The Proud Boys Have Revived Far-Right Gang Terror With GOP Support

Inciting Violence

The attack that occurred on October 12 came just after the Metropolitan Republican Club hosted an appearance of Proud Boys co-founder Gavin McInnes at their Manhattan clubhouse. McInnes has become a controversial figure after leaving Vice Media to write for white-nationalist publications, like VDare and American Renaissance, and to host a talk show that features white nationalists like Jared Taylor, founder and editor of American Renaissance. As the “alt-right” came into full swing, McInnes hung on the edge of the movement, forming the Proud Boys as a multiracial, far-right crew at the same time as open racialists were mixing with Trumpians.

The “New” Street Violence

For places like Portland, Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul and other cities, the Proud Boys’ violent pattern rings familiar. In the 1980s and early 1990s, neo-Nazi skinhead gangs claimed entire neighborhoods as their turf, controlling music venues, bars and street corners. The skinhead gang phenomenon grew in the wake of de-industrialization and an effort by the white power movement to create a new line of recruits with a militant attitude ready to engage in “lone wolf” violence. They recruited among the most disaffected areas of the white working class. While their violence was distinct, these gangs signaled where the fascist movement was at the time: alienated but still violent.

Ready to Fight

The Proud Boys have been open about their motivations. In New York, a video posted presumably by a member of the Proud Boys in advance of McInnes’s speech, shows members admitting that they wanted to attack the protesters who were chanting across the street. “I want to go over there and instigate it, but the cops are here so we’ll be nice,” says a man behind the camera. He gets into a physical confrontation with a protester seconds later.

Portland Patriots

The following day after the assault in New York, a separate Proud Boy chapter joined Patriot Prayer in a flash-mob-style action in downtown Portland, Oregon, attempting to subvert local police accountability actions organized by Don’t Shoot PDX. In a suddenly announced rally and march that brought out 40-odd participants, including both suited Proud Boys and flag-waving conservatives, they demanded that Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler step down for what they allege is soft-peddled policing around protesters in the city.


The Proud Boys’ violence reflects both a tone shift in US conservatism and their own importance in the world of street fighting, taking on the mantle that was carried by far more publicly reviled organizations like Volksfront and the Hammerskin nation. While the attacks from Proud Boy gang members have not turned into fatalities yet, there has been a steady pattern of escalation and an internal culture of denial when it comes to the consequences of their incitements.



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