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Category Archives: Proud Boys

Proud Boys member pleads guilty for role in Capitol riot : NPR

Posted: January 24, 2022 at 10:30 am

Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump swarm the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. John Minchillo/AP hide caption

Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump swarm the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Matthew Greene, a self-proclaimed member of the far-right group known as the Proud Boys, has pleaded guilty in federal court in Washington, D.C., to two criminal charges: conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding, related to the Capitol siege on Jan. 6, 2021.

The plea deal pledges Greene's cooperation with the sprawling Jan. 6 criminal probe in exchange for a reduced prison sentence and the dismissal of several other charges that had been pending against him. Greene could help investigators understand more about the activities of the Proud Boys' central New York chapter before and during the insurrection. He had been indicted alongside Dominic Pezzola, who broke a U.S. Capitol window with a police shield to enter the building that day; and William Pepe, a Metro Transit employee who took sick leave to attend the Jan. 6 rally.

Greene, of Syracuse, N.Y., was arrested in April and has been detained in government custody for months. Greene, 34, appeared via video before Judge Timothy Kelly Wednesday afternoon. Asked if he wanted to give up his right to a jury trial and plead guilty, Greene replied, "I do, your honor." Greene's lawyer said he had no prior criminal history.

Judge Kelly said under federal sentencing guidelines, Greene could face between 41 months and 51 months in prison, with a fine between $15,000 and $150,000. Federal prosecutors said they could seek to file a motion for additional sentencing reductions if Greene provides a "substantial" amount of help with the January 6th probe.

Prosecutor Erik Kenerson asked the judge to set a sentencing date on March 10, 2022, with the option of moving that date based on Greene's cooperation.

It appeared Greene had been helping authorities for some time. His attorney, Michael Kasmarek, told the judge that he'd had the opportunity to engage in "very detailed discussions about all aspects of this case."

In an email, Kasmarek told NPR that for Greene, the plea was "an important step in taking responsibility for his actions."

"He is a person of high moral character, who served our country honorable, and has made countless positive contributions to our community and his family," Kasmarek added.

The precise scope of Greene's assistance to the January 6th investigation, the biggest criminal probe in Justice Department history, is not yet clear. But at minimum, he could explain inner workings of the Proud Boys and help shore up the cases against Pezzola and Pepe. Both men have pleaded not guilty.

In a statement, Steven Metcalf, an attorney for Pezzola, said Greene's actions "should not have any indication, or implication on Mr. Pezzola's position." Greene's statement was "was neither evidence of Mr. Pezzola's guilt nor will it change our position going forward," Metcalf said in the statement.

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Proud Boys member pleads guilty for role in Capitol riot : NPR

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Wave the white flag in City Hall Plaza free speech case, Mayor Wu – The Boston Globe

Posted: at 10:30 am

Theres a lot of well-meaning advice against retreat, often offered in the context of war by people who are not themselves on the front lines. Yet, when it comes to the courtroom battle now being waged over a flagpole on Boston City Hall plaza, the opposite sentiment, as expressed by Norman Vincent Peale, is worth considering: Part of the happiness of life consists not in fighting battles, but in avoiding them. A masterly retreat is in itself a victory.

In this instance, retreat means ending the policy that allows public use of a City Hall flagpole. Given the legal tangle over free speech issues the flagpole has created for Boston and could create for other cities and government entities if the Supreme Court rules against the city it may be wise for Mayor Michelle Wu to end the policy now and negotiate a settlement with the plaintiff.

Under current policy, Boston has allowed a wide variety of flags to be flown on City Hall Plaza. Over time, this has included everything from flags celebrating Boston Pride and Juneteenth to flags of other countries. Indeed, from 2005 to 2017, the city approved 284 consecutive requests.

Then, in September 2017, the city refused to let Harold Shurtleff, a conservative activist and director of a private group, Camp Constitution, raise a flag featuring a red cross inside a blue box called a Christian flag. The group sued, and a federal appeals court sided with the city. However, the Supreme Court agreed to take up the case, and thats when, as Globe columnist Kimberly Atkins Stohr, wrote, an interesting thing happened: The Biden administration and the ACLU backed Shurtleff.

And Supreme Court justices appear to be leaning that way, too.

The city argued that raising the Christian flag would make it look like the government is sponsoring religious speech. But the group said the citys rebuff violated its First Amendment rights. In its brief, the group argued that the citys application form designates the flagpoles as one of Bostons public forums open to all applicants for private speech. So why isnt the flagpole open to these particular applicants? As Justice Department lawyer Sopan Joshi argued, The city has some discretion, but it probably means that if it permits a group to raise a Black Lives Matter flag, they probably would have to be able to raise a Proud Boys flag. I mean, thats just what the First Amendment demands.

Supreme Court justices seem to agree. As The New York Times reported, Justices across the ideological spectrum . . . seemed ready to rule that the city had violated the free speech rights of Camp Constitution. Some of the justices also seemed to be telegraphing a message to Boston that it should fix the mess created by the policy. This was a mistake, Justice Elena Kagan said of the citys approach. And why is it that people have not been able to correct this mistake? Added Justice Stephen Breyer: Cant it be settled?

The program is on temporary pause, and no final decision about its fate has been made, according to Rob Arcangeli, assistant corporation counsel for the City of Boston. If the program is restarted, he said, it would be in accordance with any guidance set forth in a Supreme Court decision on the matter.

