Who are the Proud Boys? The Proud Boys are a far-right, all-male organization with a history of hate and violence.
The first of last night’s 2020 presidential debate was a moment we had all been waiting for – a moment for Donald Trump to address white supremacists. He addressed them, but not in a manner we hoped to hear. When asked if he was prepared to condemn white supremacists, Trump said, “Proud boys, stand back and stand by.”
It wasn’t reassuring for the targets on the other side of white supremacy. It was disappointing, to say the least.
The Proud Boys are self-described as “western chauvinists.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), they “adamantly deny any connection to the racist alt-right, insisting they are simply a fraternal group spreading an anti-political correctness and anti-white guilt agenda.” They regularly support white nationalist ideas and are affiliated with known extremists. They are anti-Muslim, anti-immigration and transphobic. Also note:
- Membership – There are chapters in multiple states and internationally
- Characteristics – Members frequently wear black and yellow
- Tactics – Public rallies, protests, violence, crime
The Proud Boys is a multiethnic group that denies claims of racism. In fact, when labeled a hate group by the SPLC, its founder sued the Southern Poverty Law Center for defamation.
Gavin McInnes, one of the founders of Vice Media, formed the Proud Boys in 2016. Yes, you read that correctly. He later quit the group after his appearance at an event hosted by the Metropolitan Republican Club in Manhattan led to a huge brawl in which a handful of people were arrested, but in doing so, according to The New York Times, he called The Proud Boys “the greatest fraternal organization in the world” and said ”this whole idea of white nationalists and white supremacy is a crock…such people don’t exist.”
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This statement came after other incidences where the Proud Boys spewed hate. This statement was made after (not in response to) the 2017 Charlottesville riot that erupted at the “Unite the Right” rally former Proud Boys member Jason Kessler helped organize and where an anti-racist protester was killed, according to SPLC. The “Unite the Right” rally brought together Klansmen, militias, anti-semites and racists. There too, Trump was unable to stand up against hate, calling James Alex Fields Jr, a white supremacist and the man who was found guilty on all 10 criminal counts against him in the murder of Heather Heyer, a “very fine man.”
KissRichmond.com reports: Referring to the “neo-Nazis” who were confronted by protesters, Trump said during a nationally televised press conference that “you also had people that were very fine people on both sides,” which many people took to mean that the president believed there were “very fine people” among the white nationalists – the same group of white supremacists that lashed out violently at anybody who opposed their rally. While some of those targeted by the white supremacists chose to fight back, others were not as fortunate, including one victim who was beaten strictly because of the color of his skin.
Over the years, the Proud Boys were determined a hate group by SPLC, the Anti-Defamation League and several other civil rights groups. Twitter and Facebook even took action against the “frat” by suspending its accounts in 2018. That hasn’t stopped their tactics, though. The group is still growing. And so are their protests.
Fast forward to Sept. 29, 2020 when Trump said, “Proud boys, stand back and stand by,” the Proud Boys took that as a call-to-action. A channel dedicated to the Proud Boys on Telegram celebrated Trump’s comment, calling it an “endorsement of their violent tactics,” according to a report by The New York Times that also said the group saw a spike in “new recruits” as a result.
Today, less than 24 hours after making the bombshell comment, Trump now claims he doesn’t know who the Proud Boys are.
When asked if he found the president’s comments concerning, Sen. Tim Scott says he thinks Trump misspoke.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, Joe Biden and Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, however, had other thoughts…
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