violence in furtherance of political views, described above, would seem to support the government’s assertion.

In December 2020, Proud Boys leadership is alleged to have created a private, encrypted messaging channel known as Ministry of Self Defense (MOSD).56 This smaller, private channel, which was allegedly restricted to several core members of Proud Boys leadership, including Enrique Tarrio, Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl, and Charles Donohoe. The members of this smaller private channel reportedly “had an established chain-of-command” and held “video planning conferences prior to January 6.”57 As alleged by the government, the MOSD was to act as a “special chapter” within the organization dedicated to the planning for January 6, which “was not to have any interaction with other Proud Boys attending the event”—seemingly in an attempt to sequester this leadership core and ensure operational security in the lead-up to planned Proud Boys activity at the Capitol.58 According to government filings, following Tarrio’s arrest on January 4, 2021, the four Proud Boys leaders created a new encrypted channel (New MOSD) and took steps to destroy the earlier MOSD channel.59

The government alleges that, in furtherance of the conspiracy, Proud Boys leadership instructed Proud Boys members not to wear their distinctive and recognizable uniforms on January 6 in Washington, D.C.60 On December 29, 2020, Tarrio posted a message on social media claiming the Proud Boys planned to “turn out in record numbers on Jan 6th but this time with a twist … We will not be wearing our traditional Black and Yellow. We will be incognito and we will spread across downtown DC in smaller teams … we might dress in all BLACK for the occasion.”ar Prosecutors noted that it was in late December 2020 that Tarrio first began encouraging the Proud Boys to go to Washington, D.C., for the “Stop the Steal” march, when he posted a message on the social media app Parler announcing that members of the group would “turn out in record numbers.”61

Finally, the government alleges that on the eve of January 6, Proud Boys members created an encrypted messaging channel called “Boots on the Ground” to enable communication between members of the group present in Washington, D.C.—more than 60 in total.62 According to prosecutors, internal communications between Proud Boys members provide clear evidence of a pre-planned conspiracy.63 Specifically, encrypted Telegram messages obtained from Nordean’s cell phone released by the government included these comments from Joseph Biggs on the evening of January 5: “Just trying to get our numbers. So we can plan accordingly for tonight and go over tomorrow’s plan.”64 According to prosecutors, several hours later, Biggs posted that, “We just had a meeting woth [sic] a lot of guys. Info should be coming out … We have a plan. I’m with [coconspirator Nordean].”65 The government alleges that Nordean was nominated from within to have “war powers” and assumed “ultimate leadership of the Proud Boys’ activities” on January 6. The government further alleges that he organized and led the Proud Boys in executing their plan: to “split up into groups, attempt to break into the Capitol building from as many different points as possible, and prevent the Joint Session of Congress from Certifying the Electoral College results.”66

On the morning of January 6, the Proud Boys contingent assembled on the east side of the U.S. Capitol and posed for photos, with many members wearing black as called for by Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio.67 From this location, the group marched in formation to a staging point along Pennsylvania Avenue just south and east of President Trump’s rally. This staging point was almost directly in the eventual route rally-goers-turned-rioters would take from President Trump’s rally to the Capitol.68 Footage from the day shows Proud Boys at the forefront of clashes that overwhelmed law enforcement and the barriers around the Capitol.69 What remains unclear is to what extent this staging was pre-planned by the Proud Boys.

However, a superseding indictment against three Proud Boys members—Dominic Pezzola, William Pepe, and Matthew Greene—alleges that at numerous flashpoints between the crowd and law enforcement, the trio “assisted the crowd’s efforts … by positioning themselves near the front of the line between Capitol Police and rioters.”70 asThe affidavit charging Florida Proud Boys member Paul Rae in relation to the Capitol riot notes that Proud Boys organizer Joseph Biggs “and other identified leaders of the Proud Boys” led a group of Proud Boys “toward a pedestrian gate and overwhelmed law enforcement.”71 Government filings note that numerous Proud Boys were operating incognito and “leading the walk to the next barrier,” including Dominic Pezzola and William Pepe.72

Charging documents also assert pre-planned efforts by Proud Boys leadership, including Ethan Nordean, to incite “normies”at present at the U.S. Capitol to “smash some pigs to dust.”73 In furtherance of this plan, the government alleges, Nordean “had a brief exchange with Robert Gieswein” before conferring with both Gieswein and Pezzola at approximately 2:00 PM, at which point the pair took up positions at the front of the rioters who “began forcing their way through, up, and over the barricades, and officers of the U.S. Capitol Police.” Indeed, according to prosecutors, following his conversation with Nordean, Robert Gieswein took up position side by side with Proud Boys member Dominic Pezzola as he shattered the window on the west side of the U.S. Capitol Building at approximately 2:13 PM on January 6.74 Following this action, evidence presented by the government presents Gieswein as one of the first rioters to enter the building, climbing through the broken window, followed closely by Pezzola and others, who then “entered the building through the window… and opened an adjacent door.”75 Within two minutes of the door being opened, the government alleges, Proud Boys members William Pepe, Paul Rae, Gilbert Garcia, Joshua Pruitt, and Joseph Biggs entered the building, followed by dozens of rioters.76 au

The Evolving Threat
In the aftermath of January 6, Proud Boys members “celebrated their collective accomplishment … and the decision to forego colors at the rally.”77 According to internal messages released by the government, Proud Boys leader Charles Donohoe stated, “Thank God we were not wearing colors. We should never wear colors ever again for any event.”78

It is likely that the events of January 6 represent an inflection point for the trajectory and future of the Proud Boys as a movement.79 In the weeks following the Capitol Hill siege, the organization was proscribed as a terror organization by Canada, and at least one Canadian chapter of the group reportedly shut down.80 In February 2021, several American Proud Boys chapters disavowed the authority of national leadership. In posts on Telegram, chapters in Alabama, Indiana, and Oklahoma distanced themselves from the national chapter, with the Alabama Proud Boys chapter stating: “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.”81 Daniel Arellano, who replaced Nordean as the president of the Proud Boys Seattle Chapter in February 2021,82 recently claimed that “The Proud Boys Pacific Northwest Region (Proud Boys PNW), including PBSC, are now autonomous of, and have no connection to any national group.”av As with the self-serving dissolution claims of other extremist organizations like Atomwaffen Division, any reported or rumored disbandment of or disaffiliation with the national Proud Boys group should be viewed with circumspection.83 So too should claims by various Proud Boys chapters that they are now suddenly disassociated from the ideas and actions of the national leadership.