The city could end the practice for good. But according to Arcangeli, Boston cant simply end it and then ask the court to dismiss the case, because the complaint seeks damages. The city also seems reluctant to give up the flagpole policy entirely, believing theres a way to adjust the program so it retains discretion over the viewpoints expressed over its flagpole, said Arcangeli.

But a ruling against Boston, depending on how sweeping it is, could make it more difficult for cities across the country to maintain the separation between church and state. Does the City of Boston want to create that risk? In this case, retreat seems the better option.

Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.

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Defeat The Mandates Rally Against Covid-19 Precautions Held During Omicron Surge – Forbes

Posted: at 10:30 am

Someone obviously wanted to stop Karen at the "Defeat The Mandates" DC march at the Lincoln Memorial ... [+] January 23, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Well, so much for everyone in the U.S. rallying together against the common enemy: the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). On Sunday, protester assembled for the Defeat the Mandate rally in Washington, D.C., right in the middle of a Winter Covid-19 surge. But instead of rallying against the virus, they protested Covid-19 vaccination and face mask requirements. The protesters listened to a bunch of speeches, carried a bunch of signs, and marched from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. Meanwhile, the SARS-CoV-2 just keeps spreading, just keeps spreading, just keeps spreading throughout the U.S., leading to an average of over 2,100 Covid-19-related deaths a day over the past week.

If you were looking to the rally for some new revelations on how to stop the Covid-19 coronavirus, you probably would have left the grounds fairly disappointed. The various signs and lineup of speakers didnt really provide any alternative solutions to prevent further deaths, hospitalizations, and long Covid cases or to assist the exhausted health care workforce. Although one protester did hold up a Stop Karen sign, which is bad news for either all people named Karen in the U.S. or perhaps one particular Karen who has done the protester wrong.

Other than addressing the Karen problem, the signs, the speeches, and the march didnt seem to provide a whole lot of new things or information. Some on Twitter remarked that the rally seemed to recycle a lot of the talking points that have been perpetuated by various anonymous anti-vaccination social media accounts, politicians, TV/podcast personalities, and maybe a quarterback or two:

Youve probably heard it all before. There were the natural immunity and the Covid-19 is no big deal arguments:

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Arent these essentially variants of the do nothing about the pandemic and let the virus just spread argument? Do nothing certainly sounds like the easier things to do. But, oh wait, how about the 865,000 and counting Covid-19-related deaths that have been happening in the U.S. And the hospitalizations. And the long Covid.

Others were tossing out the standard freedom and my body, my choice arguments:

(Photo by STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

Again, freedom sounds great when your decisions dont affect other people. You certainly have the freedom to run in circles not wearing any clothes, yelling, sorry, not sorry, and lets unpack this, at the top of your lungs for four hours, as long as no one else is around. But doing so in a public setting would be a different story because others may not want to unpack what you are offering. Thus, the freedom argument has been a variant of the I dont care how my actions may affect other people argument.

Then there was this sign that claimed, mandates are racist:

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Its not clear what specific experience the sign-holder may have had with racism and why the sign=holder feels that mandates in general are racist. Nevertheless, it wouldnt be an anti-vaccination or anti-mask rally without the requisite Nazi references, right:

(Photo by STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

Because why not compare public health measures designed to save lives with genocidal atrocities?

One thing that didnt seem to make much of a appearance was science. For example, one of the speakers, Robert Malone, MD, made some statements that could prompt a bunch of thats not what science has said response. The first of these statements was Malone asserting, Regarding the genetic Covid vaccines, the science is settled. Theyre not working. They are not completely safe.

All right, using the word genetic was a bit over the top. It may play into the conspiracy theory that the Covid-19 vaccines were somehow designed to alter your DNA. As Ive covered for Forbes, theres no evidence that these vaccines can change your DNA in any way. But the real WTS as in wheres the science was Malone claiming, the science is settled. Theyre not working. Umm, when exactly did science settle on that? What about all those scientific studies that have shown the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccines? Wheres Malones evidence that the Covid-19 vaccines are not working?

The second of Malones WTS statements was, Now we have Omicron. These vaccines were designed for the Wuhan strain, a different virus. Umm, a different virus? Whoever said that the Omicron variant is a completely different virus? Sure the Omicron variant has a number of mutations compared to the initial version of the virus. But wouldnt calling the Omicron variant a different virus be akin to calling your children those different beings? The Omicron variant still spreads in a similar fashion, looks like the spiky ball at the end of a BDSM mace (not that you would know anything about that) and can cause similar problems as previous versions of the virus. Plus, studies have shown that protection from the Covid-19 vaccines does offer some protection against the Omicron variant, albeit not as well as against the earlier variants of the SARS-CoV-2.

Moreover, Malones reference to the Wuhan strain went counter to what the World Health Organization (WHO) has been asking everyone to do since 2015: to not name new infectious diseases after people and places. As their 2015 technical document explained, doing so could bring unjustified stigma and backlash against certain racial, ethnic, or other demographic groups. And lo and behold thats what happened during this current pandemic. In 2020, people and politicians started calling the SARS-CoV-2 the China virus, the Wuhan virus, and even the kung-flu virus, which may have further fueled hatred, racism, and attacks against people of Asian-descent, most of whom had nothing to do with the government of mainland China.

