MMP: Proud Boys

Proud Boys in Raleigh (2020 Nov). Anthony Crider, 28 November 2020. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

Proud Boys

The Proud Boys is an all-male, far-right extremist organization that has operated in the United States and Canada.

Key Statistics

2016 First Recorded Activity
2018 First Attack
2022 Profile Last Updated

Profile Contents

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Overview

Narrative of the Organization's History

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Organization

Leadership, Name Changes, Size Estimates, Resources, Geographic Locations

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Strategy

Ideology, Aims, Political Activities, Targets, and Tactics

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Major Attacks

First Attacks, Largest Attacks, Notable Attacks

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Interactions

Foreign Designations and Listings, Community Relations, Relations with Other Groups, State Sponsors and External Influences

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Maps

Mapping relationships with other militant groups over time

Contact MMP

Send a message to the Mapping Militants team.

Download Full Profile as PDF

Last updated January 2022.

How to Cite

Mapping Militant Organizations. “Proud Boys.” Stanford University. Last modified January 2022. https://cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/mappingmilitants/profiles/proud-boys
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Organizational Overview

Formed: 2016

Disbanded: Group is active.

First Attack: 2018

Last Attack: 2021

Executive Summary

The Proud Boys is an all-male, far-right extremist organization formed in the United States in 2016.   The group is Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, and xenophobic.  The Proud Boys attend events with far-right organizations that advocate white supremacist and anti-government ideologies, though the Proud Boys leadership deny ties to white supremacy and neo-Nazism. The group is also semi-accelerationist in that it advocates violence in readiness for civil war in the United States. Most of the group’s public activity involves protesting or attending political rallies and events, typically with the intent to provoke violence. 

Group Narrative

Gavin McInnes founded Proud Boys in 2016 as a far-right fraternal organization. The group has since grown more extremist. In February 2019, McInnes filed a defamation lawsuit against the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) over their designation of the Proud Boys as a hate group. The SPLC replied that “rank-and-file Proud Boys and leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists.”[1] The group was designated a terrorist entity by the Canadian government in 2021. The Proud Boys was a major player in the riots at the U.S. capitol on January 6, 2021.[2]

Gavin McInnes is a far-right political pundit who openly describes himself as xenophobic. McInnes was born in England and raised in Canada. He immigrated from Canada to the United States in 1999 when Vice magazine, a publication that McInnes co-founded, moved its offices from Montreal to New York City.[3] Throughout the early 2000s, McInnes developed increasingly radical views on racism and white supremacy – ideas that came through in his writing for Vice. In 2008, McInnes left Vice after the organization filed a separation agreement. After leaving Vice, McInnes was hired to write a weekly column for Taki’s Magazine, an online magazine that publishes far-right content.[4] 

It was in an article for Taki’s Magazine that McInnes announced the formation of the Proud Boys. The article was written by McInnes and was published online on September 15, 2016. It reported that the Proud Boys “started in the fall after congregating on Compound Media (full disclosure: I work there) and laughing at the politically correct culture they insist we take seriously.”[5] The Proud Boys existed as an informal group centered around McInnes before the official announcement. In July 2016, it was reported that McInnes had “convened his local ‘Proud Boys’ chapter for their first in-person meeting.”[6] In the September 2016 article, McInnes reported that the Proud Boys had over 1,000 members on its private Facebook page. He claimed that there were Proud Boys chapters around the world, including in New York City, New Jersey, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nashville, Texas, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. McInnes also outlined steps for readers to start their own Proud Boys chapters.[7]

The group’s official ideology includes an oath of allegiance to western culture and stresses elevating masculinity, opposing Islam, and defending its community from a perceived “war on whites.”[8] Members of the Proud Boys undergo initiation rituals in order to gain degrees of status within the group. The first level requires members to take an oath: “I am a Western chauvinist and I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.” At this point, members are permitted to attend formal Proud Boys meetings, which usually consist of “drinking, fighting, and reading aloud from Pat Buchanan’s Death of the West,” an anti-immigrant treatise, according to McInnes. The next level of membership involves getting repeatedly punched until members can recite five kinds of breakfast cereal. To progress to the third level, members must get a Proud Boys logo tattoo.[9] Members achieve the highest level of status once they engage in violence on the group’s behalf, such as assaulting a left-wing activist. For example, in January 2017, McInnes was filmed punching a counter-protester at the Deploraball, a Washington, D.C.-based far-right gathering. When discussing his assault at a speaking event the next month, McInnes declared: “I cannot recommend violence enough. It’s a really effective way to solve problems.”[10]

Some Proud Boys goals include ending welfare, closing borders, and promoting traditional gender roles.[11] The name “Proud Boys” references a song from the musical Aladdin, “Proud of Your Boy,”[12] a name McInnes reportedly chose because he believed that the song denigrated men. He regarded the name as an ironic way to celebrate far-right views of gender roles and masculinity.[13]

The Proud Boys have a large online following and a smaller core group of members who instigate operations and attend events in person. Analysts estimated that, by the end of 2017, there were 6,000 official Proud Boys members and more than 40,000 followers on the group’s social media pages.[14] In more recent years, the extent of the group’s online following became less clear since Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube banned the group in 2018.[15] 

Proud Boys activities range from passive online consumption of propaganda to participation in overt action, notably by targeting political adversaries at protests.[16] In March 2017, a Proud Boys member named Brandon Vaughan of the Ottawa, Canada, chapter assaulted a Palestinian-American community college professor. Videos of the assault show Proud Boys members fighting alongside the Jewish Defense League, a right-wing militant organization.[17]

In March 2017, a man named Kyle Chapman was arrested for beating a counter-protester with a wooden dowel rod during the “Battle for Berkeley,” a pro-Trump rally in northern California that members of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, an anti-government militant group, also attended.[18] Shortly after, the Proud Boys raised more than $87,000 to pay for Chapman’s bail and legal fees. Chapman was also contacted by Proud Boys leader Gavin McInnes and brought into the organization.

In April 2017, after the violent “Second Battle of Berkeley” protest, Chapman announced the formation of the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights (FOAK). The FOAK was originally organized as the “tactical defense arm” of the Proud Boys.[19] In a Facebook post, Chapman wrote that the FOAK aimed to “protect and defend our right wing brethren when the police and government fail to do so.”[20] FOAK members have wielded weapons at rallies and events, such as hammers, daggers, and pepper spray.[21] While the FOAK and the Proud Boys insist that they only engaged in violence in self-defense, Chapman encouraged members to provoke confrontation. For example, he told followers in June and July 2017 to declare “open season on Antifa,” “smash on sight,” and lynch politicians who endorse immigration.[22] 

The Proud Boys has frequently attended far-right demonstrations, such as the “March Against Sharia” rallies in June 2017, which were organized by the Islamophobic hate group ACT for America. In July 2017, the Proud Boys joined other anti-government militant groups, namely the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters, to caravan through Islamberg, New York.  They claimed that the rural community was “an Islamic training ground.”[23]

 The next month, the Proud Boys received national attention following the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. A woman was killed and 19 other people were injured at the event. The rally was organized by former Proud Boys member Jason Kessler, who, along with other organizers, was found liable for injuries to counter-protesters in a civil suit in Virginia.[24]  McInnes later attempted to distance the group from the event, claiming that the Proud Boys had “nothing to do with it.”[25] However, Jason Kessler discussed the rally less than two months earlier on McInnes’s talk show, “The Gavin McInnes Show,” and Proud Boys members (including future Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio) attended the rally.[26]

Throughout 2017-2018, the Proud Boys continued to engage in street violence targeting their political opponents on the left. The group often coordinated with Patriot Prayer – a Washington-based far-right group – to target left-wing activists in the Pacific northwest.[27]Following June 2018 protests in Portland, Oregon, several Proud Boys members were arrested for assaulting counter-protestors.[28] Two months later, Twitter suspended both the accounts of Proud Boys and McInnes, and Facebook and Instagram following suit shortly after.[29]

In October 2018, McInnes gave a speech at the Metropolitan Republican Club in New York City, reportedly attended by members of a local neo-Nazi skinhead group, the 211 Boot Boys. [30] A fight broke out after the event between the Proud Boys and counter-protestors, resulting in the arrests of 10 Proud Boys members on charges including attempted assault, gang assault, and riot. Convictions and prison sentences followed. 

In the face of mounting pressure and legal threats, McInnes announced in a late November YouTube video that he was “officially disassociating” himself from the Proud Boys. He called this move a legal gesture that would “show jurors they are not dealing with a gang and there is no head of operations.”[31] In a 2017 interview, however, McInnes had proclaimed, “I started this gang called the Proud Boys” that engages in violence “for fun.”[32]

Subsequently, Jason Lee Van Dyke became the de-facto chairman of the Proud Boys. Van Dyke was a practicing lawyer, and he served as the Proud Boys primary legal counsel and the sergeant-at-arms of the Dallas/Fort Worth Proud Boys chapter.  In August 2017, Van Dyke had filed an application to trademark the name “Proud Boys,” which was registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office in May 2018.[33] When Proud Boys leader and founder Gavin McInnes stepped down in November 2018, Van Dyke was elected as the group’s new leader by members of the Proud Boys leadership council, known as the Elders Chapter. However, Van Dyke was soon removed after only serving two days as chairman after he failed to redact the Elders’ names when he published the group’s new bylaws online.[34] The Proud Boys website announced that Van Dyke left the group on November 29, 2018, although Van Dyke remains the owner of trademark.[35]

Enrique Tarrio, who previously led the Miami, Florida, chapter, was then appointed as national chairman. Tarrio has been known to use his Afro-Cuban ethnicity, as well as the ethnicity of other non-white Proud Boys members, as evidence that the group does not promote white supremacy. However, Tarrio has espoused racist sentiments on his personal social media accounts and attended white supremacist gatherings.[36]

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the groups’ paramilitary wing, the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, was dissolved in early 2018 because of infighting and legal pressures facing FOAK leader Chapman.[37] However, some Proud Boys members still wore FOAK patches, and Chapman remained a member of the group.[38] In 2020, Chapman reportedly tried to take over the leadership of the group. In a post published on Telegram, Chapman complained that the Proud Boys was not radical enough and should take a more hardline white supremacist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic stance. Chapman wanted to reorient the group to better address issues of “White Genocide” and the “failures of multiculturalism.” In his post, Chapman claimed to take over leadership of the group: “Due to the recent failure of Proud Boy Chairman Enrique Tarrio to conduct himself with honor and courage on the battlefield, it has been decided that I Kyle Chapman reassume my post as President of Proud Boys effective immediately.”[39] Despite this rhetoric, however, Chapman did not successfully take over control of the Proud Boys. [40]

In November 2018, there were reports that the Proud Boys was designated as an “extremist group with ties to white nationalism” by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).[41] However, the FBI soon issued a correction to clarify that the FBI had not designated the Proud Boys as extremist.[42] There is no legal mechanism in the United States to designate a domestic group as terrorist or extremist.[43] However, the FBI can list individuals on its Terrorist Screening Database, a watchlist that is distinct from the “No Fly” list and the designation of foreign terrorist organizations. At the time of the attack on the Capitol, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database reportedly contained the names of dozens of participants in the riot, many of whom were suspected white supremacists.[44] The names of individuals listed in the Terrorist Screening Database are not made public, and it is unknown whether Proud Boys members are included.