As detailed by the U.S. government, many Proud Boys members allegedly present at the Capitol on January 6 have demonstrated a lack of contrition, which is potentially illustrative of a continued desire by Proud Boys members to engage in violent acts in furtherance of their goals.aw Nordean, for example, is alleged to have taken steps “to meet with other members of the Proud Boys in the Pacific Northwest to discuss future plans,” including bulk purchase of gear and the establishment of regional training.84 According to government-filed court documents, Joseph Biggs and Ethan Nordean celebrated what happened that day, and have not expressed regret or remorse for what they did or what happened.85 In ruling in favor of pre-trial detention for Proud Boys member Christopher Worrell, a federal judge found that his “participation in the mob was planned, calculated and intentional,” and that upon being arrested, Worrell allegedly stated to FBI agents that “if he were to find out the name of the Twitter user who exposed his identity online, the FBI ‘would be coming for [him] again.’”86 ax Indeed, in the absence of contrition, self-serving attempts by Proud Boys members like William Chrestman to renounce association with the group and its goals should be viewed plainly, as it is by the government, as merely a “prophylactic effort to distance himself from others with whom he joined that day.”87

In response to media questions about the future of the Proud Boys, Chairman Tarrio stated that he believes “there’s a pretty big percentage of people who think like us” and that the group has a place in the mainstream of conservative politics.88 Additionally, researcher Samantha Kutner says that based on her ethnographic research with individual members and Proud Boys Chairman Tarrio, “Even if Proud Boys fail to consolidate power within the mainstream conservative party, the tactics they’ve used to evade detection, advance their agenda, and maintain plausible deniability will outlive them.”89

Looking forward, the organizational structure of the Proud Boys—which has provided latitude to members in creating offshoot or splinter groups in recent years—will present a considerable challenge for law enforcement. A number of organizations similar to the Proud Boys have proliferated in the periphery of individual Proud Boys chapters, often mimicking or building on the Proud Boys aesthetic and tactics.90 Throughout the Proud Boys existence, the group and its membership have frequently inspired the creation of like-minded organizations. These Proud Boys-like entities echo the talking points of the Proud Boys related to patriotic, anti-communist, and anti-Marxist narratives, while also adapting the street fighter tactics and aesthetics of the Proud Boys. Notably, many of these Proud Boys-like organizations appear to be locally oriented, and frequently draw on familial and established networks of hate groups for recruitment. However, it is difficult to accurately gauge the total number of such splinters and imitators and their true level of autonomy from the Proud Boys.ay As the Proud Boys brand weathers the fallout from the January 6 U.S. Capitol Insurrection, these Proud Boys-like organizations will be crucial to monitor and evaluate, particularly if local chapters and national leadership of the Proud Boys seek to rebrand and continue their political violence under less scrutiny.

Despite the increased scrutiny from law enforcement and individual chapters shuttering after January 6, Proud Boys leadership has shown no intent to curb the activities of its rank and file. Instead, the group has continued to mobilize, sometimes armed and violently, in response to the continued disinformation narratives related to the “Stop the Steal” movement, vaccines, and more, appearing at more than 20 events in 13 cities since January 6.91On April 11, 2021, Proud Boys attended a “White Lives Matter” demonstration in Huntington Beach, California, that turned violent.92 On May 1, 2021, Proud Boys, some wearing the skullmask favored by neo-Nazi accelerationists, acted as security for a Second Amendment rally in Salem, Oregon.93 In Sacramento, California, on June 5, 2021, the Proud Boys rallied in support of Ashli Babbit, the woman shot by police on January 6 for breaking into the Speaker’s Lobby of the Capitol.94 And on June 18, 2021, clashes between Proud Boys and antifa counter protestors in Oregon City, Oregon, descended into a riot.95

The tempo of the group’s appearances after January 6 suggests that instead of instigating a standing down, the group may be positioning itself to serve as the violent tip of the post-Insurrection extreme far-right in the United States.     CTC

Matthew Kriner is an analyst of far-right extremism and radicalization. Twitter: @mattkriner

Jon Lewis is a Research Fellow at the Program on Extremism, where he studies violent extremist organizations in the United States. Twitter: @Jon_Lewis27

© 2021 Matthew Kriner, Jon Lewis

Substantive Notes

[a] At the time of the Proud Boys announcement article, the coiner of the term “alt-right,” Richard Spencer, was the managing editor of Taki’s Magazine.

[b] Women are not permitted to be members of the Proud Boys. However, this has not stopped women from being involved with the organization. A parallel initiative called Proud Boys Girls was established in 2016, though its dynamic with the main Proud Boys apparatus has been fraught at times. See Brandy Zadrozny and Corky Siemaszko, “The Boys and Girls of white nationalism: ‘Proud’ groups labeled ‘extremist’ in newly revealed FBI files,” NBC News, November 20, 2018, and Alexander Reid Ross, “Proud Boys Are at War With Their Female Extremist Wing,” Daily Beast, December 30, 2020.

[c] The name of the group comes from the song “Proud of Your Boy” from the Broadway stage production of AladdinEJ Dickson, “The Rise and Fall of the Proud Boys,” Rolling Stone, June 15, 2021.

[d] Western Chauvinism is defined by the perception that ‘Western European culture’ is superior.

[e] Proud Boy members are frequently the target of intentional efforts to “red pill” (a process of generating an awakening within the targeted subject about a fundamentally unjust or broken system of which they are an alleged victim). According to Samantha Kutner, an expert on the Proud Boys who has conducted extensive ethnographic research and interviews with members of the Proud Boys organization, “members are repeatedly exposed to memes, videos, podcasts, and other content that systematically desensitizes them to targeted violence.” Additionally, Kutner has defined the term ‘taking the red pill’ in context of the group’s radicalization efforts as men opening their eyes to the perceived reality of male subjugation by women. See Samantha Kutner, “Swiping Right: The Allure of Hyper Masculinity and Cryptofascism for Men Who Join the Proud Boys,” International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, May 2020.

[f] Individual members of the Proud Boys have regularly held membership or transited the Proud Boys en route to joining groups like Atomwaffen Division and The Base. Additionally, the Proud Boys have regularly co-attended and co-organized events with explicitly white supremacist and accelerationist groups like the Rise Above Movement. Combined, these factors create a permeable barrier between the Proud Boys and the broader extreme far-right that is explicitly racist. See Ben Makuch and Mack Lamoureax, “A Proud Boys Lawyer Wanted to Be a Nazi Terrorist,” Vice, December 8, 2020; Ben Makuch and Mack Lamoureax, “For Some, Joining the Proud Boys Was a Stop on the Way to Neo-Nazi Terror,” Vice, November 18, 2020; Hannah Allam and Razzan Nakhlawi, “Black, Brown and extremist: Across the far-right spectrum, people of color play a more visible role,” Washington Post, May 16, 2021.

[g] Identity Evropa is a white supremacist organization founded in 2016 that styles itself after the Identitarian aesthetic, which is a far-right pan-Europeanist belief system that holds white European identity is superior. The group played a central role in organizing the Unite the Right rally in 2017. See “Identity Evropa/American Identity Movement,” Southern Poverty Law Center.

[h] The Rise Above Movement (RAM) is a neo-Nazi organization dedicated to fighting political enemies in the streets. Four members of the group were prosecuted federally for their roles in instigating riots at the so-called “Battle of Berkeley” (a string of “alt-right” demonstrations that degraded into riots with counter-protestors) throughout 2017. Leader Robert Rundo is currently wanted by the FBI and is allegedly in hiding in Eastern Europe with neo-Nazi organizations. See “Rise Above Movement,” Southern Poverty Law Center.

[i] McInnes has long held professional relationships with figures and publications that are situated solidly within the American extreme-right political community, including figures such as Richard Spencer who embrace openly racialist and xenophobic beliefs that align with European Identitarian views. The Proud Boys act as a radicalization pathway for more mainstream political organizing into harder white supremacist and white nationalist spaces. For example, McInnes himself has echoed conspiracy theories and racist narratives related to so-called “white genocide” (a narrative that motivated Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof) and regularly uses derogatory language championed by white supremacists and misogynists in the extreme far-right. See “Do You Want Bigots, Gavin? Because This Is How You Get Bigots,” Southern Poverty Law Center, August 10, 2017, and Jordan Green, “‘The mask slips’: Proud Boys joining white supremacists in ‘White Lives Matter’ rallies across the US,” Raw Story, March 31, 2021.

