With Trump in the rearview mirror, Proud Boys offer muscle at rallies against vaccine mandates, masks

Written by on September 8, 2021

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Former Wisconsin Proud Boy member noticed bigotry and bullying

Daniel Berry joined the Wisconsin Proud Boys seeking camaraderie, however as an alternative discovered racism, antisemitism and sadistic bullying.

Jasper Colt, USA TODAY

After mendacity low for months because the Jan. 6 rebellion, members of the far-right avenue gang the Proud Boys have been exhibiting up at protests in opposition to masks mandates and coronavirus vaccine necessities.

In latest weeks, Proud Boys have been noticed at rallies in opposition to masks and vaccines in at the very least 5 states. From Los Angeles, California, to Columbus, Ohio, members have scrapped with counterprotestors after gathering for occasions branded as pro-freedom, pro-patriot or anti-COVID restrictions.

They’ve even appeared in school board conferences to protest the instructing of “essential race idea,” an issue fanned by conservative activists and media.

“They have been piggybacking on different folks’s occasions,” mentioned Jared Holt, a fellow on the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Analysis Lab. “They go the place they imagine the tradition battle is being fought, as a result of they see themselves as doubtlessly violent enforcers in a broader tradition battle.”

One man’s journey into the Proud Boys: They joined the Wisconsin Proud Boys in search of brotherhood. They discovered racism, bullying and antisemitism.

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Anti-mask protests turn out to be violent

All through August, members of the Proud Boys attended protests in opposition to COVID-19 restrictions in California, Oregon, Ohio, South Carolina and Kentucky. A few of these occasions grew to become violent.

On Aug. 14 in Los Angeles, a bunch of Proud Boys and different far-right agitators attacked counterprotesters and journalists outdoors Metropolis Corridor. Frank Stoltze, a veteran reporter for LAist, was shoved and kicked by males within the crowd.

Although members of the mob weren’t dressed within the Proud Boys’ signature gold and black colours, native activists recognized a number of of the boys as members of the extremist group. 

Movies from the protest present members of the gang chanting “Uhuru,” a Proud Boys slogan. Some wore orange armbands and carried orange water bottles, the identical shade that Proud Boys used through the Jan. 6 rebellion to assist determine each other.

Every week earlier in Portland, Oregon, members of the Proud Boys attended an occasion supporting Sean Feucht, a conservative pastor who has railed in opposition to vaccines and has turn out to be recognized for holding concert events at which the viewers is inspired to not put on masks.

The night ended with Proud Boys brawling with antifascists in downtown Portland.

In different cities, together with Frankfort, Kentucky, Proud Boys merely flashed white energy indicators and shouted the occasional slur at photographers and reporters. 

Far-right ‘safety guards’

From its inception in 2016, it is by no means been fairly clear what the Proud Boys stand for, what they need, or what they hope to attain.

The group rallied round former President Donald Trump when he was in workplace. Chapters across the nation discovered a distinct segment performing as safety guards at GOP rallies and different public occasions, typically on the invitation of politicians.

The group, which has deep associations with white supremacists, bought extra publicity when Trump informed them to “stand again and stand by” throughout a presidential debate in September. 

At the least 29 folks related to the Proud Boys are among the many greater than 500 arrested in reference to the Jan. 6 rebellion, based on a USA TODAY evaluation.

However with out Trump to rally behind, and with their chairman heading to jail this month after pleading responsible to destruction of property and weapons prices, the Proud Boys have been left fairly rudderless, mentioned Samantha Kutner, a fellow on the Khalifa Ihler Institute who has studied the group for years.

The Proud Boys are gravitating towards public protests and causes that can get them the eye and notoriety they crave, Kutner mentioned.

“It is half opportunistic, however it’s additionally a mirrored image of the conspiratorial worldview that they are embracing and have embraced via the ‘pink tablet’ motion,” Kutner mentioned, referring to a time period well-liked with the far proper to explain when folks immediately notice white supremacists and conspiracy theorists have been appropriate all alongside. 

“They seem to be a reactionary motion,” she mentioned. “They have not actually thought issues out, however they may seize alternatives the place they will.”

Daryle Lamont Jenkins, an activist and founding father of One Folks’s Venture who has been monitoring the far-right for many years, mentioned the Proud Boys have embraced the concept that they’re now a safety service for any far-right group which may increase the ire of counterprotesters and antifascists.

“The primary time I ever got here throughout the Proud Boys, they had been doing safety for Milo Yiannopoulos, and that was again in 2017,” Jenkins mentioned. “The far-right positively sees them as their safety.”

Glomming onto new causes

The Proud Boys’ assist for the anti-mask and anti-vaccine motion is its newest try to connect itself to far-right causes, a number of specialists mentioned.

Kutner identified that in 2019, Proud Boys in Canada, the place the federal government has formally declared the group a terrorist entity, marched in assist of the “Yellow Vests” motion — a hodgepodge of largely far-right activists.

This 12 months, Proud Boys have even proven up in school board conferences to decry the instructing of “essential race idea,” or CRT, in faculties. Most colleges do not truly train essential race idea, however many academics have began incorporating historic narratives from oppressed folks and cultures – which schooling and historical past students say is an efficient factor. 

Shouting matches, arrests and fed up mother and father: How faculty board conferences grew to become floor zero in politics

Like lots of the actions the Proud Boys glom onto, Kutner is bound a lot of the males have little thought what they’re truly protesting.

“CRT has turn out to be synonymous with something the boogeyman desires, like communism for instance,” she mentioned. “However should you ask the typical Proud Boy, ‘What’s essential race idea?’ everybody will provide you with a distinct reply as a result of they do not truly know.'”     

Contributing: Erin Richards, Ryan Miller

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