The wave of civil and political unrest associated with the 2020 presidential election gave the Proud Boys new opportunities to engage in coordinated violence, specifically against left-wing protestors in Democrat-heavy areas like Portland, Oregon. The Proud Boys engaged in near-daily violent demonstrations in Portland during summer 2020, leading the state’s governor to declare a state of emergency in September.[45] Proud Boys members were videoed using baseball bats and other weapons to assault opposing protestors.[46]

Proud Boys member Alan Swinney was arrested on numerous assault and unlawful weapon charges following a Portland demonstration on August 22.[47] In September, Swinney gained national attention when news outlets published a series of leaked messages between Proud Boys members and other far-right militia groups – such as Patriot Prayer, Resist Marxism, and American Guard.[48] A message from Swinney read: “We need to inflict as much damage as possible in the time we have.” Another group member, Anthony Mastrostefano, proclaimed: “When the time comes, I will stop at nothing to fully eradicate them all,” referring to the Proud Boy’s political enemies.[49]

In late 2020, the group generated new interest and membership. Tarrio claimed that over 20,000 new members joined the Proud Boys.[50]  This surge may have been due in part to the comments of then U.S. President Trump during the first presidential debate. When asked if he would publicly denounce white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys, Trump responded, “Proud Boys stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left.”[51] Analysts found that Proud Boys members on the conservative social media site Parler and the encrypted messaging app Telegram interpreted Trump’s comments as an endorsement of the group. One Proud Boys member said that Trump was giving them permission to attack counter-protestors.[52] Other Proud Boys members turned the former president’s comments into an opportunity for recruitment and fundraising, selling merchandise with the group’s logo and the message, “PROUD BOYS STANDING BY.”[53]

Following the November 2020 presidential election, the Proud Boys participated in “Stop the Steal” events across the United States.[54] Between the election and President Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021, more than 70% of Proud Boys-related events took place in state capitals and Washington, D.C., which suggests a shift to focusing on the government as enemy.[55]

On December 12, 2020, the Proud Boys descended into Washington, D.C. for a “Stop the Steal” campaign event dubbed the “2nd Million MAGA March.” The demonstration mostly consisted of Proud Boys members, other Trump supporters, and far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.[56] As was typical, the Proud Boys provoked fights with counter-protestors. At least four people were stabbed near Harry’s, a dive bar where the Proud Boys gathered during the march. Although several eyewitness and video reports showed Proud Boys members involved in the stabbings, no arrests were made. On the National Mall, Proud Boys members and other far-right rioters were filmed assaulting a counter-protestor.[57] Later that day, several Proud Boys members were involved in attacks against two historic Black churches, United Asbury Methodist and Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church.[58] The former congregation filed a lawsuit against Tarrio and the Proud Boys, alleging the group’s members perpetrated acts of terror and vandalism against the church.[59]

The “Stop the Steal” campaign culminated in the January 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol to prevent the certification of the 2020 election. Tarrio had encouraged Proud Boys members to travel to D.C., asserting on his personal social media pages: “We will not be wearing our traditional black and yellow. We will be incognito and we will spread across downtown DC in smaller teams.”[60] However, when Tarrio arrived in D.C. two days before the rally, he was arrested in connection with the December 2020 attack on United Asbury Methodist Church, mentioned above, when he burned a Black Lives Matter banner and was found to be in possession of high-capacity firearm magazines.[61] In August 2021, he was sentenced to five months in prison after pleading guilty. Tarrio admitted to the court that he had made a grave mistake for which he apologized profusely.[62]

Ethan Nordean took charge after Tarrio’s arrest.  U.S. prosecutors allege that Nordean led the Proud Boys in executing their plan to split up into groups and attack the Capitol from as many points as possible.[63] Video evidence shows Proud Boys member Dominic Pezzola shattering a window on the west side of the building, allowing Proud Boys members William Pepe, Gilbert Garcia, and Joseph Biggs to be among the first rioters to enter the Capitol.[64] In November 2021, the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 assault on the Capitol issued subpoenas naming Proud Boys International and Enrique Tarrio.[65] Although the federal investigation into the event was ongoing as of January 2022, more than 30 Proud Boys members had been indicted on charges connected with the assault.[66] One Proud Boys member has publicly pled guilty to charges and promised to cooperate with government investigators.[67]

In February 2021, the Canadian federal government designated the Proud Boys as a terrorist entity, citing its role in the riot at the U.S. Capitol.[68] Shortly after, at least one Proud Boys chapter in Canada announced that it had “officially” dissolved itself.[69] The Proud Boys’ U.S. chapters also began to split off, especially after leaked reports about Tarrio’s past as an informant for local authorities and the FBI.[70] Several Proud Boys chapters issued social media posts distancing themselves from the national leadership or “any subsequent body that is formed to replace them,” with some chapters claiming they had disbanded altogether.[71]

Analysts argue that reports of Proud Boys disbanding or distancing from the national leadership should be viewed with caution.[72]  They warn that new factions of the organization are drifting further right and growing increasingly violent. Infighting about what direction the Proud Boys should take allows more extreme members to gain prominence among the group’s large network of followers.[73] For example, the former “Proud Boys Uncensored” Telegram channel was rebranded, dropping the “Proud Boys” name to focus more on spreading ultra-nationalism and other neo-fascist ideologies.[74]

Statements from Proud Boys members also indicated a growing disillusionment with the Republican Party. Nordean accused President Trump of abandoning the group by failing to pardon himself and other Proud Boys members charged in connection to the insurrection, lamenting: “Yes he woke us up, but he led us to believe some great justice was upon us ... and it never happened.”[75]

Despite internal and external pressures, Proud Boys showed no sign of slowing down its activities. Rather, it continued to mobilize in 2021—sometimes violently—in response to continued narratives related to the “Stop the Steal” campaign and the COVID-19 pandemic. Reports found a strong presence of COVID-19 conspiracy theories on social media accounts associated with the Proud Boys, with the majority of disinformation posts arguing that COVID-19 was created by Bill Gates.[76] Proud Boys appeared at more than 20 events in 13 cities across North America in the six months after January 6, 2021.[77]  Between 50-60 Proud Boys members attended an April 2021 protest in Fresno, California, where fights broke out.[78] In August 2021, dozens of Proud Boys engaged in street fights with counter-protestors, shooting paintball guns and smashing windows.[79]

In December 2021, it was reported that Proud Boys chapters are becoming increasingly involved in local politics. Members of the group have been present at school board and town council meetings in several states, including Wisconsin, Illinois, and North Carolina. The shift from national to local politics is seen by some researchers to be part of a larger strategy to attract new members by championing local causes, such as challenging coronavirus restrictions and mask mandates.[80] 

 

[1] Kennedy, Merrit. “Proud Boys Founder Files Defamation Lawsuit Against Southern Poverty Law Center.” NPR, February 5, 2019. https://www.npr.org/2019/02/05/691643824/proud-boys-founder-files-defama....

[2] “Proud Boys: Canada labels far-right group a terrorist entity.” BBC, February 3, 2021. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-55923485.

[3] Borow, Zev. “Will The Last Hipster Please Turn Out The Lights?” New York Magazine, November 19, 2004. https://nymag.com/nymetro/urban/features/10488/; Gollner, Adam Leith. “The Secret History of Gavin McInnes.” Vanity Fair, June 29, 2021. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/06/the-secret-history-of-gavin-mcinnes 

[4] Gollner, Adam Leith. “The Secret History of Gavin McInnes.” Vanity Fair, June 29, 2021. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/06/the-secret-history-of-gavin-mcinnes 

[5] McInnes, Gavin. “Introducing: The Proud Boys.” Taki’s Magazine, September 15, 2016. https://web.archive.org/web/20160916202125/https://www.takimag.com/article/introducing_the_proud_boys_gavin_mcinnes/

[6] Nicole Disser, “Gavin McInnes and His ‘Proud Boys’ Want to Make Men Great Again,” Bedford and Bowery, July 28, 2016. https://web.archive.org/web/20190209020443/https://bedfordandbowery.com/....

[7] McInnes, Gavin. “Introducing: The Proud Boys.” Taki’s Magazine, September 15, 2016. https://web.archive.org/web/20160916202125/https://www.takimag.com/article/introducing_the_proud_boys_gavin_mcinnes/

[8] Feuer, Alan and Jeremy W. Peters. “Fringe Groups Revel as Protests Turn Violent.” The New York Times, June 2, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/02/us/politics/white-nationalists-alt-knights-protests-colleges.html.

[9] Wendling, Mike. “Proud Boys and antifa: When a right-wing activist met a left-wing anti-fascist.” BBC, March 8, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-47332054.

[10] “Proud Boys.” Southern Poverty Law Center. Accessed August 8, 2021. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/proud-boys

[11] Rosenberg, Eli. “FBI considers Proud Boys extremists with white-nationalist ties, law enforcement officials say.” The Washington Post, November 20, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2018/11/20/fbi-says-proud-boys-hav....