[j] The authors recognize that not all anti-fascist mobilization and political campaigns are associated with the antifa movement. However, in the context of this article, they refer to this mobilization space as antifa for two main reasons: 1) anti-fascist activists frequently organize counter-protest activities in localities targeted by Proud Boys violence under individual antifa chapters, which have acted as the primary opposition to the Proud Boys (e.g., Rose City Antifa in Portland, Oregon); and 2) the Proud Boys heuristically refer to this opposition as “antifa,” which deeply informs its outgroup framing of political opposition to its presence.

[k] The threat of violence stemming from Proud Boys’ demonstrations and antagonism toward counter-demonstrators has led to large-scale law enforcement mobilization ahead of events in Portland and other cities. In September 2020, ahead of the so-called ‘End Domestic Terrorism’ demonstration planned by the Proud Boys to encourage designating antifa as a domestic terrorist entity, Oregon Governor Kate Brown declared a state of emergency for the city of Portland over fears of violence stemming from Proud Boys and white supremacists. Andrew Hay, “Oregon governor ‘incredibly worried’ about violence at Proud Boys rally,” Reuters, September 25, 2020.

[l] The alt-right was defined by white nationalist Richard Spencer, who coined the term, as “an ideology around identity, European identity.” In the context of the Proud Boys, the alt-right presented a rebranding opportunity for pre-existing extreme far-right beliefs (e.g., white supremacy, chauvinism, anti-Communism, and more) that coincided with an upswell of right-wing populist demagoguery associated with the 2016 presidential election. The Southern Poverty Law Center defines the alt-right as “a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that ‘white identity’ is under attack by multicultural forces using ‘political correctness’ and ‘social justice’ to undermine white people and ‘their’ civilization.” Benjamin Wallace-Wells, “Is the Alt-Right for Real?” New Yorker, May 5, 2016; “Alt-Right,” Southern Poverty Law Center, 2021.

[m] According to Samantha Kutner, “Proud Boys hide in plain sight by reframing their extremism as an assertion of their masculinity. The violence they advocate for, the structural violence they support through policies and protests, and the way they treat other members highlights the culture of violence that has been with the group since its inception.” The “men’s rights movement,” from which the Proud Boys couches its version of masculinity, is a wide-ranging political movement that predominantly focuses on perceived discrimination against males, with feminism typically blamed. Authors interview, Samantha Kutner, June 2021. For more on the “men’s rights movement,” see Alex DiBranco, “Male Supremacist Terrorism as a Rising Threat,” International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, February 10, 2020, and “Male Supremacy,” Southern Poverty Law Center, 2020.

[n] Many individuals who attended and engaged in violence at the Unite the Right rally held associations with or membership in violent extremist organizations. Individuals with reported links to Atomwaffen Division, the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), and Rise Above Movement (RAM) were also present and reported to have played central roles in the violence that day. The Russian Imperial Movement has been designated by the United States as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity, while Atomwaffen Division was proscribed as a terrorist organization by the British and Canadian governments. In the aftermath of the Unite the Right rally, RAM was significantly affected by federal law enforcement investigations for its political violence. See “Two Years Ago, They Marched in Charlottesville. Where Are They Now?” Anti-Defamation League, August 8, 2019; Glenn Kessler, “The ‘very fine people’ at Charlottesville: Who were they?” Washington Post, May 8, 2020; A.C. Thompson, Ali Winston, and Jake Hanrahan, “Ranks of Notorious Hate Group Include Active-Duty Military,” ProPublica, May 3, 2018;Hayley Evans, “All You Need to Know About the U.K. Proscribing the Neo-Nazi Group Atomwaffen Division,” Lawfare, May 17, 2021; “Riot Charges reinstated against California white supremacist,” Associated Press, March 4, 2021; A.C. Thompson, ProPublica, Ali Winston,and Darwin BondGraham, “Racist, Violent, Unpunished: A White Hate Group’s Campaign of Menace,” ProPublicaOctober 19, 2017; Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Samuel Hodgson, and Colin P. Clarke, “The Russian Imperial Movement (RIM) and its Links to the Transnational White Supremacist Extremist Movement,” International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, April 24, 2020; Elizabeth Grimm Arsenault and Joseph Stabile, “Confronting Russia’s Role in Transnational White Supremacist Extremism,” Just Security, February 6, 2020; Jon Lewis and Mary McCord, “The State Department Should Designate the Russian Imperial Movement as a Foreign Terrorist Organization,” Lawfare, April 14, 2020.

[o] Notably, the Proud Boys community and its sympathizers range far beyond its low-level initiates. According to Samantha Kutner, engagement with the group “ranges from passive online consumption to overt offline action.” See Kutner, “Swiping Right.” See also Alex Newhouse, Adel Arletta, and Leela McClintock, “Proud Boys Amplify Anti-Vax and Coronavirus Disinformation Following Support for Anti-Quarantine Protests,” Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism, May 1, 2020, and Tom Dreisbach, “How Extremists Weaponize Irony to Spread Hate,” NPR’s All Things Considered, April 26, 2021.

[p] Prior to the second Unite the Right rally, Twitter suspended the Proud Boys’ primary account, Gavin McInnes’ account, seven other regional chapters’ accounts, and the accounts for the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, the groups’ violent paramilitary offshoot. According to Twitter, the takedowns were associated with violating policies related to violent extremist groups. Ryan Mac and Blake Montgomery, “Twitter Suspended Proud Boys’ And Founder Gavin McInnes’ Accounts Ahead Of The ‘Unite The Right’ Rally,” Buzzfeed News, August 11, 2018.

[q] The Proud Boys: Uncensored Telegram channel, featuring a profile picture of the same Italian fascist iconography (the Roman Legion eagle and fasces surrounded by laurel wreath) found on the 6MWE shirt (6MWE refers to the phrase ‘Six Million Wasn’t Enough’—used frequently by neo-Nazis claiming that not enough Jewish people died in the Holocaust) is one of the most brazen and publicly reported examples of explicit accelerationist and fascist activity related to the Proud Boys. The channel, among the most extreme associated with the group and deeply associated with pushing accelerationist narratives decrying the viability of electoral politics, has previously been the center of attention over alleged internal disputes within the Proud Boys. For example, the channel’s administrator, Kyle Chapman, used the forum to launch an ill-fated coup for the leadership of the organization. Additionally, the channel publicly cheered on the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. See Marissa J. Lang, “As fractures emerge among Proud Boys, experts warn of a shift toward extremist violence,” Washington Post, February 26, 2021, and “Extremists Engage in Political Violence During Pro-Trump Rallies,” Anti-Defamation League, January 6, 2021.

[r] Some individuals arrested and charged for their roles in the events of January 6 have since claimed in court that they were only acting on orders of President Trump and now feel betrayed by his failure to support their actions that day. See, for example, Sebastian Murdock, “Proud Boys Leader Charged In Capitol Attack Feels Betrayed By Trump: ‘You Left Us,’” Huffington Post, May 14, 2021; Sheera Frenkel and Alan Feuer, “‘A Total Failure’: The Proud Boys Now Mock Trump,” New York Times, January 20, 2021; USA v. Ethan Nordean, “Defendant Nordean’s Reply in Support of Motion to Compel the Production of Evidence and For a Bill of Particulars, Exhibit 1,” District of Columbia, 2021.