The third WTS statement from Malone was, Whether [the Covid-19 vaccines] made sense for protecting our elderly and frail from the original virus is irrelevant. So lets stop arguing about that. Yes, lets stop arguing that the Covid-19 vaccines only protect the elderly and the frail. Plenty of younger and relatively healthy people have either died or suffered other bad outcomes from Covid-19. Thus, the Covid-19 vaccines have helped protect a wide range of people across society.

Malone wasnt the only featured speaker at the rally. Others included Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has had a history of making baseless claims about vaccines, and Lara Logan, who recently compared Anthony Fauci, MD to Nazi physician Josef Mengele. It wasnt exactly a whos who of scientists. It was more of a where wheres the science?

One what-the-heck moment consisted of protesters blaring the song I Would Do Anything For Love by artist Meat Loaf, who died last week afterreportedlybecoming seriously ill with Covid-19 and who was reportedly against Covid-19 vaccine mandates, in the words of Mason Bissada reporting for Forbes.

Ultimately, many of the statements made at the rally really did not provide any solutions to the real problem at hand: the SARS-CoV-2. Sure, you can push against vaccination and face mask requirements just like a child may yell, I can pee wherever I want, then say, urine all over the place is not so bad, right? Yet, that wont be helpful in a public health emergency where public health officials and health professionals have been struggling to better contain a virus thats been hurting many, many people. Vaccination and face mask requirements have only arisen because not enough people are willing to put in the work to help control the SARS-CoV-2 and its consequences. While many healthcare professionals have been working to exhaustion, you still have people who dont want the bother of wearing a freaking mask while in a indoor public space. If everyone had banded together in the first place to fight this virus, then requirements, mandates, or whatever you want to call them wouldnt have been necessary in the first place.

That being said, its not clear how many people truly agreed with what was said at the Defeat the Mandates rally. While rally organizers indicated that they expected tens of thousands of participants, there been cases of premature exaggeration about crowds gathering in Washington, DC, before. Imran Ahmed, the founder and CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, felt that the attendance wasnt close to the 20K marcher they claimed:

Anna Merlan, Senior Staff Writer at Vice, mentioned an estimated several thousand people in attendance:

She also wondered aloud (because thats what you do on Twitter) whether the rally was more a market opportunity for some, an opportunity to sell alternative treatments for Covid-19. It can be very interesting how often people spreading anti-vaccination messages also happen to be selling alternative treatments as well.

The politicization of the pandemic response may have brought others with other business and political motivations to the rally. Prior to the rally, Ben Collins, a reporter for NBC News, noted that the rally was getting attention from online extremist forums:

Collins mentioned the Proud Boys and lo and behold, heres what video journalist Sandi Bachom posted:

So, all in all, did this rally really provide any new information or solve any problems? The SARS-CoV-2 is still circulating. Who knows, maybe the rally could have even helped the virus circulate even more? The virus is still hurting people each day, and health care workers are getting more and more exhausted. This brings to mind what Bruce Willis said as John McClane in the movie Die Hard, Now, you listen to me, jerk-off. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. Quit being part of the [bleeping] problem and put the other guy back on? Well, youve got to wonder who this Defeat the Mandates rally was ultimately for: humanity or the SARS-CoV-2?

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Defeat The Mandates Rally Against Covid-19 Precautions Held During Omicron Surge - Forbes

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Was Chicago Cop With Ties To Proud Boys, White Nationalism Ever Punished? 2 Years Later, City Won’t Say – Block Club Chicago

Posted: January 14, 2022 at 8:43 pm

LINCOLN SQUARE A group of civil rights attorneys are demanding answers from the city as to what, if any, discipline a Chicago cop has faced since his ties to the Proud Boys were discovered nearly two years ago and police launched investigations into separate sexual abuse claims.

The Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights sent a letter Tuesday to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, alderpeople and Supt. David Brown, asking for updates on Officer Robert Bakker. Bakker was identified as an officer who was active on a Proud Boys group chat on Telegram in a story published by Vice in May 2020.

Bakker helped organize Proud Boys meetups in Lincoln Square and Andersonville and bragged about his access to high police in screen captures of the chats made public by Chicago Antifascist Action.

The police opened four internal investigations into Bakker in 2020, including one focused on accusations of sex abuse, the Sun-Times reported last year. The department handed Bakker a five-day suspension which was then deferred due to an Office of the Inspector General investigation, according to the Sun-Times.

It is unclear if Bakker served the suspension or what resulted from the sexual abuse allegations, which date back to before he joined the department.

Spokespeople from the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and Office of the Inspector General told Block Club investigations into Bakker were referred to the police departments Bureau of Internal Affairs.

The Police Department did not respond to questions about its investigation into Bakker or his suspension.City records show Bakker is still employed full time as a police officer with an annual salary of $80,016.

Attempts to reach Bakker were unsuccessful.

The lawyers group said in its letter that public information about Bakker more than justifies his termination, and its members called on the Police Department to do more to root out white supremacy.

I just think its unacceptable that theres been no update and that this officer, as far as we know, is continuing to patrol the streets and enforce the laws, said Arusha Gordon, associate director of the James Byrd Jr. Center to Stop Hate at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Thats deeply concerning, and it really breaks the trust that the community could ever hope to place in the police department.

The Proud Boys is a hate group focused around white nationalism, and it maintains affiliations with neo-Nazis and similar racist groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Members of the group participated in the deadly Jan. 6, 2020, attack at the Capitol and were later charged in connection to it.