[12] “Proud Boys.” Anti-defamation League. Accessed January 15, 2021. https://www.adl.org/proudboys

[13] Wick, Julia. “Newsletter: Who are the Proud Boys?” Los Angeles Times, October 1, 2020. https://www.latimes.com/california/newsletter/2020-10-01/proud-boys-trum... Hawkins, Derek, Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Craig Timberg. “Trump’s ‘stand by’ remark puts the Proud Boys in the spotlight.” The Washington Post, September 30, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/09/30/proudboys1001/

[14] “Proud Boys.” Southern Poverty Law Center. Accessed August 8, 2021. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/proud-boys.

[15] Wendling, Mike. “US Election 2020: Who are the Proud Boys – and who are antifa?” BBC, September 30, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2020-54352635.; The Associated Press. “Far-right group Proud Boys banned from Facebook, Instagram.” Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, October 31, 2018. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/proud-boys-facebook-instagram-1.4886514.

[16] Campbell, Andy. “Leaked Proud Boys Chats Show Members Plotting Violence At Rallies.” Huffington Post, May 22, 2019. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/proud-boys-chat-logs-premeditate-rally-vi....

[17] Crawford, Blair. “Ottawa Man Skips Arraignment in U.S. for Assault, Hate Crimes.” Canoe News, May 1, 2018. https://canoe.com/news/local-news/warrant-issued-after-ottawa-man-skips-....

[18] Feuer, Alan and Jeremy W. Peters. “Fringe Groups Revel as Protests Turn Violent.” The New York Times, June 2, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/02/us/politics/white-nationalists-alt-knights-protests-colleges.html

[19] “Fraternal Order of Alt Knights (FOAK).” Southern Poverty Law Center. Accessed August 8, 2021. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/fraternal-....

[20] Dinkelspiel, Frances. “Berkeley braces itself for a day of rallies that may turn violent.” Berkeleyside, April 27, 2017. https://www.berkeleyside.org/2017/04/27/berkeley-braces-day-rallies-may-turn-violent

[21] “Fraternal Order of Alt Knights (FOAK).” Southern Poverty Law Center. Accessed August 8, 2021. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/fraternal-....

[22] “Fraternal Order of Alt Knights (FOAK).” Southern Poverty Law Center. Accessed August 8, 2021. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/fraternal-....

[23] Gabby Del Valle. “Real American Terrorists,” The Outline, July 28, 2017. https://theoutline.com/post/1996/real-american-terrorists.

[24] MacFarquhar, Neil, “Jury Finds Rally Organizers Responsible for Charlottesville Violence,” The New York Times, November 23, 2021.  https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/23/us/charlottesville-rally-verdict.html.  Accessed December 12, 2021.

[25] Irons, Meghan E. “‘Free-Speech’ Rally Set for Boston Has Some Concerned.” The Boston Globe, August 13, 2017. https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/08/13/free-speech-rally-has-some-....

[26] Woodhouse, Leighton Akio. “After Charlottesville, the American Far Right Is Tearing Itself Apart.” The Intercept, September 21, 2017. https://theintercept.com/2017/09/21/gavin-mcinnes-alt-right-proud-boys-r....

[27] Wilson, Jason. “FBI Now Classifies Far-Right Proud Boys as 'Extremist Group', Documents Say,” The Guardian, November 19, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/19/proud-boys-fbi-classificat....

[28] Wilson, Jason. “Riot in Portland as Far-Right Marchers Clash with Anti-Fascists,” The Guardian, July 1, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jul/01/riot-in-portland-as-far-....

[29] Matthews, Karen. “Facebook, Instagram Ban Far-Right Proud Boys and Founder.” Associated Press, October 31, 2018. https://apnews.com/article/2714b6a697d34f59982c398a235858e7.

[30] Feuer, Alan. “Proud Boys Founder: How He Went from Brooklyn Hipster to Far-Right Provocateur.” The New York Times, October 16, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/16/nyregion/proud-boys-gavin-mcinnes.html.

[31] Wilson, Jason. “Proud Boys Founder Gavin McInnes Quits 'Extremist' Far-Right Group.” The Guardian, November 22, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/22/proud-boys-founder-gavin-m....

[32] Scallly. Gavin McInnes Describes Proud Boys to Joe Rogan (YouTube, 2018), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXTPG00OiYc.

[33] Wilson, Jason. “Gavin McInnes: Founder of far-right Proud Boys denied Australian visa – report.” The Guardian, November 30, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/30/gavin-mcinnes-proud-boys-a... “Proud Boys – far-right group’s trademark could face cancellation, legal experts claim.” World Trademark Review, January 8, 2021. https://www.worldtrademarkreview.com/brand-management/proud-boystm-far-r....

[34] McPhate, Christian. “Humbled Proud Boy: Attorney Jason Lee Van Dyke Claims an Internet ‘Stalker’ Is Ruining His Life.” Dallas Observer, April 17, 2019. https://www.dallasobserver.com/news/former-proud-boy-lawyer-jason-van-dyke-says-an-internet-stalker-is-destroying-his-career-11641420

[35] Wilson, Jason. “Gavin McInnes: Founder of far-right Proud Boys denied Australian visa – report.” The Guardian, November 30, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/30/gavin-mcinnes-proud-boys-a... “Proud Boys – far-right group’s trademark could face cancellation, legal experts claim.” World Trademark Review, January 8, 2021. https://www.worldtrademarkreview.com/brand-management/proud-boystm-far-r....

[36] Trouillard, Stéphanie. “Enrique Tarrio, the Cuban-American Leader of the Far-Right 'Proud Boys'.” France24, June 1, 2021. https://www.france24.com/en/americas/20210106-who-exactly-is-enrique-tar....

[37] “Proud Boys.” Southern Poverty Law Center. Accessed August 8, 2021. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/proud-boys

[38] Weill, Kelly. “The Post-Election Proud Boys Meltdown Is Here, and It's Ugly.” The Daily Beast, November 11, 2020. https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-post-election-proud-boys-meltdown-is-h...

[39] Palmer, Ewan. “Proud Boys Infighting Sees Leading Member Form Breakaway Group to Fight ‘White Genocide’.” Newsweek, November 11, 2020. https://www.newsweek.com/proud-boys-based-stickman-enrique-tarrio-goys-1....

[40] Weill, Kelly. “The Post-Election Proud Boys Meltdown Is Here, and It's Ugly.” The Daily Beast, November 11, 2020. https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-post-election-proud-boys-meltdown-is-h...

[41] Rosenberg, Eli. “FBI considers Proud Boys extremists with white-nationalist ties, law enforcement officials say.” Washington Post, November 19, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2018/11/20/fbi-says-proud-boys-have-white-nationalist-ties-law-enforcement-officials-say/

[42] Templeton, Amelia, and Conrad Wilson. “Portland FBI Head Clarifies Statement On Proud Boys.” OPB, December 4, 2018. https://www.opb.org/news/article/portland-fbi-proud-boys-clarifies-statement/

[43] Meier, Anna. “What Does a "Terrorist" Designation Mean?” Lawfare Blog, July 19, 2020. https://www.lawfareblog.com/what-does-terrorist-designation-mean 

[44] Barrett, Devlin , Spencer S. Hsu and Marissa J. Lang. “Dozens of people on FBI terrorist watch list came to D.C. the day of Capitol riot.” Washington Post, January 14, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/terror-watchlist-capitol-riot-fbi/2021/01/14/07412814-55f7-11eb-a931-5b162d0d033d_story.html

[45] Hay, Andrew. “Oregon Governor 'Incredibly Worried' about Violence at Proud Boys Rally.” Rueters, September 25, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-global-race-protests-portland/oregon-....

[46] Haas, Ryan, Sergio Olmos, and Bradley W Parks. “Protesters Fight Using Pepper Spray, Baseball Bats in Portland on Saturday.” OPB News, August 22, 2020. https://www.opb.org/article/2020/08/22/conservative-protesters-plan-rallies-in-downtown-portland/.;

[47] Wilson, Conrad. “Police Arrest Far-Right Protester Who Pointed Gun at Portland Rally.” OPB News, September 30, 2020. https://www.opb.org/article/2020/09/30/police-arrest-far-right-protester....

[48] Little, Alice. “Leaked: 2019 Chats Show Alan Swinney Collaborating with Proud Boys, American Guard, and Militias to Plan Violent Rallies.” Unicorn Riot, September 25, 2020. https://unicornriot.ninja/2020/leaked-2019-chats-show-alan-swinney-collaborating-with-proud-boys-american-guard-and-militias-to-plan-violent-rallies/.; Campbell, Andy. “Leaked Proud Boys Chats Show Members Plotting Violence At Rallies.” Huffington Post, May 22, 2019. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/proud-boys-chat-logs-premeditate-rally-vi....

[49] Little, Alice. “Leaked: 2019 Chats Show Alan Swinney Collaborating with Proud Boys, American Guard, and Militias to Plan Violent Rallies.” Unicorn Riot, September 25, 2020. https://unicornriot.ninja/2020/leaked-2019-chats-show-alan-swinney-colla....

[50] Kaplan, Joshua, and Joaquin Sapien. “New Details Suggest Senior Trump Aides Knew Jan. 6 Rally Could Get Chaotic.” ProPublica, June 25, 2021. https://www.propublica.org/article/new-details-suggest-senior-trump-aide....

[51] Ronayne, Kathleen, and Michael Kunzelman. “Trump to Far-Right Extremists: ‘Stand Back and Stand by.’” Associated Press, September 30, 2020. https://apnews.com/article/election-2020-joe-biden-race-and-ethnicity-do....

[52] Hawkins, Derek, Cleve R Wootson, and Craig Timberg. “Trump's 'Stand by' Remarks Puts Proud Boys in the Spotlight.” The Washington Post, October 1, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/09/30/proudboys1001/.

[53] Timberg, Craig, and Elizabeth Dwoskin. “Trump’s Debate Comments Give an Online Boost to a Group Social Media Companies Have Long Struggled Against.” The Washington Post, September 30, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/09/30/trump-debate-rightw....

[54] Kishi, Roudabeh, Hampton Stall, and Sam Jones. “The Future of 'Stop the Steal': Post-Election Trajectories for RIGHT-WING Mobilization in the US.” Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), February 11, 2021. https://acleddata.com/2020/12/10/the-future-of-stop-the-steal-post-elect....

[55] Wolfson, Aaron, and Hampton Stall. “Actor Profile: Proud Boys.” ACLED, May 3, 2021. https://acleddata.com/2021/04/22/actor-profile-proud-boys/.