[s] The Proud Boys leadership has often taken an approach of at first denying allegations made against members accused of acts of violence, blatant white supremacy, or ties to groups like Atomwaffen, and then distancing itself from these individuals. Frequently, despite copious evidence to the contrary, Proud Boys leaders claim that such individuals are not ‘true’ members or had already been expelled from the group. One such case related to acts of violence is that of Robert Alan Swinney, who was arrested and indicted “for pointing a firearm and firing a paintball gun at anti-racism protesters in Portland.” Proud Boys leaders and other members claimed Swinney was not associated with the group, but Swinney had attained at least the third rank of membership and likely the fourth, given his routine presence at and role in organizing violent clashes between Proud Boys and leftists at demonstrations. “Proud Boys member, who pointed gun, arrested in Portland,” Reuters, September 30, 2020.

[t] According to McInnes, his departure from leadership was meant to illustrate the Proud Boys were not a gang (despite previous descriptions of the group as such by McInnes on the Joe Rogan podcast). See “Gavin McInnes describes proud boys to Joe Rogan,” video on YouTube, October 16, 2018. Ultimately, two members of the Proud Boys, Maxwell Hare and John Kinsman, were convicted of attempted gang assault, attempted assault, and riot charges related to the so-called Metropolitan Republican Club incident in October 2018 in Manhattan where a group of Proud Boys violently beat four antifa counter-protestors. Hare and Kinsman were each sentenced to four years in prison for their roles in the assault. The assault followed an event where Gavin McInnes re-enacted the televised 1960 political assassination of the Japanese socialist party leader by a Japanese ultra-nationalist. “Proud Boys Convicted Of Attempted Assault Following NYC Street Brawl With Antifa Activists,” CBS New York, August 19, 2019; Theo Wayt, “Proud Boys members sentenced to four years in prison for violent clash with antifa,” NBC News, October 22, 2019; “Proud Boys,” Southern Poverty Law Center, 2021Carol Schaeffer, “Inside the Proud Boy Event That Sparked Violence Outside of Uptown GOP Club,” Bedford Bowery, October 13, 2018; Colin Moynihan, “Far-Right Proud Boys’ Founder Called ‘Hatemonger,’” New York Times, August 14, 2019.

[u] Tarrio has been extremely vocal of his support for President Trump and the MAGA movement. He has served as the chief of staff and Florida state director of Latinos for Trump and has deep ties to long-time Republican operative Roger Stone, President Trump’s one-time political advisor. See Tim Elfrink, “The chairman of the far-right Proud Boys sat behind Trump at his latest speech,” Washington Post, February 19, 2019, and Will Carless, “How a Trump booster group helped the head of extremist Proud Boys gain access to the White House,” USA Today, December 19, 2020.

[v] Enrique Tarrio publicly admitted responsibility (though he has pleaded not guilty and continues to defend himself in the ongoing civil lawsuit brought against Proud Boys L.L.C. and Tarrio personally), both on the social media platform Parler and a podcast, for the burning of the banner. Additionally, at the time of his arrest, he was found in possession of two Proud Boys-branded, high-capacity firearm magazines, which are prohibited under D.C. law with possession carrying the weight of felony charges. Tarrio claims he was simply carrying them to give to another individual who had legally purchased the magazines and planned to take possession of the magazines when the two met prior to the January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally. Additionally, the FBI stated that Tarrio’s January 4, 2021, arrest was in part an attempt to preempt possible violence ahead of the Capitol insurrection: “We developed some intelligence that a number of individuals were planning to travel to the D.C. area with intentions to cause violence. We immediately shared that information and action was taken, as demonstrated by the arrest of Enrique Tarrio by the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia … Other individuals were identified in other parts of the country and their travel subsequently disrupted.” See Christina Carrega, Evan Perez, and Paul LeBlanc, “Proud Boys leader arrested for allegedly burning Black Lives Matter banner at DC church,” CNN, January 5, 2021;“FBI Assistant Director in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono’s Remarks at Press Briefing Regarding Violence at U.S. Capitol,” Office of Public Affairs FBI Washington Field Office, January 12, 2021; and Greg Walters, “Proud Boys Leader Enrique Tarrio Is Representing Himself in Court,” Vice, May 4, 2021.

[w] This structure also contributed to a growth in the Proud Boys’ international presence, with like-minded individuals in Canada and Australia formally establishing their own chapters and adopting the group’s initiation rituals and iconographic style. Michael McGowan, “Australian Proud Boys sought combat-trained supporters to ‘arrest’ police at Covid lockdown protests,” Guardian, February 15, 2021.

[x] Since its inception, Proud Boys members have traveled nationally to engage in activism and attend events. West Coast chapters often stage events and appearances in Portland and Salem, Oregon, with members traveling in from around the region to partake. See Sergio Olmos, “Proud Boys clash with anti-fascists in Salem,” Oregon Public Broadcasting, March 28, 2021; Tess Owen, “The Giant Proud Boy Rally That Wasn’t,” Vice, September 27, 2020;and “Patriot Prayer, Proud Boys Organizing Potentially Combustible Portland Event,” Anti-Defamation League, August 2, 2018.

[y] In 2018, a video surfaced of Roger Stone conducting the first-degree level ritual for Proud Boys’ membership wherein he recited the following: “Hi, I’m Roger Stone. I’m a Western chauvinist. I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.” Despite his denial of the video and its significance, Stone and the Tarrio-led Proud Boys have a long history, with Stone using the group as security at times and the group rallying behind Stone following his arrest related to lying to the Mueller investigation about Wikileaks and Russian interference in the 2016 election. Proud Boys members coined the phrase “Roger Stone did nothing wrong.” See Kelly Weill and Will Sommer, “Republicans Are Adopting the Proud Boys,” Daily Beast, October 17, 2018, and Kelly Weill, “How the Proud Boys Became Roger Stone’s Personal Army,” Daily Beast, January 29, 2019. For more on the relationship between Proud Boys and Republican Party officials, see Tess Owen, “Nevada’s GOP Has a Proud Boy Problem,” Vice, May 24, 2021;Brendan O’Connor, “Trump’s useful thugs: how the Republican party offered a home to the Proud Boys,” Guardian, January 21, 2021; and Jeffrey Cook, “GOP candidate’s former campaign chief: Thank God for Proud Boys,” ABC News, October 15, 2020. In 2020, Tarrio was a Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 27th Congressional District of Florida. Ultimately, Tarrio withdrew from the race prior to the primary election. See “Enrique Tarrio,” ballotpedia.org.

[z] “Right Wing Death Squad” is a meme allusion to incidents of extrajudicial executions of political opponents by the Chilean fascist regime of Augusto Pinochet. Dissidents, particularly leftists, socialists, and supporters of the previous government, were dropped to their death from helicopters by Pinochet’s regime. Today, the reference often features an image of a helicopter and is often accompanied by slogans such as “Right Wing Death Squad,” “Free Helicopter Rides,” and other iterations. See Christopher Ketcham, “What the Far-Right Fascination with Pinochet’s Death Squads Should Tell Us,” InterceptFebruary 4, 2021. “6 million was not enough” is an anti-Semitic reference to the Holocaust that suggests more Jewish people should have been murdered by the Nazi regime. Until late 2020, shirts adorned with the slogan’s shorthand reference (6MWE) and Italian fascist iconography (the Roman Legion eagle and fasces surrounded by laurel wreath) were readily available on Amazon’s marketplace. See Ewan Palmer, “Neo-Nazi Shirts Worn by Proud Boys Supporters Sold on Amazon,” Newsweek, December 16, 2020.

