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Brief # 9 Social Justice

Who are the Proud Boys?

By Erika Shannon

March 8, 2021

During the Presidency of Donald Trump, many events unfolded that left the American people feeling uneasy. One of these events was the January 6, 2021 Capitol riots that were planned by white supremacists and Trump supporters. While the end of his Presidency was near, Donald Trump sat idly by and allowed his supporters to get carried away with their actions. This is synonymous with his attitude for much of his time in office, where we saw the emergence of white supremacist groups at an alarming rate. Our then-President had the chance to condemn them, and chose not to. For that reason, many of these organizations have gained a larger following than they ever had before. One of these white supremacist organizations, the Proud Boys, was actually formed  as Donald Trump came into power. Since then, the Proud Boys have been involved in countless acts of violence and harassment here in the U.S.

Gavin McInnes launched the Proud Boys in 2016; McInnes was a far-right political commentator originally from Canada, who has become more of a political activist in recent years. His violent nature is reflected in the actions and principles of the Proud Boys, who will resort to violence if they feel it is necessary. According to their archived Proud Boys USA website, their basic tenet is that they are “Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world” and they long for the days when “girls were girls and boys were boys.” The group has four degrees of membership within it, and in order to become a first-degree, you must publically and proudly declare your Western chauvinism. To become a second-degree member of the Proud Boys, you must endure a beating until you can yell out the names of five breakfast cereals. This is to demonstrate your endurance and control. The third-degree of membership requires a “Proud Boy” tattoo. A fourth-degree member is one who has taken part in “engaging in a major conflict for the cause.”

Their archived website also states that while they do not encourage being arrested, those who are will immediately become a fourth-degree. A rule for members to follow is that they may not watch pornography or masturbate more than once a month, in order to show sexual restraint and be able to resist women.

Over the past five years of being in existence, the Proud Boys have participated in protests and rallies, while attempting to spread false information and instigate conflict with left-wing groups. A “Unite the Right” rally was held in August 2017, where an assault took place, and in October 2018, members of the Proud Boys charged protesters at a speech being given by McInnes. In January 2019, a member of the Proud Boys threatened the Democratic mayor of Portland, Oregon, saying that he was “coming for him.” There were also reports in 2019 that Proud Boys were going to the homes of their critics and menacing them to try and show that there were “consequences” to their actions.

Throughout 2020, the Proud Boys showed up at Black Lives Matters protests to heckle them and incite violence. They often showed up armed and ready to use their weapons; some members were arrested for things like pointing firearms at others and unlawful use of a weapon. The Proud Boys also were accused of spreading conspiracy theories and misinformation about COVID-19 on Twitter, Facebook, and Telegram. Donald Trump even acknowledged the Proud Boys during a presidential debate, telling them to “stand back and stand by,” regarding ANTIFA. Trump repeatedly refused to condemn the actions and values of the Proud Boys, which ultimately contributed to their role in the Capitol riots on January 6th. Not only were members of the Proud Boys present for the riots, some were also arrested and federally charged with their actions and involvement.

It is a sad day when a country moves backwards, and by allowing white supremacist groups such as the Proud Boys to rise and flourish, Donald Trump certainly contributed to this problem. By the end of his Presidency, Proud Boys membership was in the thousands

The Proud Boys exist to further divide our nation, and to foster hate against the left and anything the left stands for. This includes civil rights issues, LGBTQ+ issues, social justice issues, and women’s rights. The Proud Boys have been designated as a terrorist organization for good reason: their violent, racist ideology is a threat to American democracy and civility. While we should be focusing on rebuilding America to be a more inclusive place for all, groups like the Proud Boys only wish to further the place of white men in society. In order to truly move forward and rebuild America, an emphasis must be placed on silencing these white supremacist groups, like the Proud Boys,  and making sure that they are not able to expand.

Engagement  Resources

  • For information on other hate groups or to report a hate crime, visit the Southern Poverty Law Center.
  • To find out how the FBI investigates hate crimes committed by these groups, click here.
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