[56] Kaplan, Joshua, and Joaquin Sapien. “New Details Suggest Senior Trump Aides Knew Jan. 6 Rally Could Get Chaotic.” ProPublica, June 25, 2021. https://www.propublica.org/article/new-details-suggest-senior-trump-aide....

[57] Crowley, James. “Videos Show Scuffles Between Proud Boys and Others During 2nd Million MAGA March in D.C.” Newsweek, December 12, 2020. https://www.newsweek.com/proud-boys-december-million-maga-march-attacks-....

[58] Klein, Allison. “Historic D.C. Black Churches Attacked during pro-Trump Rallies Saturday.” The Washington Post, December 13, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/historic-black-church....

[59] “Church, Civil Rights Group Suing Proud Boys Over Theft, Vandalism Of BLM Signs.” NPR, January 5, 2021. https://www.npr.org/local/305/2021/01/05/953574644/church-civil-rights-g....

[60] Zitser, Joshua. “Far-Right Group Proud Boys Claim They Will Attend January 6 DC Rally ‘Incognito’ and Wear All-Black to Blend in with Antifa Protesters.” Business Insider, January 3, 2021. https://www.businessinsider.com.au/proud-boys-attend-january-6-dc-rally-....

[61] Moore, Elena. “D.C. Police Arrest Leader Of The Proud Boys Ahead Of Far-Right Protests.” NPR, January 4, 2021. https://www.npr.org/2021/01/04/953349879/d-c-police-prepare-for-far-righ....

[62] Duggan, Paul, “Proud Boys leader Henry ‘Enrique’ Tarrio sentenced to five months in jail,” The Washington Post, August 23, 2021.  https://www-washingtonpost-com.stanford.idm.oclc.org/legal-issues/tarrio-proud-boy-jail-sentence/2021/08/23/df06b84a-041b-11ec-a266-7c7fe02fa374_story.html.  Accessed December 12, 2021. 

[63] “Prosecutors Says Proud Boys' Plan to Invade Capitol Involved Attacking from Multiple Points.” The Boston Globe, March 2, 2021. https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/03/02/nation/prosecutors-says-proud-boy....

[64] Kriner, Matthew, and Jon Lewis. “Pride & Prejudice: The Violent Evolution of the Proud Boys.” CTC Sentinel 14, no. 6 (2021). https://ctc.usma.edu/pride-prejudice-the-violent-evolution-of-the-proud-....

[65] Broadwater, Luke and Alan Feuer. “House Panel Investigating Capitol Attack Subpoenas Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.” The New York Times, November 23, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/23/us/politics/jan-6-proud-boys-oathkeepers.html

[66] “Capitol Hill Siege.” Program on Extremism. George Washington University. Accessed August 20, 2021. https://extremism.gwu.edu/Capitol-Hill-Cases.

[67] Lukpat, Alyssa. “Proud Boys Member Pleads Guilty and Will Cooperate in Jan. 6 Riot Inquiry.” The New York Times, December 22, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/22/us/capitol-riot-matthew-greene-guilty.html

[68] Austen, Ian. “Canada Formally Declares Proud Boys a Terrorist Group.” The New York Times, February 4, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/03/world/canada/canada-proud-boys-terror....

[69] Lamoureux, Mack. “At Least One Canadian Proud Boys Chapter Has Shut Down Following Terror Designation.” Vice News, February 17, 2021. https://www.vice.com/en/article/pkd89b/at-least-one-canadian-proud-boys-....

[70] Roston, Aram. “Proud Boys Leader Was ‘Prolific’ Informer for Law Enforcement.” Reuters, January 27, 2021. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-proudboys-leader-exclusive/exclus....

[71] Carless, Will. “Proud Boys Splintering after Capitol Riot, Revelations about Leader. Will More Radical Factions Emerge?” USA Today, February 12, 2021. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/02/12/proud-boys-splinte....

[72] Makuch, Ben. “Neo-Nazi Group The Base Is Recruiting Again, Despite FBI Takedown.” Vice News, May 20, 2021. https://www.vice.com/en/article/wx5n8x/neo-nazi-group-the-base-is-recruiting-again-despite-fbi-takedown.; Kriner, Matthew, and Jon Lewis. “Pride & Prejudice: The Violent Evolution of the Proud Boys.” CTC Sentinel 14, no. 6 (2021). https://ctc.usma.edu/pride-prejudice-the-violent-evolution-of-the-proud-....

[73] Lang, Marissa. “As Fractures Emerge among Proud Boys, Experts Warn of a Shift toward Extremist Violence.” The Washington Post, February 26, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/proud-boys/2021/02/25/fabdea30-73ad....

[74] Wolfson, Aaron, and Hampton Stall. “Actor Profile: Proud Boys.” ACLED, May 3, 2021. https://acleddata.com/2021/04/22/actor-profile-proud-boys/.

[75] Murdock, Sebastian. “Proud Boys Leader Charged In Capitol Attack Feels Betrayed By Trump: ‘You Left Us.’” Huffington Post, May 14, 2021. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/proud-boys-member-charged-in-capitol-atta....

[76] Newhouse, Alex, Adel Arlett, and Leela McClintock. “Proud Boys Amplify Anti-Vax and Coronavirus Disinformation Following Support for Anti-Quarantine Protests.” Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism. Smith College, May 1, 2020. https://www.middlebury.edu/institute/sites/www.middlebury.edu.institute/....

[77] Owens, Tess. “All the Terrible Things Proud Boys Have Done Since Storming the Capitol.” Vice News, June 23, 2021. https://www.vice.com/en/article/pkb377/all-the-terrible-things-proud-boy....

[78] Edinger, Marie. “City Officials Urge Fresnans to Keep Protests Peaceful.” Fox 26 News, April 14, 2021. https://kmph.com/news/local/city-officials-urging-fresnans-to-keep-prote....

[79] Dowling, Jennifer. “Proud Boys, Antifa in ‘Medieval Clashes’ in Oregon City Riot.” KOIN 6 News, June 18, 2021. https://www.koin.com/news/protests/oregon-city-protests-declared-riot-06....

[80] Frenkel, Sheera. “Proud Boys Regroup, Focusing on School Boards and Town Councils.” The New York Times, December 14, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/14/us/proud-boys-local-issues.html

Organizational Structure

Leadership, Name Changes, Size Estimates, Resources, Geographic Locations
Leadership
  • Leadership
  • Name Changes
  • Size Estimates
  • Resources
  • Geographic Locations

Leadership

The Proud Boys is a decentralized organization with semi-autonomous chapters in several U.S. states. Its national leadership council, known as the Elders Chapter or Elders Council, was established in November 2018 after Proud Boys founder and leader Gavin McInnes dissociated himself from the group. [1] According to the new group bylaws issued in November 2018, the Elders Chapter was to be composed of eight Proud Boys members elected to one-year terms. These Elders Chapter members also retain their membership in their local Proud Boys chapter. A ninth member would be elected by the Elders to serve as the Proud Boys Chairman. [2]

The Elders Chapter serves as “the administrative, executive, and judicial head of the Fraternity,” though it holds no special authority over local chapters. The November 2018 bylaws make clear that “each chapter of this fraternity is independent and autonomous from every other chapter of this fraternity.” The Elders Chapter does not have the power to set the bylaws for any local chapter. Each chapter must have a President “for the purpose of receiving communications from the Elders Chapter concerning matters important to the fraternity.”[3]

  1. Gavin McInnes (September 15, 2016-November 21, 2018): McInnes founded the Proud Boys in 2016 and served as the group’s president until November 2018.[4] Born in England and raised in Canada, he relocated to New York after co-founding the Montreal-based Vice Magazine in 1994. After McInnes left Vice in 2008, he released independent content including books, a talk show with Compound Media, and articles for various right-wing media groups such as VDARE and Taki’s Magazine, where he later announced the formation of the Proud Boys.[5] As leader of the Proud Boys, McInnes focused on the group’s image. He consistently condemned white supremacy and disputed ties to white nationalism. McInnes also instructed Proud Boys members to refrain from attending controversial events such as the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.[6] However, McInnes openly identifies as Islamophobic and misogynistic and did not prevent Proud Boys members from instigating white nationalist and accelerationist operations.[7] In November 2018, McInnes left the Proud Boys, citing legal pressure over the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate group designation and reports of an FBI extremist designation.[8]
  2. Jason Lee Van Dyke (unknown-May 2020): Van Dyke served as the Proud Boys primary legal counsel and the sergeant-at-arms of the Dallas/Fort Worth Proud Boys chapter in the group’s early years. In August 2017, Van Dyke filed an application to trademark the name “Proud Boys,” subsequently registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office in May 2018.[9] Van Dyke reportedly held the position of leader of the Proud Boys for two days when Gavin McInnes stepped down on November 21, 2018. Van Dyke was elected as the group’s new leader by members of the Proud Boys leadership council, known as the Elders Chapter. However, Van Dyke was soon removed after only serving two days as chairman after he failed to redact the Elders’ names when he published the group’s new bylaws online.[10] The Proud Boys website announced that Van Dyke left the group on November 29, 2018, although Van Dyke remains the owner of trademark and only confirmed that he is no longer affiliated in May 2020.[11]
  3. Enrique Tarrio (November 29, 2018-present): Tarrio joined Proud Boys in 2017 after meeting the co-president of the Miami chapter, Alex Gonzalez, at a far-right speaking event. Like McInnes, Tarrio denies that the Proud Boys have ties to white supremacy and extremism and claims to personally reject anti-Semitism and misogyny. However, Tarrio is openly transphobic, actively supports violence against the far-left, and has not tempered white nationalist operations and rhetoric within the group.[12]  Tarrio also owns and operates a T-shirt business, which he often uses to print attire with far-right and Proud Boys slogans.[13] He is also the Florida state director for the national grassroots organization Latinos for Trump.[14] Tarrio was sentenced to five months in jail in August 2021 in connection with the December 2020 attack on Asbury United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C.[15] 
 

[1] McPhate, Christian. “Humbled Proud Boy: Attorney Jason Lee Van Dyke Claims an Internet ‘Stalker’ Is Ruining His Life.” Dallas Observer, April 17, 2019. https://www.dallasobserver.com/news/former-proud-boy-lawyer-jason-van-dyke-says-an-internet-stalker-is-destroying-his-career-11641420

[2] Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church v. Proud Boys International, L.L.C.; Enrique Tarrio; and John Does 1-8. Complaint filed with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, January 4, 2021. See Exhibit 1 for Proud Boys bylaws. https://lawyerscommittee.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Complaint-Final-signed.pdf

[3] Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church v. Proud Boys International, L.L.C.; Enrique Tarrio; and John Does 1-8. Complaint filed with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, January 4, 2021. See Exhibit 1 for Proud Boys bylaws. https://lawyerscommittee.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Complaint-Final-signed.pdf

[4] Kennedy, Merrit. “Proud Boys Founder Files Defamation Lawsuit Against Southern Poverty Law Center.” NPR, February 5, 2019. https://www.npr.org/2019/02/05/691643824/proud-boys-founder-files-defama....