[aa] Videos of initiations to the first and second ranks are frequently conducted at Proud Boys’ protests and posted to social media. Individuals have been inducted into the first rank via highly performative recitations of the oath led by high-ranking Proud Boys such as Enrique Tarrio.

[ab] A second component of the ritual to accede to the second rank is the commitment to abstinence from masturbation. According to McInnes, such abstinence spiritually reinvigorates men and encourages what McInnes viewed as more traditional male behavior. Will Sommer, “New Proud Boys Rules: Less Fighting, Less Wanking,” Daily Beast, November 27, 2018; “White Haze,” transcript, This American Life podcast episode 626, September 22, 2017; Joy Pullmann, “The Proud Boys Are What Happens When Boys In A Sexual Wasteland Try To Become Men,” Federalist, October 6, 2017.

[ac] As noted by the Anti-Defamation League, “Common variations are ‘Proud Boy,’ ‘POYB’ (acronym for Proud of Your Boy) and ‘Uhuru,’ a Swahili word for ‘freedom’ that the Proud Boys have appropriated as their battle cry.” See “Proud Boys,” Anti-Defamation League, 2021.

[ad] At times, McInnes has defended the actions necessary to attain the highest rank as a purely defensive activity. Tom Dreisbach, “Conspiracy Charges Bring Proud Boys’ History Of Violence Into Spotlight,” NPR, April 9, 2021.

[ae] Membership is difficult to measure as membership can be fluid, fleeting, and unreported. The autonomy enjoyed by local chapters, efforts to intentionally manipulate the media, and desires to appear larger and more intimidating than the group actually is, make it challenging for researchers to track membership. Joshua Kaplan and Joaquin Sapien, “New Details Suggest Senior Trump Aides Knew Jan. 6 Rally Could Get Chaotic,” ProPublica, June 25, 2021; Rachel E. Greenspan and Haven Orecchio-Egresitz, “The Cuban-American leader of the Proud Boys has said the group isn’t explicitly for white supremacists, but a previously ousted underling tried to stage an unhinged, anti-Semitic, racist coup,” Insider, November 12, 2020; Kutner, “Swiping Right.”

[af] Former white supremacist and neo-Nazi skinhead Christian Picciolini has stated that this style of offline engagement by the Proud Boys most closely resembles that of the Skinhead movement he once led. See Dreisbach, “Conspiracy Charges Bring Proud Boys’ History of Violence into Spotlight.”

[ag] In September 2020, British clothing manufacturer Fred Perry declared a halt to sales of their “Black/Yellow/Yellow twin tipped shirt” until such time as that version was no longer associated with the Proud Boys organization. “Proud Boys Statement,” Fred Perry, September 24, 2020.

[ah] This is an approximation as verification for incidents in 2021 are still undergoing review by Samantha Kutner and the Khalifa Ihler Institute. For more details and methodology, see “Hate Map,” The Khalifa Ihler Institute, 2021. Authors interview, Samantha Kutner, June 2021.

[ai] Street violence reinforces the lessons of the initiation rituals at the individual level.

[aj] This activity mirrored the actions of similar xenophobic and ethno-nationalist street movements that emerged in the mid-2010s. For more on the continued conspiracy-driven efforts related to allegations of ‘Sharia’ zones in the United States, see “‘No-Go Zones’: The Myth That Just Won’t Quit,” Southern Poverty Law Center, 2015; Jordan Green, “Far-Right Groups Converge on Raleigh to Protest Sharia Law, Are Outnumbered,” IndyWeek, June 14, 2017.

[ak] Kyle Chapman gained internet notoriety, and the attention of Gavin McInnes, over his use of a stick to beat counter protesters during a clash. Chapman has explicitly expressed white supremacist and accelerationist views. He attempted to wrest leadership of the Proud Boys from Enrique Tarrio in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, criticizing Tarrio for his ineffectual tactics and using denigrating racial epithets in reference to Tarrio, stating: “We will no longer cuck to the left by appointing token negroes as our leaders. We will no longer allow homosexuals or other ‘undesirables’ into our ranks. We will confront the Zionist criminals who wish to destroy our civilization. We recognize that the West was built by the White Race alone and we owe nothing to any other race.” “Proud Boy Announcement” attributed to Kyle Chapman, posted in the ‘Proud Goys’ Telegram channel and forwarded to the ‘Proud Boys’ Telegram channel, November 9, 2020; Dickson, “The Rise and Fall of the Proud Boys;” Kelly Weill, “The Post-Election Proud Boys Meltdown Is Here, and It’s Ugly,” Daily Beast, November 11, 2020; Emilie Raguso, “‘Based Stickman’ in custody, ordered to stay away from Civic Center Park,” Berkeleyside,August 25, 2017; Paul Bazile, “The Kids Are Alt-Knights Based Stick Man Organizes Offic[i]al Mil[i]tary Arm of the Proud Boys,” Proud Boys Website, April 23, 2017; “Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights,” Southern Poverty Law Center;Michael Harriot, “Meet the New Military Division of White Nationalism,” Root, April 26, 2017.

[al] In a manifesto announcing his renunciation of modernity and the secular nature of society, August Invictus stated “that if I did not witness the coming of the Second American Civil War I would begin it myself.” Invictus, who has since been embroiled in personal legal battles, also has a long-reported history of violence against women, as well as reported ties to Atomwaffen Division and James Mason. See Jeff Weiner, “Goat blood-drinking ex-Senate candidate, recently released from jail due to coronavirus concerns, accused of stalking wife,” Orlando Sentinel, April 21, 2020; “The Kids Are Alt-Knights,” Proud Boys website, April 24, 2017; “Augustus Sol Invictus,” Southern Poverty Law Center.

[am] Hood is credited with the formation of the Nationalist Social Club (AKA, NSC131). Prior to his leadership of NSC, Hood was a member of the white supremacist group Patriot Front and the neo-Nazi terrorist organization The Base. “Nationalist Social Club,” Anti-Defamation League.

[an] In November 2020, clashes in Washington, D.C., between individuals—including Proud Boys—participating in several related events (Million MAGA March, the March for Trump, and Stop the Steal DC) and counter-protestors had resulted in two officer injuries and at least 20 arrests. In December 2020, four individuals were stabbed in clashes near the Proud Boys gathering point during running skirmishes in Washington, D.C., between protestors and counter-protestors throughout the night. Some reports, based on witness statements and video from the incident, suggest that Proud Boys were responsible for the stabbings. However, verification is difficult as no police report was filed and no arrests were made connected to the incident. See Jason Slotkin and Suzanne Nuyen, “Trump Supporters, Counterprotesters Clash At D.C. Rally Contesting Biden’s Victory,” NPR, November 14, 2020;Colleen Grablick and Daniella Cheslow, “Here’s What We Know About The MAGA Rallies Planned In D.C. This Weekend,” DCist, November 11, 2020; Marissa J. Lang, Michael E. Miller, Peter Jamison, Justin Wm. Moyer, Clarence Williams, Peter Hermann, Fredrick Kunkle, and John Woodrow Cox, “After thousands of Trump supporters rally in D.C., violence erupts when night falls,” Washington Post, November 15, 2020; Emily Davies, Rachel Weiner, Clarence Williams, Marissa J. Lang, and Jessica Contrera, “Multiple people stabbed after thousands gather for pro-Trump demonstrations in Washington,” Washington Post, December 12, 2020; James Crowley, “Videos Show Scuffles Between Proud Boys and Others During 2nd Million MAGA March in D.C.,” Newsweek, December 12, 2020.