The leaked group chats included messages between the president of the Chicago Proud Boys, three avowed white nationalists and Bakker, according to the lawyers.

The chat logs show Bakker planning meetings among members of the group chat, being invited to an official Proud Boys event and using threatening language to refer to progressive activists.

Bakker wrote in the group chat, which was called F Antifa, he would use his position as a police officer to identify and locate antifascist activists, according to the shared screenshots.

Doing so would be a violation of Bakkers oath as an officer and likely a violation of civil rights of those targeted, the civil rights lawyers said in their letter.

Chicagos failure to take swift action to investigate, discipline and update the community regarding white supremacist activity in its ranks raises serious concern, said Bonnie Allen, the Chicago Lawyers Committees CEO.

The Proud Boy meetups happened at locations in Ald. Andre Vasquezs (40th) ward: a home in Andersonville and at a Lincoln Square bar.

When Vasquez learned about the messages last year, he reached out to Lightfoots office to ask about how the city would address Bakkers actions, the alderman said.

Vasquez said he was told there was an investigation into Bakker, but he never got an update and said hes been in the dark about what discipline, if any, Bakker received.

If youve got somebody in the role of a police officer that has those kinds of biases and that kind of mentality, that is dangerous to people of color and is dangerous to the city in general, Vasquez said.

Vasquez helped take action against racist graffiti in Lincoln Square as a community organizer before he was elected to office. Since becoming alderman, hes seen an uptick in hate speech through racist stickers and signs, he said.

This rise in hate speech combined with the lack of clear answers on what discipline Bakker faced highlights the importance of having a civilian oversight board holding the Police Department accountable, Vasquez said.

Their work is to look at whats not working well within the Police Department and issue policy that talks to that. It makes absolute sense they could tackle something like whats going on with Bakker, Vasquez said.

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Was Chicago Cop With Ties To Proud Boys, White Nationalism Ever Punished? 2 Years Later, City Won't Say - Block Club Chicago

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Proud Boys’ Violent Past In Spotlight In Jan. 6 Capitol …

Posted: December 19, 2021 at 6:44 pm

Pro-Trump rioters, including members of the far-right extremist group the Proud Boys, gather near the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. At least 25 people charged in the attack appear to have links to the Proud Boys, according to court documents. Jon Cherry/Getty Images hide caption

Pro-Trump rioters, including members of the far-right extremist group the Proud Boys, gather near the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. At least 25 people charged in the attack appear to have links to the Proud Boys, according to court documents.

Editor's Note: This story includes explicit language.

In June 2018, a member of the Proud Boys punched a counterprotester in the jaw, shoved him into the pavement in Portland, Ore., and sent him to the hospital with a serious concussion.

The counterprotester had used a metal baton to strike first, and the Proud Boys leader, Ethan Nordean, claimed self-defense. In the end, Nordean, a former bodybuilder, faced no legal consequences for knocking out the man.

In fact, the far-right extremist group has celebrated the video of that punch as a rallying cry for more than two years, playing and replaying it, turning it into memes and even at least one painting.

"Violence isn't great," Nordean said not long after the incident, paraphrasing the founder of the Proud Boys. "But justified violence is amazing."

Federal prosecutors now allege that Nordean, 30, along with fellow Proud Boy Joe Biggs, 37, saw former President Donald Trump's calls to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election as justification to launch a conspiracy to bring violence and chaos to the Capitol on Jan. 6. After years of the Proud Boys largely escaping scrutiny from law enforcement, the cases brought by the government could result in prison time for leading members of the group.

Joe Biggs (left) and Ethan Nordean (right) walk toward the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Members of the Proud Boys, including Biggs and Nordean, have become central targets of the Justice Department's sprawling investigation into the Capitol riot. Carolyn Kaster/AP hide caption

Joe Biggs (left) and Ethan Nordean (right) walk toward the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Members of the Proud Boys, including Biggs and Nordean, have become central targets of the Justice Department's sprawling investigation into the Capitol riot.

In an April 6 hearing seeking detention for Biggs and Nordean, prosecutors faced skeptical questioning from a federal judge and pushback from defense attorneys, who point out that neither Nordean nor Biggs is accused of attacking police, bringing let alone using a dangerous weapon, or personally damaging significant amounts of property.

But prosecutors say Biggs and Nordean pose a danger to the public because of their particular ability to incite fellow Proud Boys and others to commit violence. That forms much of the basis for the government's argument that Nordean and Biggs should be locked up pending trial on conspiracy and other charges.

An examination of hours of interviews and statements from Biggs, Nordean and other Proud Boys leaders shows that in addition to the group's often hateful and discriminatory ideology, violence has always been at the core of the group's identity. But it remains to be seen how years' worth of extremist rhetoric, and at times involvement with real violence, will play into the federal case against the group.

Nordean's lawyer did not respond to NPR. And Biggs' lawyer declined to comment.

The origins of the Proud Boys

From its inception in 2016, the Proud Boys have been steeped in violence. But the group's use of seemingly outlandish rituals and even childish language can mask its danger. The group takes its name from a song in the Broadway musical version of Disney's Aladdin. Nordean goes by the nickname "Rufio Panman," a reference to Hook, the 1991 family movie set in the Peter Pan universe.

"I think the absurdity and the ridiculousness of the Proud Boys is a very conscious strategy," said Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst with the Southern Poverty Law Center. Miller argues that the group uses irony and humor "to inoculate themselves from criticism from people who take them seriously."

