Proud Boys: Who are they and what was their role in the Capitol attack?

Proud Boys in the Capitol riot
Dozens of Proud Boys indicted
Prison and damages
Who are the Proud Boys?
Founded in 2016
What defines the Proud Boys?
Proud Western Chauvinists
The Proud Boys say they aren't racist but...
The uniform: black and yellow polo shirts
An extremist group
An Afro-Cuban leader
Leader Enrique Tarrio in jail
Peculiar initiation rituals
Proud Boys aren't afraid of a fight
Banned from social media
New Proud Boys thanks to Trump
Proud Boys are no longer keeping a
Disrupting rallies in the U.S.
Proud Boys worldwide
Canada labels them 'terrorist group'
Far-right extremism worldwide
Proud Boys in the Capitol riot

In the past months, more than 700 rioters who participated in the Capitol attack of January 6, 2021 have been traced by police and prosecuted for offenses like assault, disorderly conduct, and entering a restricted area. Among these rioters are several members of the Proud Boys, a violent far-right movement.

Dozens of Proud Boys indicted

On of the most recent indictments of a Proud Boys member took place in December 2021, when Matthew Greene from Syracuse, New York pleaded guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to obstruct. He was in the 'first wave' of rioters to cross the police lines guarding the Capitol, the BBC reports, but he claims not to have entered the building.

Prison and damages

The felony charges could have gotten Matthew Greene up to 25 years in prison. However, the Proud Boy has "agreed to cooperate with the government," the BBC reports. "He is believed to be the first member of the group to do so." As a result, he now faces up to 51 months in prison and a heavy fine for damages.

Who are the Proud Boys?

"Proud Boys - stand back and stand by." It was a famous statement by Donald Trump during his first presidential debate in 2020. He may have put the Proud Boys in the limelight then, but they had been around for several years.

Founded in 2016

In 2016, the group was started in New York City by Gavin McInnes (pictured), who was the co-founder and former editor of Vice magazine.

What defines the Proud Boys?

The Proud Boys define themselves as an all-male, anti-feminist, anti-immigrant, homophobic, pro-Trump, far-right group. The group is known for instigating violent conflicts with left-wing street protesters. The group takes their name from the song "Proud of Your Boy" from Disney's 2011 film Aladdin.

 

Proud Western Chauvinists

The group's founder, McInnes (who is actually Canadian), claims he formed the Proud Boys to fight what he considers to be a rising of anti-Western, anti-male sentiment in North America. Members of the Proud Boys unashamedly state that "We're proud Western chauvinists."

The Proud Boys say they aren't racist but...

The Proud Boys do not consider themselves a racist group even though members are often seen and photographed using the white power hand signal and include parts of the "white genocide" conspiracy theory in their doctrine.

The uniform: black and yellow polo shirts

The Proud Boys' unofficial uniform is a black and yellow polo shirt of the brand 'Fred Perry.' In fact, 'Fred Perry' doesn't support the group and has since discontinued the sale of the black and yellow model of his polos in Canada and the United States.

An extremist group

In 2018 the FBI classified the group as an extremist group. The same year, ten members of the Proud Boys were arrested after instigating a fight in New York with left-wing protesters outside of a Republican club. Following the incident, Gavin McInnes quit the organization.

An Afro-Cuban leader

The group's current chairman is Enrique Tarrio, who has held the position since 2018. Tarrio is of Afro-Cuban descent and may have been granted this position of power as an attempt by the group to show that they don't give importance to race but rather to other issues plaguing those of the far-right.

Leader Enrique Tarrio in jail

Enrique Tarrio currently serves a five-month sentence for burning a Black Lives Matter flag that belonged to a historically Black church in Washington. The official charges were: destruction of property and attempted possession of a large-capacity ammunition feeding device. In addition, Tarrio has been subpoenaed by the House Committee on the January 6 attack.

Peculiar initiation rituals

There are different membership levels for those who join the group and an initiation process that all Proud Boys must go through. For example, new members must swear off self gratification and be able to name five kinds of cereal while being beat in the torso and arms by other Proud Boys members.

(Photo: Becker1999, Grove City, OH, Wikimedia)

Proud Boys aren't afraid of a fight

Another part of the initiation ritual is that new members must get involved in a violent fight for the cause. Gavin McInnes himself described the group's initiation rituals on the Joe Rogan Show.
Pictured here: police try to separate Proud Boys and Black Lives Matter protesters who got into a fight during a protest after the "Million MAGA March" in Washington, DC, in November 2020.

Banned from social media

The Proud Boys have since been banned from Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for their status as a hate group. The group claims that these platforms silence conservatives, and the Proud Boys now use Telegram, Gab, and Parler instead.

 

New Proud Boys thanks to Trump

After Donald Trump had refused to disavow the Proud Boys during a candidates' debate for the 2020 presidential elections, they became known around the world and even got new members. Enrique Tarrio stated to the Wall Street Journal that the group had jumped to around 22,000 Proud Boy members world-wide, with 12,000 in the U.S. alone.

Proud Boys are no longer keeping a "low" profile

Following the Capitol insurrection on January 6th, 2021, the Proud Boys kept a low profile for several months. However, as of late, they have been showing up at more and more public protests, and the far-right in the United States have come to consider the group their own unofficial security guards while attending protests.

Disrupting rallies in the U.S.

The summer of 2021, members of the groups were identified at rallies across the country from Los Angeles to Columbus, Ohio. Members of the Proud Boys have been attending protests regarding COVID-19 restrictions and pro-freedom, pro-patriot rallies. 

Proud Boys worldwide

Although it may seem hard to believe, the Proud Boys are active in other countries worldwide. This picture is of a Proud Boy member who was arrested during a protest against Australia Day in Melbourne, Australia, on January 26, 2021.

Canada labels them 'terrorist group'

In February 2021, the Canadian government assigned the title of terrorist group to the Proud Boys because of the “pivotal role” they had played during the Capitol riots on January 6th. With this designation, the Proud Boys’ assets in Canada may be frozen, and any member of the group who commits a violent act could be charged with terrorist offenses.

Far-right extremism worldwide

The rise of the Proud Boys in North America is one aspect of a wider trend in far-right activism across Western countries.

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