[ao] The government additionally alleges that Zachary Rehl, president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Proud Boys, “posted a link to an online fundraiser with the campaign name of ‘Travel Expenses for upcoming patriot events.’” By January 4, 2021, the campaign had “generated over $5,500 in donations.” Another online fundraising campaign by Nordean allegedly sought “donations for ‘protective gear and communications’ to be used by the Proud Boys on January 6, 2021.” Jeremy Roebuck, “Prosecutors put Philly Proud Boys president Zach Rehl at heart of Jan. 6 planning in new Capitol riot filing, Philadelphia Inquirer, May 14, 2021; USA v. Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Charles Donohoe, “First Superseding Indictment,” District of Columbia, 2021.

[ap] This statement is attributed by prosecutors to an unspecified member (UCC-1) of the Ministry of Self-Defense (MOSD) group chat alleged to have been utilized by Proud Boys leadership in the days leading up to January 6, 2021. See USA v. Ethan Nordean, “The United States’ Response to Nordean’s Notice of Government’s Alleged Violation of the Due Process Protections Act and Local Criminal Rule 5.1,” District of Columbia, 2021.

[aq] See, for example, the civil lawsuit by Representative Bennie G. Thompson, which opens by stating that “On and before January 6, 2021, the Defendants Donald J. Trump, Rudolph W. Giuliani, Proud Boys, and Oath Keepers conspired to incite an assembled crowd to march upon and enter the Capitol of the United States for the common purpose of disrupting, by the use of force, intimidation and threat, the approval by Congress of the count of votes cast by members of the Electoral College as required by Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution.” See Bennie G. Thompson vs. Donald J. Trump, Enrique Tarrio, Oath Keepers, Proud Boys International, L.L.C., Rudolph W. Giuliani, Warboys LLC, “Complaint,” District of Columbia, 2021. These claims are buttressed by the allegations set forth by the U.S. government in its prosecution of Proud Boys leaders and organizers present at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, alleging a sweeping conspiracy to obstruct the congressional certification of the Electoral College vote. See, for example, USA v. Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Charles Donohoe, “First Superseding Indictment.”

[ar] This information was broadcast publicly on Parler, and widely reported on in the days before January 6, 2021. See, for example, Joshua Zitser, “Far-right group Proud Boys claim they will attend January 6 DC rally ‘incognito’ and wear all-black to blend in with antifa protesters,” Business Insider, January 3, 2021; Andrew Beaujon, “Proud Boys Say They’ll ‘Be Incognito’ During January 6 Trump Rallies in DC,” Washingtonian, December 31, 2020.

[as] On May 11, 2021, William Pepe filed a motion to sever himself from his two co-defendants. In the memorandum supporting this motion, he states that he met Dominic Pezzola at a December 5, 2020, protest, and on the morning of January 6, 2021, he arrived at a hotel room with the intention of meeting an unnamed friend. Upon arrival, he claims “it turned out this friend had a hotel room with approximately seven people in it, including Mr. Pezzola and Mr. Greene.” Despite this, Pepe argues that he was not in communication with Pezzola or Pepe during the events at the U.S. Capitol, and while he carried a radio with him, he claims that “he did not and could not communicate” with his co-conspirators because “he did not even know what radio channel they were on.” See USA v. William Joseph Pepe, “Defendant’s Memorandum of Law and Fact in Support of His Motion for Relief from Prejudicial Joinder,” District of Columbia, 2021.

[at] Per the government documents, “This appears to be a reference to Trump supporters who are not otherwise affiliated with the Proud Boys or a militia group.” See USA v. Ethan Nordean, “Opposition to Defendant’s Motion to Lift Stay on Release Order,” District of Columbia, 2021.

[au] The government further alleges that “About 30 minutes after he first entered the Capitol Building on the west side, Biggs and two other Proud Boys members, in addition to others, forcibly reentered the building through the Columbus Doors on the east side…They pushed past at least one law enforcement officer in doing so. Biggs and another Proud Boys member then traveled to the Senate chamber.” See USA v. Joseph R. Biggs and Ethan Nordean, “Appellee’s Consolidated Memorandum of Law and Fact,” United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 2021.

[av] Proud Boys PNW purports to include the Proud Boys chapters in the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. See USA v. Ethan Nordean, “Declaration of Daniel Arellano,” District of Columbia, 2021.

[aw] Some members of the Proud Boys arrested and charged for their roles in the events of January 6 have since claimed in court that they were deceived, or only acting on orders of President Trump and now assert they now feel betrayed by his failure to support their actions that day. However, many of these public statements in relation to ongoing criminal proceedings are at odds with private communications released by the government in the prosecution of Proud Boys members. See Sheera Frenkel and Alan Feuer, “‘A Total Failure’: The Proud Boys Now Mock Trump,” New York Times, January 20, 2021; USA v. Ethan Nordean, “Defendant Nordean’s Reply in Support of Motion to Compel the Production of Evidence and For a Bill of Particulars, Exhibit 1,” District of Columbia, 2021.

[ax] The government alleges that Worrell used pepper spray gel in clashes with law enforcement on the west side of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6. The allegations set forth in the government’s Statement of Facts further indicate that Worrell was present in Washington, D.C., on December 12, 2020, with other individuals wearing clothing affiliated with the Proud Boys. Further, a tipster reported to the FBI that Worrell “is a Proud Boy and that he and the live-in girlfriend traveled to Washington D.C. to be there on January 6, 2021.” See USA v. Christopher John Worrell, “Statement of Facts,” District of Columbia, 2021.

[ay] Based on the authors’ research, there are likely dozens of such splinter and imitator groups in the United States.

Citations
[1] See, for example, Adam Rawnsley and Pilar Melendez, “Feds Track Down Bearded Proud Boy Seen Smashing Capitol Window With Police Shield,” Daily Beast, January 15, 2021, and Maki Becker, “Rochester man charged with using police shield to break Capitol window,” Buffalo News, January 15, 2021.

[2] Rob Gilles, “Canada designates the Proud Boys as a terrorist entity,” Associated PressFebruary 3, 2021;“Currently Listed Entities,” Public Safety Canada, 2021.

[3] Alan Feuer, “Proud Boys Founder: How He Went From Brooklyn Hipster to Far-Right Provocateur,” New York Times, October 16, 2018.

[4] “Announcing The New Proud Boys Bylaws, And Our Chairman,” Proud Boys website, 2018.

[5] Samantha Kutner, “Swiping Right: The Allure of Hyper Masculinity and Cryptofascism for Men Who Join the Proud Boys,” International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, May 2020.

[6] “Proud Boys,” Southern Poverty Law Center, 2021.

[7] Ibid.

[8] See, for example, “Proud Boys,” Anti-Defamation League, 2021; Jordan Green, “’We will exterminate you’: Proud Boys and Trump diehards confront counter-protesters in Raleigh,” Salon, November 29, 2020; and Derek Hawkins, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., and Craig Timberg, “Trump’s ‘stand by’ remark puts the Proud Boys in the spotlight,” Washington Post, September 30, 2020.