The group was founded by Gavin McInnes, a far-right political commentator from Canada who also co-founded Vice magazine. In a 2017 interview with the podcaster Joe Rogan, McInnes called the group an all-male "gang," focused on drinking. Members sometimes refer to the group as a fraternity, or a "drinking club with a patriotism problem." Like other gangs, members receive nicknames. To reach the second degree of membership, McInnes told Rogan, "we beat the s*** out of you until you can name five breakfast cereals." Online videos depicting the second degree show members punching a recruit in the stomach as he tries to recite brand names like Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Cocoa Puffs.

To reach the fourth degree, McInnes said, "you get arrested or in a serious violent fight for the cause." (During the interview, Rogan responded, "So you're promoting violence?" and told McInnes, "You should erase that part." McInnes has, at times, claimed the fourth degree should be reached only in self-defense.)

The Proud Boys' cause, in the words of the Anti-Defamation League, is "violent, nationalistic, Islamophobic, transphobic and misogynistic." Officially, the group rejects racism and touts the multiracial backgrounds of some members. But they also describe themselves as proponents of "Western chauvinism" the belief that Western European culture is superior to all others.

"Essentially that translates to 'European chauvinism' or 'European pride,' which would have been the same thing as 'white pride,' that we would have said," said Christian Picciolini, a former extremist who now helps people disengage from the white supremacist movement.

"Proud Boys are probably the closest thing to what I was 30 years ago, and I was a white power skinhead," said Picciolini.

It's not hard to find explicitly racist language from McInnes or connections to overtly white supremacist figures.

For example, in 2016, McInnes called Jada Pinkett Smith a "monkey actress." In 2017, he uploaded a video originally titled "10 Things I Hate About Jews." (After receiving widespread criticism for anti-Semitism, as well as praise from white supremacists, McInnes later changed the title to "10 Things I Hate About Israel" and claimed he had been taken out of context.) Jason Kessler, who organized the 2017 white nationalist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., was a Proud Boy. After a neo-Nazi killed an anti-racism protester named Heather Heyer at that rally, McInnes disavowed Kessler.

Far-right extremist Jason Kessler (center) walks to the White House in 2018 on the first anniversary of the Unite the Right rally. In the background, a protester holds a sign invoking the name of Heather Heyer, the woman killed in the 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Va. Jacquelyn Martin/AP hide caption

Far-right extremist Jason Kessler (center) walks to the White House in 2018 on the first anniversary of the Unite the Right rally. In the background, a protester holds a sign invoking the name of Heather Heyer, the woman killed in the 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Va.

In response to questions from NPR, McInnes disputed that any of his past comments were racist or anti-Semitic, describing them instead as "satirical" and "sarcastic."

He also wrote in an email that violence is not core to the group's identity. "The violence you see from Proud Boys is a reaction to the unmitigated violence from antifa that the media ignores," he said, and that "I have encouraged FIGHTING BACK."

He also said that he discouraged the group from any involvement in the pro-Trump rallies on Jan. 6. "I made it very clear the whole thing was a bad idea and implored Proud Boys not to go," McInnes wrote.

Street violence

Picciolini, who now runs the organization Free Radicals, told NPR that he views the Proud Boys as the "street thugs" of the white power movement.

"They're the ones who attend the rallies and protests to try and intimidate other people counterprotesters," said Picciolini.

When Ethan Nordean sent that counterprotester to the hospital with a "significant concussion" in 2018, according to a police report first reported by The New York Times, it became a powerful symbol to try to intimidate the group's opponents and recruit new members.

McInnes called it "the greatest punch in the history of Trump's presidency" and called it "art" as he cackled while watching the video on repeat. Nordean also appeared on the far-right, conspiracy-mongering show Infowars, where host Alex Jones called him a "folk hero."

In June 2018, Ethan Nordean punched a counterprotester in the jaw and shoved him to the pavement in Portland, Ore. The Proud Boys have since used the video of that punch as a rallying cry. Zakjal/Screenshot by NPR hide caption

In June 2018, Ethan Nordean punched a counterprotester in the jaw and shoved him to the pavement in Portland, Ore. The Proud Boys have since used the video of that punch as a rallying cry.

Nordean appeared to embrace the praise and framed the violent brawl as a battle for the future of the country. "This is at least a very soft civil war right now," Nordean told Jones, "and if people don't wake up to what's going on right now, it's going to get worse."

"If you looked at the numbers of people who are joining these groups, they skyrocketed after Nordean's punch," said Miller of the Southern Poverty Law Center. "So this is a really effective form of propaganda. And law enforcement was essentially taking a really hands-off approach."

Later that year, in New York City, multiple members of the Proud Boys faced criminal charges for attacking counterprotesters after an event McInnes hosted. The event involved McInnes reenacting the 1960 assassination of a Japanese socialist leader by a far-right ultra-nationalist. McInnes played the assassin, according to a journalist who witnessed the event.

Unlike the aftermath of other incidents, members of the Proud Boys received prison time. "I know enough about history to know what happened in Europe in the '30s when political street brawls were allowed to go ahead without any type of check from the criminal justice system," said New York Judge Mark Dwyer as he sentenced two members to four years in prison.

McInnes officially distanced himself from the group after the New York incident.

Still, experts say the group continued to grow.

"It's not just about drunken street brawls, but it is about using street violence as a political tool to spread a message," said Devin Burghart, executive director of the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights. "And they've been pretty successful at doing that up until this point."