[5] Feuer, Alan. “Proud Boys Founder: How He Went from Brooklyn Hipster to Far-Right Provocateur.” The New York Times, October 16, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/16/nyregion/proud-boys-gavin-mcinnes.html.

[6] “Proud Boys.” Southern Poverty Law Center. Accessed January 15, 2021. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/proud-boys.

[7] Feuer, Alan. “Proud Boys Founder: How He Went from Brooklyn Hipster to Far-Right Provocateur.” The New York Times, October 16, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/16/nyregion/proud-boys-gavin-mcinnes.html.

[8] Wilson, Jason. “Proud Boys Founder Gavin McInnes Quits 'Extremist' Far-Right Group.” The Guardian, November 22, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/22/proud-boys-founder-gavin-m.... ; Kennedy, Merrit. “Proud Boys Founder Files Defamation Lawsuit Against Southern Poverty Law Center.” NPR, February 5, 2019. https://www.npr.org/2019/02/05/691643824/proud-boys-founder-files-defama....

[9] “Proud Boys – far-right group’s trademark could face cancellation, legal experts claim.” World Trademark Review, January 8, 2021. https://www.worldtrademarkreview.com/brand-management/proud-boystm-far-r....

[10] McPhate, Christian. “Humbled Proud Boy: Attorney Jason Lee Van Dyke Claims an Internet ‘Stalker’ Is Ruining His Life.” Dallas Observer, April 17, 2019. https://www.dallasobserver.com/news/former-proud-boy-lawyer-jason-van-dyke-says-an-internet-stalker-is-destroying-his-career-11641420

[11] Wilson, Jason. “Gavin McInnes: Founder of far-right Proud Boys denied Australian visa – report.” The Guardian, November 30, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/30/gavin-mcinnes-proud-boys-australia-visa.; “Proud Boys – far-right group’s trademark could face cancellation, legal experts claim.” World Trademark Review, January 8, 2021. https://www.worldtrademarkreview.com/brand-management/proud-boystm-far-r....

[12] O’Connor, Meg. “Hate Goes Mainstream With the Miami Proud Boys.” Miami New Times, December 10, 2018. https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/inside-miami-alt-right-and-proud-boys....

[13] MacFarquhar, Neil, Alan Feuer, Mike Baker, and Sheera Frenkel. “Far-Right Group That Trades in Political Violence Gets a Boost.” The New York Times, September 30, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/30/us/proud-boys-trump.html.

[14] Karni, Annie. “The Florida director of a pro-Trump Latino group is the chairman of the Proud Boys.” The New York Times, October 2, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/02/us/elections/the-florida-director-of-....

[15] Wolfe, Jan. “Proud Boys Leader Tarrio Sentenced to Five Months in Jail by D.C. Judge.” Reuters, August 23, 2021. https://www.reuters.com/world/us/proud-boys-leader-tarrio-sentenced-five....

Name Changes

There are no recorded name changes for this group.

Size Estimates

The Proud Boys have a large online following and a smaller core group of members who instigate operations and attend events in person. Estimates of the number of core members range from a few hundred to 6,000, although Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio alleged that 8,000 is a closer estimate.[1] At the end of 2017, official Proud Boys Facebook and Twitter pages each had over 20,000 followers.[2] In more recent years, the extent of the group’s online following became less clear since Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube banned the group in 2018.[3]  Although exact numbers are difficult to estimate, Proud Boys appeared to enter a growth period after January 6. 

  • 2017: 6,000 (core) (Southern Poverty Law Center)[4]
  • 2017: 40,000 (online) (Rewire News Group)[5]
  • 2020: 3,000 (core) (International Centre for Counter-Terrorism Brief)[6]
 

[1] Kutner, Samantha. “Swiping Right: The Allure of Hyper Masculinity and Cryptofascism for Men Who Join the Proud Boys.” International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague, May 2020. https://icct.nl/app/uploads/2020/05/Swiping-Right-The-Allure-of-Hyper-Ma... .; “Proud Boys.” Southern Poverty Law Center. Accessed January 15, 2021. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/proud-boys; Coutts, Sharona. “How Hate Goes ‘Mainstream’: Gavin McInnes and the Proud Boys.” Rewire News Group, August 28, 2017. https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2017/08/28/hate-goes-mainstream-gavi... “Proud Boys.” Anti-defamation League. Accessed January 15, 2021. https://www.adl.org/proudboys

[2] “Proud Boys.” Southern Poverty Law Center. Accessed January 15, 2021. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/proud-boys

[3] Wendling, Mike. “US Election 2020: Who are the Proud Boys – and who are antifa?” BBC, September 30, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2020-54352635.; The Associated Press. “Far-right group Proud Boys banned from Facebook, Instagram.” Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, October 31, 2018. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/proud-boys-facebook-instagram-1.4886514.

[4] “Proud Boys.” Southern Poverty Law Center. Accessed January 15, 2021. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/proud-boys

[5] Coutts, Sharona. “How Hate Goes ‘Mainstream’: Gavin McInnes and the Proud Boys.” Rewire News Group, August 28, 2017. https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2017/08/28/hate-goes-mainstream-gavi....

[6] Kutner, Samantha. “Swiping Right: The Allure of Hyper Masculinity and Cryptofascism for Men Who Join the Proud Boys.” International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague, May 2020. https://icct.nl/app/uploads/2020/05/Swiping-Right-The-Allure-of-Hyper-Ma... .

Resources

The Proud Boys is a participation-based organization, and its activities and operations require little capital.  Members mostly appear to be self-financed and come from a variety of financial backgrounds. The current chairman Enrique Tarrio, for example, owns a T-shirt business, a security equipment installation firm, and a company that provides GPS tracking.[1] In contrast, Rob Cantrall, the head of the Proud Boys Portland chapter, relies on government welfare programs.[2]

Proud Boys has also used crowdfunding to bankroll larger events or pay legal fees. In March 2017, the Proud Boys raised over $87,000 on WeSearchr to cover bail and legal fees for Kyle Chapman, who was arrested for assaulting a teenage counter-protestor at a pro-Trump rally in Berkeley, California. Chapman partnered with the Proud Boys soon after as the head of the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights subgroup.[3] In fall 2020, Proud Boys member Keith Lee allegedly raised tens of thousands of dollars online to organize multiple pro-Trump caravans, including one that attempted to run a Biden campaign bus off the road in Texas.[4]

The Proud Boys also helped raise at least $181,700 on the site Wild Protest to fund nationwide travel to storm the U.S. capitol on January 6, 2021.[5] Proud Boys used GiveSendGo, the Christian equivalent of GoFundMe, to raise money for the legal fees of Enrique Tarrio, who was arrested for burning a Black Lives Matter flag taken from a historic Black church in Washington, D.C. Tarrio’s GiveSendGo raised more than $100,000, with other accounts raising more than $247,000 for costs and legal fees connected to the January 6 assault.[6] PayPal later ceased working with GiveSendGo because of its ties to the Proud Boys.[7] The future fundraising ability of the group is unclear, due to both increased scrutiny from financial companies and Canada’s designation of the Proud Boys as a terrorist organization, which heavily criminalizes supporting the group through financial or any other means in Canada.[8]

 

[1] O’Connor, Meg. “Hate Goes Mainstream With the Miami Proud Boys.” Miami New Times, December 10, 2018. https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/inside-miami-alt-right-and-proud-boys....

[2] Wendling, Mike. “Proud Boys and antifa: When a right-wing activist met a left-wing anti-fascist.” BBC, March 8, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-47332054.

[3] Feuer, Alan and Jeremy W. Peters. “Fringe Groups Revel as Protests Turn Violent.” The New York Times, June 2, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/02/us/politics/white-nationalists-alt-knights-protests-colleges.html.; “Fraternal Order of Alt Knights (FOAK).” Southern Poverty Law Center. Accessed January 17, 2021. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/fraternal-....

[4] Gorman, Steve. “FBI probing Trump caravan confrontation with Biden campaign bus in Texas.” Reuters, November 1, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-texas-bus/fbi-probing-tr... Kirkpatrick, David, Mike McIntire and Christiaan Triebert. “Before the Capitol Riot, Calls for Cash and Talk of Revolution.” The New York Times, January 16, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/16/us/capitol-riot-funding.html.

[5] Kirkpatrick, David, Mike McIntire and Christiaan Triebert. “Before the Capitol Riot, Calls for Cash and Talk of Revolution.” The New York Times, January 16, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/16/us/capitol-riot-funding.html.

[6] Brittain, Amy, and David Willman. “‘A Place to Fund Hope’: How Proud Boys and Other Fringe Groups Found Refuge on a Christian Fundraising Website.” The Washington Post, January 19, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/a-place-to-fund-hope-how-p....

[7] Steinhauer, Jennifer, Katie Benner, Eric Schmitt, and Helene Cooper. “Leader of the Proud Boys, a Far-Right Group, Is Arrested as D.C. Braces for Protests.” The New York Times, January 4, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/04/us/politics/enrique-tarrio-proud-boys... Kirkpatrick, David, Mike McIntire and Christiaan Triebert. “Before the Capitol Riot, Calls for Cash and Talk of Revolution.” The New York Times, January 16, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/16/us/capitol-riot-funding.html.; Dias, Elizabeth and Ruth Graham. “How White Evangelical Christians Fused With Trump Extremism.” The New York Times, January 11, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/11/us/how-white-evangelical-christians-f....