[9] J.M. Berger, Extremism (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2018).

[10] Jason Lemon, “Trump-Supporting ‘Proud Boys’ Group Will Be Investigated by New York Hate Crimes Unit After Violence in Manhattan,” Newsweek, October 14, 2018; EJ Dickson, “Are the Proud Boys Done or Are They Just Getting Started?” Rolling Stone, August 15, 2019; Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny, “Proud Boys celebrate after Trump’s debate callout,” NBC News, September 29, 2020.

[11] Sheera Frenkel and Annie Karni, “Proud Boys celebrate Trump’s ‘stand by’ remark about them at the debate,” New York Times, September 29, 2020.

[12] Jason Wilson, “The decline of Proud Boys: what does the future hold for far-right group?” Guardian, February 13, 2021.

[13] “Proud Boys,” Southern Poverty Law Center, 2021.

[14] Kutner, “Swiping Right.”

[15] See, for example, David Neiwert, “Far Right Descends On Berkeley For ‘Free Speech’ And Planned Violence,” Southern Poverty Law Center, April 17, 2017.

[16] Matthew Kriner and Jon Lewis, “The Evolution of the Boogaloo Movement,” CTC Sentinel 14:2 (2021); Taylor Hatmaker, “Facebook Bans The Proud Boys, Cutting The Group Off From Its Main Recruitment Platform,” Techcrunch, 2018; Kutner, “Swiping Right.”

[17] Samantha Kutner, “Taking the Red Pill: Understanding the Allure of Conspiratorial Thinking among Proud Boys,” Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, September 7, 2020.

[18] Kutner, “Swiping Right.”

[19] Karen Matthews, “Facebook, Instagram ban far-right Proud Boys and founder,” Associated Press, October 31, 2018; Alex Newhouse, Adel Arletta, and Leela McClintock “Proud Boys Amplify Anti-Vax and Coronavirus Disinformation Following Support for Anti-Quarantine Protests,” Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism, May 1, 2020.

[20] Based on research conducted by the authors.

[21] For more on the leadership of the Elders Chapter, see Jack Crosbie, “Proud Boys Failed to Redact Their New Dumb Bylaws and Accidentally Doxxed Their ‘Elders,’” Splinter News, November 28, 2018.

[22] Amy Viteri, “White nationalist who attended rally in Charlottesville explains his beliefs,” Local10.com, August 18, 2017.

[23] Stéphanie Trouillard, “Enrique Tarrio, the Cuban-American leader of the far-right ‘Proud Boys,’” France 24, January 6, 2021.

[24] Aram Roston, “Exclusive: Proud Boys leader was ‘prolific’ informer for law enforcement,” Reuters, January 27, 2021; Mack Lamoureux, Ben Makuch, and Tess Owen, “Proud Boys Reel at Report Leader Was a Rat,” Vice,January 27, 2021; USA v. Adrian Marino, Henry Tarrio Jr., and Roberto Marino, “Plea Agreement,” Southern District of Florida, 2013.

[25] Tim Mak, “Some Proud Boys Are Moving To Local Politics As Scrutiny Of Far-Right Group Ramps Up,” NPR, June 28, 2021.

[26] Jason Wilson, “Who are the Proud Boys, ‘western chauvinists’ involved in political violence?” Guardian, July 14, 2018.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Jeff Weiner, “Who is Joseph Biggs, Ormond Beach man and Proud Boys organizer arrested in Capitol riot?” Orlando Sentinel, January 21, 2021.

[29] Tess Owen and Mack Lamoureux, “A Proud Boy in Disguise Helped Lead the Insurrection at the Capitol,” Vice, January 12, 2021.

[30] The authors derived this analysis from discussions with Samantha Kutner, a researcher on the Proud Boys at the Khalifa Ihler Institute. For more details on Proud Boys-related incidents, see “Hate Map,” The Khalifa Ihler Institute. For more details on Samantha Kutner’s ethnographic research on the Proud Boys, see proudboyswhisperer.com

[31] EJ Dickson, “The Rise and Fall of the Proud Boys,” Rolling Stone, June 15, 2021.

[32] Michael McGowan, “Australian Proud Boys sought combat-trained supporters to ‘arrest’ police at Covid lockdown protests,” Guardian, February 15, 2021.

[33] Kutner, “Swiping Right.”

[34] Ibid.; “Announcing The New Proud Boys Bylaws, And Our Chairman,” Proud Boys website, 2018.

[35] “Conspiracy Charges Bring Proud Boys’ History Of Violence Into Spotlight,” NPR, April 9, 2021.

[36] Kutner, “Swiping Right.”

[37] Sophie Peel, “Multnomah County Republican Party Signed Agreement with Proud Boy-Affiliated Security Team at Portland Meeting,” Willamette Week, May 10, 2021; Esteban Parra and Brittany Horn, “Delaware US Senate candidate thanks Proud Boys for providing free security at rally,” Delaware Online, October 1, 2020.

[38] Author interview, Samantha Kutner, June 2021.

[39] Dean Obeidallah, “Trump-Supporting Bigots To Target Upstate New York Muslims,” Daily Beast, July 14, 2017.

[40] Mike Baker, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, and Kaitlin Gillespie, “A Day of Protest in Portland as ‘Proud Boys’ Converge on the City,” New York Times, September 26, 2020; Colin Moynihan, “2 Proud Boys Sentenced to 4 Years in Brawl With Anti-Fascists at Republican Club,” New York Times, October 22, 2019; Peter Hermann, Peter Jamison, Hannah Natanson, and Clarence Williams, “Right-wing rally triggers skirmishes with antifa protesters as D.C. police work to prevent violence,” Washington Post, July 6, 2019. For a comprehensive timeline of Proud Boys mobilization in this time period, see “Proud Boys,” Southern Poverty Law Center, 2021.

[41] “Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights,” Southern Poverty Law Center.

[42] “Proud Boys,” Southern Poverty Law Center, 2021.

[43] Ben Makuch and Mack Lamoureax, “A Proud Boys Lawyer Wanted to Be a Nazi Terrorist,” Vice, December 8, 2020.

[44] Alex Newhouse, “The Threat Is the Network: The Multi-Node Structure of Neo-Fascist Accelerationism,” CTC Sentinel 14:5 (2021); Hannah Allam and Razzan Nakhlawi, “Black, Brown and extremist: Across the far-right spectrum, people of color play a more visible role,” Washington Post, May 16, 2021; Ben Makuch and Mack Lamoureax, “For Some, Joining the Proud Boys Was a Stop on the Way to Neo-Nazi Terror,” Vice, November 18, 2020.

[45] Makuch and Lamoureax, “A Proud Boys Lawyer Wanted to Be a Nazi Terrorist;” Makuch and Lamoureax, “For Some, Joining the Proud Boys Was a Stop on the Way to Neo-Nazi Terror.”

[46] “Actor Profile: Proud Boys,” ACLED, 2021.

[47] Peter Hermann, Marissa J. Lang, and Clarence Williams, “Pro-Trump rally descends into chaos as Proud Boys roam D.C. looking to fight,” Washington Post, December 13, 2020; Ian Ward, “How a D.C. Bar Became the ‘Haven’ for the Proud Boys,” Politico, December 14, 2020.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Amy Brittain and David Willman, “‘A place to fund hope’: How Proud Boys and other fringe groups found refuge on a Christian fundraising website,” Washington Post, January 18, 2021.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Alan Feuer and Frances Robles, “Proud Boys Under Growing Scrutiny in Capitol Riot Investigation,” New York Times, January 26, 2021.