Joe Biggs' path to the Proud Boys

Joe Biggs, who is charged along with Nordean, brought a degree of media savvy to the Proud Boys, assisted in the group's growth and also has a history of violent rhetoric.

In court papers, federal prosecutors have described Biggs as a key instigator of Proud Boys' violence with significant sway among its members. "There is simply no adequate method to monitor [Biggs'] communication in such a way that would guard against future attacks by his followers," prosecutors alleged.

Biggs came to the Proud Boys after serving in the Army, where he deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the military. In a 2020 interview with a podcast, Biggs claimed he told an Army recruiter, "I want combat. I want to go to Iraq as soon as possible. I want to kill these motherf******."

He was awarded multiple decorations for his service, including the Purple Heart, the Army confirmed to NPR. During one of his deployments, he told another podcast in 2019, he started getting interested in politics after watching the Sept. 11 "truther" film Loose Change. The film spread debunked conspiracy theories, including that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were the result of an "inside job" by the U.S. government.

Joe Biggs, a member of the Proud Boys, speaks into a megaphone in front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Biggs, charged in the Capitol riot, assisted in the group's growth and also has a history of violent rhetoric. Jon Cherry/Getty Images hide caption

Joe Biggs, a member of the Proud Boys, speaks into a megaphone in front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Biggs, charged in the Capitol riot, assisted in the group's growth and also has a history of violent rhetoric.

After leaving the Army, Biggs started working for Alex Jones' Infowars as a correspondent. But Biggs said leaving the military was difficult. "He has struggled with combat-related PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), depression and some related alcohol problems," his lawyer stated in one court filing.

According to court documents, he joined the Proud Boys in 2018 and became an organizer for the group. Biggs has compared planning for Proud Boys events to "planning to go into a combat zone." His lawyer claimed in a court filing that Biggs was also providing information to the FBI about Proud Boys demonstrations, as well as antifa, around this time.

But his claims of close contact with law enforcement did not keep him from threatening to use force. In one case, he recorded a video of himself holding an American-flag-themed bat with spikes on the end, saying he was preparing to "bust some heads." He also wore a T-shirt with the phrase "Training to Throw Communists Out of Helicopters" emblazoned on the front.

"I'm going to talk s***," Biggs told an interviewer in 2020. "Especially to the people I f***ing hate, that I despise. And yes, I do hate, and hate is a strong word, but that's a good word to use for those people."

Escalating violent rhetoric

After the November 2020 election, the Proud Boys supported Trump's bid to overturn the results, echoed his false claims of widespread voter fraud and escalated their calls for violence.

"It's time for f***ing War if they steal this s***," Biggs posted on social media on Nov. 5, 2020, two days after the election, according to federal prosecutors.

The group also opposed public health efforts to impose new coronavirus restrictions amid a growing wave of new cases. Its rhetoric became even more violent, including toward government officials.

"They're evil scum, and they all deserve to die a traitor's death," Biggs said on a livestreamed Proud Boys show called WarBoys.

"Yup, Day of the Rope," Nordean replied.

The "Day of the Rope," according to the Anti-Defamation League, is a "white supremacist concept" taken from a book influential among racist extremists. The book, The Turner Diaries, depicts a white supremacist revolution, and it has been linked to more than 40 acts of violence and was a direct inspiration for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed more than 160 people.

Ethan Nordean, a leader of the Proud Boys, walks toward the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. After Nordean punched a counterprotester in 2018, membership in the far-right group skyrocketed, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Carolyn Kaster/AP hide caption

Ethan Nordean, a leader of the Proud Boys, walks toward the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. After Nordean punched a counterprotester in 2018, membership in the far-right group skyrocketed, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Around that same time, in December 2020, prosecutors allege, Nordean and Biggs were two of the Proud Boys planning, raising funds and gathering protective gear and radios for the coming riot at the U.S. Capitol. Prosecutors have said in court that Nordean managed to raise more than $16,000 ahead of the riot.

The group publicly announced ahead of Jan. 6 that members would not appear in their typical black-and-yellow clothing and would instead attempt to blend in with the crowd. Biggs' defense attorney has argued that the decision to go "incognito" was a safety measure in response to a stabbing of a Proud Boys member in Washington, D.C., during a pro-Trump demonstration.

Just days before the riot, Nordean spoke out on his own podcast and emphasized that he was willing to again use violence.

"When police officers or government officials are breaking the law, what are we supposed to do as the people? Discourse? What are we supposed to debate?" Nordean asked rhetorically. "No, you have to use force."

By Jan. 5, federal prosecutors say, Biggs and Nordean had arrived in the Washington, D.C., area and Biggs messaged fellow members of the group: "We are trying to avoid getting into any s*** tonight. Tomorrow's the day."

The government's case against the Proud Boys

Biggs and Nordean are among more than 20 Proud Boys who are facing criminal charges related to the Capitol riot, including charges of conspiracy. Separately, the group's chairman, Enrique Tarrio, is also facing charges in Washington, D.C., for allegedly burning a Black Lives Matter flag at an earlier demonstration and for illegally possessing high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Despite their violent rhetoric in the run-up to the Capitol attack, Biggs and Nordean have not been accused of assaulting law enforcement on that day. The government has primarily alleged that they helped instigate the mob and coordinate the attack, while other members of the group, such as Dominic Pezzola and William Pepe, face charges of assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers. Another Proud Boy, William Chrestman, is charged with threatening "to assault, kidnap, and murder a federal law enforcement officer."