[8] Martin, Michel, and Ben Makuch. “Canada Labels Proud Boys A Terrorist Group. What Are The Consequences?” NPR, February 6, 2021. https://www.npr.org/2021/02/06/964893549/canada-labels-proud-boys-a-terr....

Geographic Locations

Disclaimer: This is a partial list of where the militant organization has bases and where it operates. This does not include information on where the group conducts major attacks or has external influences.

Proud Boys is headquartered in New York City and is most active in the United States and Canada, although the group reports that it has chapters in over forty countries, including Australia.[1] The largest U.S. chapters are in California, and the group also has chapters in many major cities across the country including Portland, Philadelphia, and Miami.[2]  According to the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, the most active Proud Boys chapters are in the Pacific Northwest, Miami, and New York. Specifically, these chapters “have been the most actively involved in street fighting (particularly in Portland, Oregon) and getting involved in political activism.”[3]

Chapters in Indiana, Alabama, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Las Vegas apparently disaffiliated from the organization after January 2021.  The Proud Boys Canadian chapter dissolved in May 2021 as a result of the Canadian government’s terrorist designation.  Before the designation, radical members of the Canadian chapter split off as Canada First in 2020. [4] Canada First has posted neo-Nazi content and has advocated the use of violence against anyone who is not White.[5]  The mainstream Proud Boys Canada chapter reportedly attempted to distance itself from Canada First, and some members blamed Canada First for the Proud Boys’ terrorist designation by the Canadian government.[6]

 

[1] “IntelBrief: The Proud Boys Viral Moment – Will it Devolve Into a Virulent Threat?” The Soufan Center, October 6, 2020. https://thesoufancenter.org/intelbrief-the-proud-boys-viral-moment-will-....

[2] Coutts, Sharona. “How Hate Goes ‘Mainstream’: Gavin McInnes and the Proud Boys.” Rewire News Group, August 28, 2017. https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2017/08/28/hate-goes-mainstream-gavi....

[3] Kriner, Matthew, and Jon Lewis. “Pride & Prejudice: The Violent Evolution of the Proud Boys.” CTC Sentinel 14, 6 (2021). https://ctc.usma.edu/pride-prejudice-the-violent-evolution-of-the-proud-boys/.  Accessed December 11, 2021. 

[4] Ling, Justin. “Canada Says the Proud Boys Are a Terrorist Group.” Foreign Policy, February 3, 2021. https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/02/03/canada-proud-boys-terrorist-group/; Paling, Emma. “Proud Boys Canada may have disbanded 'in name only,' researchers warn.” CBC News, May 2, 2021. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/proud-boys-canada-dissolves-1.6011282

[5] “Let’s Talk About if Canada’s Proud Boys are Terrorists.” Canadian Anti-Hate Network, January 11, 2021. https://www.antihate.ca/canada_proud_boys_designated_terrorists; Smith, Peter. “One Group of Former Proud Boys has Devolved into Neo-Nazi Accelerationists.” Canadian Anti-Hate Network, May 4, 2021. https://www.antihate.ca/former_proud_boys_devolved_neo_nazi_acceleration...

[6] Smith, Peter. “One Group of Former Proud Boys has Devolved into Neo-Nazi Accelerationists.” Canadian Anti-Hate Network, May 4, 2021. https://www.antihate.ca/former_proud_boys_devolved_neo_nazi_accelerationists; Lamoureux, Mack. “At Least One Canadian Proud Boys Chapter Has Shut Down Following Terror Designation.” Vice, February 17, 2021. https://www.vice.com/en/article/pkd89b/at-least-one-canadian-proud-boys-chapter-has-shut-down-following-terror-designation

Strategy

Ideology, Aims, Political Activities, Targets and Tactics
Ideology and Goals
  • Ideology and Goals
  • Political Activities
  • Targets and Tactics

Ideology and Goals

The Proud Boys has an official ideology, but its members hold a variety of beliefs. The group’s official ideology includes an oath of allegiance to western culture and stresses elevating masculinity, opposing Islam, and defending its community from a perceived “war on whites.”[1] Some Proud Boys goals include ending welfare, closing borders, and promoting traditional gender roles.[2]

Public statements from leaders have often contradicted members’ actions and the group’s online propaganda. For example, Proud Boys member Jason Kessler organized the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, an explicitly white nationalist event that was attended by many Proud Boys members. However, McInnes denied that the Proud Boys is a white nationalist group, and current Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio has taken the same position.[3]

Proud Boys public relations tactics focus on minimizing an extremist image through denial and dismissal. Online, the group pushes its ideology through memes and satire. When challenged, the group typically defends its rhetoric by downplaying it as a joke.[4] In response to accusations of white nationalism or instigating violence, the Proud Boys often rely on outright denial. For example, after the Proud Boys attended events alongside openly white nationalist groups, founder Gavin McInnes stated that he had no idea who the other groups were or what they stood for.[5]

The Proud Boys patterns its recruitment tactics after fraternal organizations and drinking clubs.[6] Becoming a member involves hazing, initiation rituals, and taking an oath that the member is “a Western chauvinist and refuses to apologize for creating the modern world.”[7] Different degrees of membership signify higher levels of commitment, and degrees are reached by completing requirements such as getting a Proud Boys tattoo or assaulting an antifa member. The Proud Boys also identify themselves by wearing black and yellow Fred Perry shirts to protests and political events.[8]  Following January 6, however, Proud Boys members celebrated their decision to “forego colors” at the Capitol in an attempt to anonymize themselves during the attack: Proud Boys leader Charles Donohue concluded, “We should never wear colors ever again for any event.”[9]

 

[1] Feuer, Alan and Jeremy W. Peters. “Fringe Groups Revel as Protests Turn Violent.” The New York Times, June 2, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/02/us/politics/white-nationalists-alt-knights-protests-colleges.html.

[2] Rosenberg, Eli. “FBI considers Proud Boys extremists with white-nationalist ties, law enforcement officials say.” The Washington Post, November 20, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2018/11/20/fbi-says-proud-boys-hav....

[3] Feuer, Alan. “Proud Boys Founder: How He Went from Brooklyn Hipster to Far-Right Provocateur.” The New York Times, October 16, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/16/nyregion/proud-boys-gavin-mcinnes.html.; “Proud Boys.” Southern Poverty Law Center. Accessed January 15, 2021. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/proud-boys

[4] Feuer, Alan and Jeremy W. Peters. “Fringe Groups Revel as Protests Turn Violent.” The New York Times, June 2, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/02/us/politics/white-nationalists-alt-knights-protests-colleges.html.

[5] Feuer, Alan and Jeremy W. Peters. “Fringe Groups Revel as Protests Turn Violent.” The New York Times, June 2, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/02/us/politics/white-nationalists-alt-knights-protests-colleges.html.

[6] MacFarquhar, Neil, Alan Feuer, Mike Baker, and Sheera Frenkel. “Far-Right Group That Trades in Political Violence Gets a Boost.” The New York Times, September 30, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/30/us/proud-boys-trump.html.

[7] MacFarquhar, Neil, Alan Feuer, Mike Baker, and Sheera Frenkel. “Far-Right Group That Trades in Political Violence Gets a Boost.” The New York Times, September 30, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/30/us/proud-boys-trump.html.; Wendling, Mike. “Proud Boys and antifa: When a right-wing activist met a left-wing anti-fascist.” BBC, March 8, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-47332054.

[8] Wendling, Mike. “Proud Boys and antifa: When a right-wing activist met a left-wing anti-fascist.” BBC, March 8, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-47332054.

[9] Kriner, Matthew, and Jon Lewis. “Pride & Prejudice: The Violent Evolution of the Proud Boys.” CTC Sentinel 14, no. 6 (2021). https://ctc.usma.edu/pride-prejudice-the-violent-evolution-of-the-proud-....

Political Activities

The larger Proud Boys chapters participate in monthly meetups. The group’s founder, Gavin McInnes, described these as social events where men gather to drink, share jokes, and talk about their families and lives. Women are not allowed to attend, but the Proud Boys’ Girls, a subgroup comprised of members’ spouses, may join for “warm-up sessions” before meetings.[1] These meetings may include initiations for new members, fights, and reading aloud from The Death of the West.[2]

The Proud Boys’ public political activities have included acting as “bodyguards” for ultraconservative speakers, such as Ann Coulter or Milo Yiannopoulos, who are said to be threatened by left-wing and antifa protestors.[3] In addition, several Proud Boys members have attempted to run for local and national office, sometimes successfully. For example, Morgan Bolles of Fennville, Michigan, became city commissioner in late 2019 after being involved in a Proud Boys rally in Lansing, Michigan, in September 2019.[4] In 2020, current Proud Boys president Enrique Tarrio tried to run in the Republican primary for a congressional seat in Florida but dropped out due to limited financial support.[5]

After January 6, Enrique Tarrio stated that Proud Boys would “start getting more involved in local politics.” Former Proud Boys member Joel Campbell ran for City Council in Topeka, Kansas; he was defeated. Campbell was a third-degree Proud Boys member, meaning he has a tattoo of the group’s logo.[6]  Members of the group have also been present at school board and town council meetings in several states, including Wisconsin, Illinois, and North Carolina. The shift from national to local politics is seen by some researchers to be part of a larger strategy to attract new members by championing local causes, such as challenging coronavirus restrictions and mask mandates.[7] Experts also interpret this turn toward local politics as a reaction to increased media and law enforcement scrutiny and perceived “marginalization” of the group at the national level.[8]

 

[1] Feuer, Alan. “Proud Boys Founder: How He Went from Brooklyn Hipster to Far-Right Provocateur.” The New York Times, October 16, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/16/nyregion/proud-boys-gavin-mcinnes.html.

[2] Wendling, Mike. “Proud Boys and antifa: When a right-wing activist met a left-wing anti-fascist.” BBC, March 8, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-47332054.

[3] MacFarquhar, Neil, Alan Feuer, Mike Baker, and Sheera Frenkel. “Far-Right Group That Trades in Political Violence Gets a Boost.” The New York Times, September 30, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/30/us/proud-boys-trump.html.

[4] Muyskens, Carolyn. “Controversial Fennville City Commissioner Leaves City, Resigns; 2 Open Commission Seats.” Holland Sentinel, May 8, 2021. https://www.hollandsentinel.com/story/news/politics/government/2021/05/0....