[52] Rachel Weiner, Spencer S. Hsu, and Tom Jackman, “Prosecutors allege ‘alliance’ between Proud Boys and Oath Keepers on Jan. 6,” Washington Post, March 24, 2021.

[53] Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Denise Lu, Eleanor Lutz, and Alex Leeds Matthews, “A Small Group of Militants’ Outsize Role in the Capitol Attack,” New York Times, February 21, 2021; “This is Our House!” A Preliminary Assessment of the Capitol Hill Siege Participants (Washington, D.C.: Program on Extremism at George Washington University, 2021); “Capitol Hill Siege,” Program on Extremism at George Washington University, as of July 8, 2021.

[54] USA v. Ethan Nordean, “The United States’ Response to Nordean’s Notice of Government’s Alleged Violation of the Due Process Protections Act and Local Criminal Rule 5.1,” District of Columbia, 2021.

[55] Alan Feuer, “Did the Proud Boys Help Coordinate the Capitol Riot? Yes, U.S. Suggests,” New York Times, February 5, 2021.

[56] Pete Williams, “Proud Boys formed smaller group for Jan. 6, prosecutors say,” NBC NewsMay 14, 2021;Feuer and Robles.

[57] Tess Owen, “Proud Boys Chats Reveal How They Coordinated During the Capitol Riot,” Vice, May 14, 2021.

[58] Government filings note that the government “continues to investigate whether this separation was strictly enforced on January 6.” USA v. Ethan Nordean, “The United States’ Response to Nordean’s Notice of Government’s Alleged Violation of the Due Process Protections Act and Local Criminal Rule 5.1.;” USA v. Charles Donohoe, “United States’ Opposition to Defendant Donohoe’s Motion for Revocation of Detention Order.”

[59] USA v. Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Charles Donohoe, “First Superseding Indictment,” District of Columbia, 2021.

[60] Ibid.

[61] “Proud Boys leader released after arrest for burning BLM flag,” BBC, January 5, 2020.

[62] USA v. Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Charles Donohoe, “First Superseding Indictment;” Lois Beckett, “Capitol attack: more than 60 Proud Boys used encrypted channel to plan, indictment says,” Guardian, March 20, 2021.

[63] USA v. Ethan Nordean, “Government’s Motion to Revoke Pretrial Release,” District of Columbia, 2021; USA v. Ethan Nordean, “The United States’ Response to Nordean’s Notice of Government’s Alleged Violation of the Due Process Protections Act and Local Criminal Rule 5.1.”

[64] Ibid.

[65] Ibid.

[66] Ibid.

[67] Dickson, “The Rise and Fall of the Proud Boys.”

[68] Based on the authors’ review of livestreams from January 6, 2021, associated with Proud Boys members.

[69] Ibid.

[70] USA v. Dominic Pezzola, William Pepe, and Matthew Greene, “First Superseding Indictment,” District of Columbia, 2021.

[71] USA v. Paul Rae, “Affidavit in Support of Criminal Complaint,” District of Columbia, 2021.

[72] Ibid. For additional charging documents against Dominic Pezzola and William Pepe, see USA v. Dominic Pezzola, “Indictment,” District of Columbia, 2021; USA v. Dominic Pezzola, “Government’s Opposition to Defendant’s Motion for Modification of Bond to Place the Defendant on Conditional Release Pending Trial,”District of Columbia, 2021; USA v. Dominic Pezzola, “Memorandum Opinion,” District of Columbia, 2021; USA v. William Pepe, “Statement of Facts,” District of Columbia, 2021.

[73] Ibid.; USA v. Ethan Nordean, “Motion for Emergency Stay and for Review of Release Order,” District of Columbia, 2021.

[74] USA v. Dominic Pezzola, William Pepe, and Matthew Greene, “First Superseding Indictment;” USA v. Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Charles Donohoe, “First Superseding Indictment.”

[75] USA v. Paul Rae, “Affidavit in Support of Criminal Complaint.”

[76] Ibid.; USA v. Dominic Pezzola, William Pepe, and Matthew Greene, “First Superseding Indictment.”

[77] USA v. Ethan Nordean, “The United States’ Response to Nordean’s Notice of Government’s Alleged Violation of the Due Process Protections Act and Local Criminal Rule 5.1.”

[78] Ibid.

[79] Mack Lamoureux, “Canada Designates Proud Boys, Atomwaffen, and The Base as Terror Organizations,” Vice, February 3, 2021.

[80] Mack Lamoureux, “At Least One Canadian Proud Boys Chapter Has Shut Down Following Terror Designation,” Vice, February 17, 2021; Leah West, “The Complicated Consequences of Canada’s Proud Boys Terrorist Listing,” Lawfare, February 9, 2021; Holly Caruk, “Manitoba chapter of Proud Boys disbanded, local anti-fascist group says,” CBC News, January 14, 2021; Ben Makuch, “What Canada’s Terror Laws Mean for Proud Boys Members,” Vice, February 8, 2021.

[81] Dickson, “The Rise and Fall of the Proud Boys;” Will Carless, “Proud Boys splintering after Capitol riot, revelations about leader. Will more radical factions emerge?” USA Today, February 12, 2021.

[82] See USA v. Ethan Nordean, “Declaration of Daniel Arellano,” District of Columbia, 2021.

[83] Ben Makuch, “Audio Recording Claims Neo-Nazi Terror Group Is Disbanding,” Vice, March 14, 2020; Ben Makuch, “Neo-Nazi Terror Group Atomwaffen Division Re-Emerges Under New Name,” Vice, August 5, 2020; Ben Makuch, “Neo-Nazi Group The Base Is Recruiting Again, Despite FBI Takedown,” Vice, May 20, 2021.

[84] USA v. Ethan Nordean, “The United States’ Response to Nordean’s Notice of Government’s Alleged Violation of the Due Process Protections Act and Local Criminal Rule 5.1.”

[85] USA v. Joseph Randall Biggs, “Order of Detention Pending Trial,” District of Columbia, 2021; USA v. Ethan Nordean, “Order of Detention Pending Trial,” District of Columbia, 2021.

[86] USA v. Christopher John Worrell, “Order of Detention Pending Trial,” District of Columbia, 2021.

[87] USA v. William Chrestman, “Government’s Opposition to Defendant’s Motion to Reconsider Detention,” District of Columbia, 2021.

[88] Dickson, “The Rise and Fall of the Proud Boys.”

[89] Author interview, Samantha Kutner, June 2021.

[90] This is based on the authors’ review of social media associated with members of the organizations in question.

[91] Tess Owen, “All the Terrible Things Proud Boys Have Done Since Storming the Capitol,” Vice, June 23, 2021;Avery Newmark, “Proud Boys host unpermitted Fourth of July parade in Oregon,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 5, 2021.

[92] Hayley Smith, Ruben Vives, Priscella Vega, Hannah Fry, and Matt Szabo, “White Lives Matter rally ends with large counterprotest, 12 arrests in Huntington Beach,” Los Angeles Times, April 11, 2021.

[93] Owen, “All the Terrible Things Proud Boys Have Done Since Storming the Capitol.”

[94] Ibid.

[95] Jennifer Dowling, “Proud Boys, antifa in ‘medieval clashes’ in Oregon City riot,” KOIN, June 19, 2021.

 

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