Nordean's defense attorneys have sought to poke holes in the prosecution's claims of extensive planning by the Proud Boys, arguing in court papers that Nordean's cellphone had died and that he was unable to coordinate any attack on the Capitol that day. They also cite messages sent among other Proud Boys members in which there were complaints about the lack of planning, with one member stating, "This is so unorganized!"

Nordean's attorneys argue that messages among members showed that the group was in Washington to "thwart attacks on supporters of the president, not infiltrate the Capitol Building to commit crimes."

They also cite the words of Michael Sherwin, the former acting U.S. attorney who until recently led the government's prosecution of the Capitol breach cases. Sherwin told CBS' 60 Minutes that while the government believes that the Proud Boys, along with anti-government militia group the Oath Keepers, developed plans for Jan. 6, "we don't know what the full plan is."

Biggs' attorney claimed in a court filing that his client supports law enforcement and "twice came to the aid of a police officer who was being beaten."

Researchers who follow the Proud Boys told NPR that they were uncertain about the degree to which the group may have orchestrated the storming of the Capitol, as opposed to exacerbating an already-chaotic situation.

"I think they saw an opportunity that if this escalated, they had a moment to be a part of that escalation," said Shannon Reid, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who has written about alt-right gangs. "But I would be hard-pressed to really believe that they had a true well-executed plan for taking over the government."

Still, even if the planning was haphazard, the events of the day resulted in five deaths, more than 100 injured law enforcement officers and an event that the FBI now describes as an act of domestic terrorism. And prosecutors say they intend to show that the Proud Boys were at the heart of that day's terror.

"It's a group that is trying to create really combustible situations and push them as far as they can," said the Southern Poverty Law Center's Miller. "And on the 6th, that is exactly what they did."

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D.C.’s attorney general is suing the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers over Capitol attack – NPR

Posted: December 17, 2021 at 10:55 am

District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine announced on Tuesday that the District of Columbia is suing the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys for damages from the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Alex Wong/Getty Images hide caption

District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine announced on Tuesday that the District of Columbia is suing the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys for damages from the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The District of Columbia is suing two far-right groups, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, for allegedly conspiring to terrorize the city with the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

The civil lawsuit was filed by the district's attorney general, Karl Racine, in federal court in Washington, D.C. It accuses the two groups, their leaders and more than two dozen suspected members of coordinating and plotting violence on Jan. 6 to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.

"In the complaint, we specifically allege that these vigilantes, insurrectionists and masters of a lawless mob conspired against the District of Columbia, its law enforcement officers and residents by planning, promoting and participating in the violent attack on the United States Capitol," Racine told reporters on Tuesday.

"Our own citizens were hellbent on destroying the freedoms and ideals on which our country was founded and continues to aspire to achieve," he added.

Racine called Jan. 6 a "brazen, violent and deadly attack that traumatized this city, this community, and our country."

The Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers already are facing civil lawsuits stemming from the events of Jan. 6 one filed by members of Congress, another by police officers. Like in those cases, the groups are accused in the district's civil suit of violating the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act, a law that was passed after the Civil War to try to protect Black citizens from violence and intimidation.

In addition to the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, the latest lawsuit also names as defendants senior figures in the two groups as well as some two dozen suspected members who are facing criminal charges in connection with Jan. 6.

The complaint says that after former President Donald Trump's election loss, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers began working together "to plot, publicize, recruit for, and finance their planned attack."

That planning and coordination came together, the complaint says, on Jan. 6 when the defendants and other rioters bashed their way through police lines and forced their way into the Capitol.

In doing so, the lawsuit says, the rioters threatened and assaulted D.C. police officers and those inside the Capitol.

"In the wake of this assault, the Capitol was left in shambles, with the District left to deal with the aftermath of the violent disruption to what should have been the peaceful transition of presidential power," the suit says.

The district is seeking punitive and compensatory damages to be determined at trial.

"Our intent, as we indicated, is to hold these violent mobsters and these violent hate groups accountable, and to get every penny of damage that we can," Racine said. "If it so happens that we bankrupt them, then that's a good day. When hate is dispatched and eliminated, that's a good day."

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A Proud Boys Supporter Was Sentenced To Almost Three Years In Prison For Threatening To Kill A Senator – BuzzFeed News

Posted: at 10:55 am

A man who applied to join the Proud Boys was sentenced Thursday to 33 months in prison after he threatened the life of then-Sen.-elect Raphael Warnock ahead of the Capitol riot in January 2021.

Eduard Florea used the social media app Parler to issue the threats against elected officials, trying to gather others to join him before the Jan. 6 insurrection, when a mob of supporters of then-president Donald Trump stormed the Capitol.

"Warnock is going to have a hard time casting votes for communist policies when he's swinging with the f***ing fish," Florea, a resident of Queens, New York, posted on Jan. 5.

"It's time to unleash some violence," he wrote.

Florea pleaded guilty to federal charges of transmitting threats in August. He never traveled to the Capitol, but authorities said his messages sought to contribute to the violence.

"With today's sentence, the defendant faces serious consequences threatening the life of United States Senator Raphael Warnock as part of his effort to foment violence at the Capitol on January 6," said Brean Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Florea, 41, was also convicted of having more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, despite being prohibited from possessing it because of a 2013 felony conviction.