[5] MacFarquhar, Neil, Alan Feuer, Mike Baker, and Sheera Frenkel. “Far-Right Group That Trades in Political Violence Gets a Boost.” The New York Times, September 30, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/30/us/proud-boys-trump.html.

[6] Mesa, Blaise. “Joel Campbell Used to Be a Proud Boy Member. Now, He's Running for Topeka City Council.” The Topeka-Capital Journal, March 12, 2021. https://www.cjonline.com/story/news/politics/elections/local/2021/03/12/....

[7] Frenkel, Sheera. “Proud Boys Regroup, Focusing on School Boards and Town Councils.” The New York Times, December 14, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/14/us/proud-boys-local-issues.html

[8] Mak, Tim. “Some Proud Boys Are Moving To Local Politics As Scrutiny Of Far-Right Group Ramps Up.” NPR, All Things Considered, June 28, 2021. https://www.npr.org/2021/06/28/1010328631/some-proud-boys-are-moving-to-....

Targets and Tactics

Most Proud Boys violence has consisted of street fights and brawling at protests, but individual Proud Boys members have also committed hate crimes. The main targets of the Proud Boys are left wing counter-protestors, especially antifa members.[1] The group claims to oppose violence but also asserts, “we don’t start fights, we finish them.” Assaulting antifa members is also an initiation requirement for group members.[2] Videos of violent attacks have been distributed as propaganda and recruitment tools. 

Proud Boys members have been associated with physical violence since the formation of the group in 2016. [3] For example, in July 2016, Joseph Biggs attacked a protester at the Republican Convention in Cleveland.  A Proud Boys member helped organize the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 and was later found liable for injuries sustained by counter-protesters at the event.[4] In June 2018, Ethan Nordean exchanged blows with a counter-protester in Portland, Oregon. Nordean punched the counter-protester unconscious, though he claimed self-defense and was not arrested.  However, two other Proud Boys were arrested for violence during clashes with Portland counter-protestors.[5]  In October 2018, Proud Boys members engaged in brawls at a rally in Providence, Rhode Island.[6]

There are many other instances where Proud Boys members utilized violence. For more information about the Proud Boys’ violent activities, see the Major Attacks section of this profile.

 

[1] Feuer, Alan. “Proud Boys Founder: How He Went from Brooklyn Hipster to Far-Right Provocateur.” The New York Times, October 16, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/16/nyregion/proud-boys-gavin-mcinnes.html.; Crawford, Blair. “Ottawa man skips arraignment in U.S. for assault, hate crimes.” Canoe.com, May 1, 2018. https://canoe.com/news/local-news/warrant-issued-after-ottawa-man-skips-....

[2] Feuer, Alan. “Proud Boys Founder: How He Went from Brooklyn Hipster to Far-Right Provocateur.” The New York Times, October 16, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/16/nyregion/proud-boys-gavin-mcinnes.html.; “IntelBrief: The Proud Boys Viral Moment – Will it Devolve Into a Virulent Threat?” The Soufan Center, October 6, 2020. https://thesoufancenter.org/intelbrief-the-proud-boys-viral-moment-will-....

[3] Kirkpatrick, David D., and Alan Feuer. “Police Shrugged Off the Proud Boys, Until They Attacked the Capitol.” The New York Times, March 14, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/14/us/proud-boys-law-enforcement.html

[4] MacFarquhar, Neil, “Jury Finds Rally Organizers Responsible for Charlottesville Violence,” The New York Times, November 23, 2021.  https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/23/us/charlottesville-rally-verdict.html. Accessed December 12, 2021. 

[5] Kirkpatrick, David D., and Alan Feuer. “Police Shrugged Off the Proud Boys, Until They Attacked the Capitol.” The New York Times, March 14, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/14/us/proud-boys-law-enforcement.html

[6] Sisson, Carl, and Eric Halperin. “Fights break out at rally held outside the State House.” WPRI, October 6, 2018. https://www.wpri.com/news/fights-break-out-at-rally-held-outside-the-state-house/

cardinal red photo

Major Attacks

Disclaimer: These are some selected major attacks in the militant organization's history. It is not a comprehensive listing but captures some of the most famous attacks or turning points during the campaign.

October 12, 2018: Proud Boys founder McInnes gave a speech on October 12, 2018, at the Metropolitan Republican Club in New York City, reportedly attended by members of a local neo-Nazi skinhead group, the 211 Boot Boys. [1] A fight broke out after the event between the Proud Boys and counter-protestors, resulting in the arrests of 10 Proud Boys members on charges including attempted assault, gang assault, and riot. Convictions and prison sentences followed. 

August 15 and 22, 2020:  The Proud Boys engaged in near-daily violent demonstrations in Portland during summer 2020, leading the state’s governor to declare a state of emergency in September.[2] On August 15 and August 22, Proud Boys member Alan Swinney violently attacked people in Portland protesting the murder of George Floyd. He used a paintball gun to shoot protestors, causing serious injury in one instance. Swinney also used bear mace and aimed a loaded handgun at a crowd. Swinney was found guilty of assault and unlawful use of a weapon with a firearm in an October 2021 trial. In December 2021, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.[3]

December 12, 2020: Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio vandalized a Black Lives Matter Banner at the United Asbury Methodist Church during a protest in Washington, DC in December 2021. Tarrio was arrested in January 2021 before the riot at the U.S. Capitol. At the time of his arrest, Tarrio was found to be in possession of high-capacity firearm magazines.[4] In August 2021, he was sentenced to five months in prison after pleading guilty.[5]

January 6, 2021: More than 60 Proud Boys were reportedly members of an encrypted messaging channel, known as “Boots on the Ground,” to communicate before and during the attack on the U.S. Capitol in January 2021.[6] Although the federal investigation into the event was ongoing as of January 2022, more than 30 Proud Boys members had been indicted on charges connected with the assault.[7] Those charged included a member of the Proud Boys Elders Chapter and local Proud Boys chapter presidents.[8] One Proud Boys member has publicly pled guilty to charges and promised to cooperate with government investigators.[9]

 

[1] Feuer, Alan. “Proud Boys Founder: How He Went from Brooklyn Hipster to Far-Right Provocateur.” The New York Times, October 16, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/16/nyregion/proud-boys-gavin-mcinnes.html.

[2] Hay, Andrew. “Oregon Governor 'Incredibly Worried' about Violence at Proud Boys Rally.” Rueters, September 25, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-global-race-protests-portland/oregon-....

[3] Levenson, Micheal. “Self-Proclaimed Proud Boys Member Gets 10 Years for Violence at Portland Protests.” The New York Times, December 10, 201. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/10/us/proud-boys-alan-swinney-sentenced.html

[4] Moore, Elena. “D.C. Police Arrest Leader Of The Proud Boys Ahead Of Far-Right Protests.” NPR, January 4, 2021. https://www.npr.org/2021/01/04/953349879/d-c-police-prepare-for-far-righ....

[5] Duggan, Paul, “Proud Boys leader Henry ‘Enrique’ Tarrio sentenced to five months in jail,” The Washington Post, August 23, 2021.  https://www-washingtonpost-com.stanford.idm.oclc.org/legal-issues/tarrio-proud-boy-jail-sentence/2021/08/23/df06b84a-041b-11ec-a266-7c7fe02fa374_story.html.   Accessed December 12, 2021. 

[6] Beckett, Lois. “Capitol attack: more than 60 Proud Boys used encrypted channel to plan, indictment says.” The Guardian, March 20, 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/mar/20/four-proud-boys-leaders-indicted-capitol-riot-donald-trump

[7] “Capitol Hill Siege.” Program on Extremism. George Washington University. Accessed August 20, 2021. https://extremism.gwu.edu/Capitol-Hill-Cases.

[8] “Proud Boys members must face January 6 charges, US judge rules.” Al Jazeera, December 28, 2021.  https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/12/28/proud-boys-members-must-face-january-6-charges-us-judge-rules

[9] Lukpat, Alyssa. “Proud Boys Member Pleads Guilty and Will Cooperate in Jan. 6 Riot Inquiry.” The New York Times, December 22, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/22/us/capitol-riot-matthew-greene-guilty.html

Interactions

Foreign Designations and Listings, Community Relations, Relations with Other Groups, State Sponsors and External Influences
Designated/Listed
  • Designated/Listed
  • Community Relations
  • Relationships with Other Groups
  • State Sponsors and External Influences

Designated/Listed

  • Canada: In February 2021, Canada added Proud Boys to its terror entity list.[1]
 

[1] Austen, Ian. “Canada Formally Declares Proud Boys a Terrorist Group.” The New York Times, February 4, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/03/world/canada/canada-proud-boys-terror....

Community Relations

The Proud Boys attracts members from a range of communities and backgrounds. The majority appear to be white, although a significant number in early social media groups had Latino surnames. The group’s online following seems to include individuals with criminal records as well as those with military or law enforcement backgrounds.[1] The Proud Boys primarily recruits white males aged 15-30 and targets those with gender-based grievances or who are suffering from “precarity” or social exclusion.[2] This can include a sense of threatened masculinity or status envy, blaming immigrants or women.[3]

The Proud Boys coordinates its activities and widens its reach through social media and online publications. Initially, the Proud Boys relied on mainstream social media to support its online communities, but the group was banned from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube in 2018.[4] Subsequently, the Proud Boys moved to smaller far-right sites including Gab and Minds, where they acquired a small following of 1,000-2,000 adherents. Recently, the group came to rely on the encrypted messaging app Telegram, with an estimated audience of 5,000, as well as the conservative social media site Parler. The Proud Boys’ main Parler account had over 50,000 subscribers before vendors such as Amazon.com Inc. took it offline in January 2021.[5] The vendors stated that Parler violated content-moderation rules because it was used to plan the assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.[6]

In public communications, the Proud Boys engages in intentional provocation as well as careful image management. The group’s national leadership consistently asserts that the group is not and does not have ties to white nationalism, white supremacy, or extremism.[7] In 2019, Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes filed a defamation lawsuit against the Southern Poverty Law Center for labeling the Proud Boys a hate group.[8] Yet, the Proud Boys’ online and physical activities center on deliberately provoking or “triggering” others through violence or offensive rhetoric, clothing, and memes. The group is also known for “cultural hijacking,” including the repurposing of symbols and language from civil rights movements for far-right messaging.[9]

 

[1] Coutts, Sharona. “How Hate Goes ‘Mainstream’: Gavin McInnes and the Proud Boys.” Rewire News Group, August 28, 2017. https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2017/08/28/hate-goes-mainstream-gavi....

