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Proud Boys are a dangerous 'white supremacist' group say US agencies

Jason Wilson
·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Maranie Staab/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Maranie Staab/Reuters

The far-right Proud Boys group whom Donald Trump told to “stand by” during this week’s presidential debate is seen as a dangerous organization by law enforcement, according to leaked assessments of the organization from federal, state and local agencies.

Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacists during the debate, and his suggestion that the Proud Boys “stand by” during the current 2020 election campaign sent shockwaves through American politics. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the Proud Boys a hate group.

Files from the Blueleaks trove of leaked law enforcement documents reveal warnings that the Proud Boys, who some of the US agencies label as “white supremacists” and “extremists”, and others as a “gang”, show persistent concerns about the group’s menace to minority groups and even police officers, and its dissemination of dangerous conspiracy theories.

Related: White supremacists and militias have infiltrated police across US, report says

Repeated warnings about the Proud Boys, and descriptions of them as a dangerous white supremacist group, were issued by members of the national network of counterterrorist fusion centers. The Colorado Information Analysis Center (CIAC) showed particular, repeated concerns about the group, and their activities in that state.

In a 22-page 2019 document titled Violent Extremism in Colorado: a Reference Guide for Law Enforcement, published by CIAC, the state’s Division of Homeland Security, and the Colorado Department of Public Safety, various incidents of violence involving the Proud Boys are discussed under the heading of White Supremacist Extremism.

On page 15 of the document, the group is discussed in terms of the “threat to Colorado” from white supremacist extremists, and the “concern that white supremacist extremists will continue attacking members of the community who threaten their belief of Caucasian superiority”.

In illustrating this threat, the document reports on local members of Neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, and Charlottesville’s deadly Unite the Right rally, but also offers that “there have been several incidents in Colorado between the Proud Boys and Rocky Mountain Antifa, to include violent clashes at protests”, and “two members of the Proud Boys were convicted of assaulting Antifa members during a 2018 fight in New York”.

Two pages later, the same document incorporates the Proud Boys, along with Atomwaffen, the Soldiers of Odin, and skinhead groups such as the Hammerskins in a list titled White Supremacist Groups with a Presence in Colorado.

Later, CIAC pointed to the group as a source of Covid-19 conspiracy theories. On 10 May this year, in a bulletin on Covid-19 Protest Disinformation Campaigns, CIAC described how “the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, has been active in spreading conspiracy theories regarding Covid-19 on Twitter, Facebook, and Telegram”, suggesting that “a faction of elites are weaponizing the virus, and a vaccine would likely be a tool for population control and mind control”.

The bulletin also warns that “spread of disinformation has the potential to cause civil unrest and mass panic”.

Agencies have defined the Proud Boys as a threat throughout most of their active existence.

As early as August 2018, a brief from another fusion center, the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC), summarizes a report of right-wing groups gathering weapons prior to a rally. The basis for the warning is a July call from a named man to the Berkeley police department, expressing concern about someone who he knew “who is allegedly a member of the right-wing group called Proud Boys” who is “gathering masks, helmets, and guns and would have absolute war with the liberals at an event scheduled to take place in Berkeley on August 5, 2018”.

A much-heralded Say No to Marxism rally was held in the city that day, and saw the Proud Boys and their allies outnumbered by counter-protesters.

Mike Sena, executive director of NCRIC, said told The Guardian that “everyone’s absolutely entitled to their freedom of speech”, but that “violence is a crime”, and that this kind of intelligence was passed to partners when “people mention the possibility of going to an event with weapons”.

In 2019, the Texas-based fusion center, the Austin Regional Intelligence Center, warned in a Special Event Threat Assessment of potential dangers to the Austin Pride Parade.

It identified the Proud Boys as being associated with a “growing backlash against Pride Month [which] has emerged in the form of the Straight Pride movement”, noting that “on 28 June 2019, a Trans Pride parade event in Seattle, Washington was disrupted by the alt-right Proud Boys organization”.

There is also evidence of concern about the group from local agencies, some of whom define the Proud Boys as a gang.

In 2019, a flyer from the Orange county, California, probation department advertised a “One Day Law Enforcement Training” day covering “white gangs”.

In one session of the training day on 19 April, the flyer said, two probation officers would “delve into ideological groups including KKK in Orange county as well as other hate groups/gangs including RAM (Rise Above Movement) Proud Boys, Traditionalist Worker’s Party, Hammerskins, WAR, and cover Antifa and sovereign citizens”.