At a court hearing following his arrest, a prosecutor said Florea had told the FBI he'd applied to join the white nationalist group Proud Boys, the New York Times reported. He posted online using an account with the handle LoneWolfWar to issue the threatening messages.

"We need to all come to an agreement. . .and go armed . . .and really take back Washington," he wrote on Jan. 5.

Later that evening, he posted again, writing, "Tomorrow may very [well] be the day war kicks off."

As an angry mob of Trump supporters rushed into the Capitol on Jan. 6, federal officials say Florea posted that he was planning to travel to DC with other armed supporters to join in the violence.

"Guns cleaned loaded," he wrote, "got a bunch of guys all armed and ready to deploy."

Florea was taken into custody on Jan. 12 at his home in Queens.

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Washington, DC, sues Proud Boys, Oath Keepers over Jan. 6 – ABC News

Posted: December 15, 2021 at 10:26 am

The District of Columbia has filed a civil lawsuit seeking harsh financial penalties against far-right groups Proud Boys and Oath Keepers over their role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump

By ASHRAF KHALIL Associated Press

December 14, 2021, 11:14 PM

3 min read

WASHINGTON -- The District of Columbia has filed a civil lawsuit seeking harsh financial penalties against far-right groups Proud Boys and Oath Keepers over their role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump.

The suit, filed Tuesday in federal court, also names dozens of the groups' senior members, many of whom already face criminal charges for taking part in the violent attack on the Capitol building while Congress was meeting to certify the 2020 election results.

Karl Racine, Washington's attorney general, said the lawsuit seeks compensation for damages to the District of Columbia and intends to inflict maximum financial damage on the groups responsible.

Out intent is to hold these violent mobsters and violent hate groups accountable and to get every penny of damage we can, Racine said. If it so happens that we bankrupt them, then that's a good day.

There was no immediate response to emails sent to the groups seeking comment.

The lawsuit cites as its basis a post-Civil War 1871 law known as the Ku Klux Klan Act. A similar tactic was used to secure a $26 million verdict last month against white supremacist groups and individuals responsible for organizing the violent 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which one person was killed after a man plowed his car into a group of counter-protesters.

The lawsuit came as the Justice Department on Tuesday separately charged three more suspected members of the Proud Boys from Pennsylvania for their alleged roles in Januarys riot.

The men, Isaiah Giddings and Freedom Vy of Philadelphia and Brian Healion of Upper Darby, are all accused of working with another suspected Proud Boys member, Zachary Rehl who was arrested in March to breach the Capitol. Prosecutors say the group traveled together from Pennsylvania and the trio was photographed posing both outside the Capitol and inside the building.

Racine announced the suit Tuesday alongside Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.'s non-voting delegate in the House of Representatives. Norton said the suit is designed to secure extra funding to support D.C. police officers injured while defending the Capitol building and to serve as a warning to extremist groups.

They're going to have to spend money to defend themselves, Norton said. Even if we don't get a penny in restitution, this lawsuit's deterrent effect will say, Be prepared to spend money to defend yourself because we are coming after you.

Racine said evidence presented in the multiple federal criminal cases underway already proves explicit evidence of conspiracy to commit violent acts in the nation's capital. He said the lawsuit presents an opportunity to publicly explore and expose the financial support structure of the far-right extremist network.

I sure hope they try to defend the case, he said. "We can't wait to propound searing questions about the finances of these individuals and these groups.

The Proud Boys emerged from far-right fringes during the Trump administration to join mainstream GOP circles. The Oath Keepers is a militia group founded in 2009 that recruits current and former military, police and first responders.

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Proud Boys Regroup, Focusing on School Boards and Town Councils – The New York Times

Posted: at 9:30 am

Tell me where I need to be and I am there, one member of a Proud Boys group in Wisconsin wrote last month about protests of mask mandates. I can drive 5-6 hours in any direction.

Think local, act local, wrote another member.

At some local meetings where the Proud Boys have shown up, they have spoken and threatened community leaders, according to news reports. At others, they have simply stood silently and watched. In the Telegram groups, some boasted that they had handed out their cellphone numbers to those interested in joining them.

While the Proud Boys membership is not public, Mr. Holt said the group appeared to be growing in small towns and counties.

Often, their presence has been enough to disrupt events. Last month, the school board in Beloit, Wis., said it canceled classes because some of the Proud Boys were at a local protest over mask requirements. In Orange County, Calif., the school board said in September that it would install metal detectors and hire extra security after several Proud Boys attended a meeting and threatened its members.

In New Hanover County, N.C., which has roughly 220,000 people and is two hours southeast of Charlotte, Stefanie Adams, the school board president, said she had read about the groups increasing appearances and began tracking the reports closely.

Ms. Adams said she had an inkling that the Proud Boys might show up in her school district, which has 25,000 students. Because North Carolina law requires the county school board to vote on whether to continue a mask mandate for students each month, the district had handled many contentious meetings over the issue, she said.

I figured we were on their radar, and that we might be next, Ms. Adams said. We knew we had to prepare for them coming to our town, too.

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Self-proclaimed Proud Boy convicted of assault, menacing charges sentenced to 10 years in prison – KPTV.com

Posted: December 10, 2021 at 6:48 pm

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Self-proclaimed Proud Boy convicted of assault, menacing charges sentenced to 10 years in prison - KPTV.com

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