[2] Vega, Tanzina and Rob Gunther. “Gavin McInnes and the Proud Boys: Misogyny, Authoritarianism, and the Rise of Multiracial White Supremacy.” Public Radio International: The Takeaway, October 16, 2018. https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/takeaway/segments/gavin-mcinnes-and... Kutner, Samantha. “Swiping Right: The Allure of Hyper Masculinity and Cryptofascism for Men Who Join the Proud Boys.” International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague, May 2020. https://icct.nl/app/uploads/2020/05/Swiping-Right-The-Allure-of-Hyper-Ma....

[3] Kutner, Samantha. “Swiping Right: The Allure of Hyper Masculinity and Cryptofascism for Men Who Join the Proud Boys.” International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague, May 2020. https://icct.nl/app/uploads/2020/05/Swiping-Right-The-Allure-of-Hyper-Masculinity-and-Cryptofascism-for-Men-Who-Join-the-Proud-Boys.pdf

[4] Wendling, Mike. “US Election 2020: Who are the Proud Boys – and who are antifa?” BBC, September 30, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2020-54352635.; The Associated Press. “Far-right group Proud Boys banned from Facebook, Instagram.” Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, October 31, 2018. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/proud-boys-facebook-instagram-1.4886514.

[5] Crawford, Blyth. “The Proud Boys.” International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, October 1, 2020. https://icsr.info/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/ICSR-Insight-The-Proud-Boys... Needleman, Sarah E. “Why Was Parler Shut Down? Here’s Why the Social Network Is Offline.” The Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2021.; Timberg, Craig and Drew Harwell. “Pro-Trump forums erupt with violent threats ahead of Wednesday’s rally against the 2020 election.” The Washington Post, January 5, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/01/05/parler-telegram-vio....

[6] Needleman, Sarah E. “Why Was Parler Shut Down? Here’s Why the Social Network Is Offline.” The Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2021. Accessed January 17, 2021.

[7] O’Connor, Meg. “Hate Goes Mainstream With the Miami Proud Boys.” Miami New Times, December 10, 2018. https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/inside-miami-alt-right-and-proud-boys... “Proud Boys.” Southern Poverty Law Center. Accessed January 15, 2021. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/proud-boys

[8] Kennedy, Merrit. “Proud Boys Founder Files Defamation Lawsuit Against Southern Poverty Law Center.” National Public Radio, February 5, 2019. https://www.npr.org/2019/02/05/691643824/proud-boys-founder-files-defama....

[9] Kutner, Samantha. “Swiping Right: The Allure of Hyper Masculinity and Cryptofascism for Men Who Join the Proud Boys.” International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague, May 2020. https://icct.nl/app/uploads/2020/05/Swiping-Right-The-Allure-of-Hyper-Ma... .

Relationships with Other Groups

Ties to other Right-Wing Extremist Groups

The Proud Boys limits ties to similar groups to obfuscate its connections to extremist and white nationalist ideologies. The Proud Boys does not maintain any public alliances or sustained relations with other far-right organizations. However, it has participated alongside anti-government and white supremacist groups in different events and operations, such as the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. In addition, individual members may be linked to other far-right groups that do not reflect the position of the organization.  Membership in such groups is fluid; individuals move from group to group and can be members of several groups simultaneously. 

Groups that Proud Boys have interacted with include the Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, and Patriot Prayer. Oath Keepers is a far-right anti-government organization comprised primarily of current and former members of the military and law enforcement.[1] Most interactions between the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers have been through mutual participation in grassroots pro-Trump rallies, most recently the assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.[2] Three Percenters is also a far-right, anti-government militia that is anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant. The group has worked alongside the Proud Boys to antagonize and attack far-left counter-protestors.  It was also involved in the January 6 Capitol assault.[3] Patriot Prayer is a far-right group based near Portland, Oregon, that organized pro-Trump rallies in predominantly liberal cities in the 2016-2019 period. Some of these rallies were attended by Proud Boys members.[4]

 

Proud Boys Subgroups and Splinter Groups

Two major subgroups of the Proud Boys include the Proud Boys’ Girls and the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights (FOAK). The Proud Boys’ Girls is the group’s contingent for women that enrolls the spouses and significant others of members. The Proud Boys’ Girls members “warm-up” sessions before monthly meetings.[5] FOAK was the “tactical arm” of the Proud Boys from April 2017 until fall 2020. FOAK is headed by Kyle Chapman, who broke away from the Proud Boys in late 2020 after failing to take over the group and rebrand it as overtly white supremacist.[6]

Widespread splintering followed the January 2021 assault and the release of reports about Tarrio’s past as a law enforcement informant. The more extreme, anti-establishment members of the group were angered, and several chapters across the U.S. – including Proud Boys Alabama, Indiana, and Oklahoma –distanced themselves from the national leadership in February 2021.[7]  Although the Proud Boys Canada organization dissolved itself in May 2021, an offshoot, Canada First, remained active. It advocates neo-Nazi principles, including the violent removal of anyone who is not White.[8]

It is difficult to determine the number of splinters as well as their degree of autonomy from national Proud Boys leadership. The authors of a report published in August 2021 by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point identified more than a dozen splinters or imitator groups in the United States, many of which adopted Proud Boys’ tactics or aesthetics.[9]

 

[1] See the MMP profile as well as “Oath Keepers,” Anti-defamation League. Accessed January 18, 2021. https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounders/oath-keepers; Feuer, Alan. “Proud Boys Founder: How He Went from Brooklyn Hipster to Far-Right Provocateur.” The New York Times, October 16, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/16/nyregion/proud-boys-gavin-mcinnes.html.

[2] Barrett, Devlin and Spencer S. Hsu. “FBI moves on alleged members of extremist groups Oath Keepers, Three Percenters.” The Washington Post, January 18, 2021. https://www.adn.com/nation-world/2021/01/18/fbi-moves-on-alleged-members... Feuer, Alan and Jeremy W. Peters. “Fringe Groups Revel as Protests Turn Violent.” The New York Times, June 2, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/02/us/politics/white-nationalists-alt-knights-protests-colleges.html.

[3] “Three Percenters.” Anti-defamation League. Accessed January 18, 2021. https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounders/three-percenters.; Barrett, Devlin and Spencer S. Hsu. “FBI moves on alleged members of extremist groups Oath Keepers, Three Percenters.” The Washington Post, January 18, 2021. https://www.adn.com/nation-world/2021/01/18/fbi-moves-on-alleged-members....

[4] Levinson, Jonathon. “Patriot Prayer, Proud Boys Continue Violence Even As Legal Consequences Mount.” Oregon Public Broadcasting, November 14, 2019. https://www.opb.org/news/article/patriot-prayer-proud-boys-political-vio... “‘Victory’: Thousands protest far right in San Francisco.” Al Jazeera, August 27, 2017. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/8/27/victory-thousands-protest-far-r....

[5] “Proud Boys.” Southern Poverty Law Center. Accessed January 15, 2021. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/proud-boys.; Feuer, Alan. “Proud Boys Founder: How He Went from Brooklyn Hipster to Far-Right Provocateur.” The New York Times, October 16, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/16/nyregion/proud-boys-gavin-mcinnes.html.

[6] Palmer, Ewan. “Proud Boys Infighting Sees Leading Member Form Breakaway Group to Fight ‘White Genocide’.” Newsweek, November 11, 2020. https://www.newsweek.com/proud-boys-based-stickman-enrique-tarrio-goys-1....

[7] Carless, Will. “Proud Boys Splintering after Capitol Riot, Revelations about Leader. Will More Radical Factions Emerge?” USA Today, February 12, 2021. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/02/12/proud-boys-splinte....

[8] Smith, Peter. “ONE GROUP OF FORMER PROUD BOYS HAS DEVOLVED INTO NEO-NAZI ACCELERATIONISTS.” Canadian Anti-Hate Network, May 4, 2021. https://www.antihate.ca/former_proud_boys_devolved_neo_nazi_acceleration....

[9] Kriner, Matthew, and Jon Lewis. “Pride & Prejudice: The Violent Evolution of the Proud Boys.” CTC Sentinel 14, no. 6 (2021). https://ctc.usma.edu/pride-prejudice-the-violent-evolution-of-the-proud-....

State Sponsors and External Influences

The Proud Boys is not sponsored by foreign state actors, but prominent American right-wing figures and politicians have provided encouragement to the group. In September 2020, the group gained national prominence when then President Donald Trump was asked if he would condemn white supremacy and replied that the Proud Boys should “stand back and stand by.” Although the administration attempted to walk back the remark, Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio’s T-shirt company immediately began printing shirts with the statement. Tarrio later said that neither he nor the group viewed the statement as an endorsement. However, Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes said he believed Trump was expressing his appreciation and saying, “go in and fight [antifa].”[1]  After January 6, 2021, Proud Boys statements indicated growing disillusionment with right-wing politicians. Ethan Nordean accused President Trump of abandoning the group by failing to pardon himself and other Proud Boys members charged in connection with the Capitol assault.”[2]

 

[1] MacFarquhar, Neil, Alan Feuer, Mike Baker, and Sheera Frenkel. “Who are the Proud Boys? Far-right group known for political brawls are in the spotlight after Trump tells them to ‘stand back and stand by.’” The Baltimore Sun, October 1, 2020. https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nation-world/ct-nw-nyt-trump-proud-boy... Levy, Rachael. “Who Are the Proud Boys? The Group Trump Told to ‘Stand Back and Stand By’.” The Wall Street Journal, January 5, 2021. https://www.wsj.com/livecoverage/biden-trump-electoral-college-certifica....

[2] Murdock, Sebastian. “Proud Boys Leader Charged In Capitol Attack Feels Betrayed By Trump: ‘You Left Us.’” Huffington Post, May 14, 2021. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/proud-boys-member-charged-in-capitol-atta....

Maps

The project develops a series of interactive diagrams that “map” relationships among groups and show how those relationships change over time. The user can change map settings to display different features (e.g., leadership changes), adjust the time scale, and trace individual groups.