President Donald Trump caused major controversy Tuesday night at the presidential debate with democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden when he made a remark about the right-wing hate group known as the Proud Boys, telling them to “stand back and stand by” when asked if he would disavow white supremacy.
In response to the president’s dangerous directive, members of the group posted an emblem with what instantly became a slogan on Telegram.
The Proud Boys have gained a reputation over the past few years as a group of violent misogynist, racist, anti-semitic, islamophobic bullies who have been involved in conflicts at a number of social and political events across the country. They are classified by the FBI as an extremist group and many progressive organizations see them as a hate group.
In many places around the country, they have been known for getting into fights with left-leaning demonstrators, particularly members of ANTIFA.
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Here are five things to know about the hate group Trump told to “stand by.”
The Proud Boys were founded in 2016 in New York by VICE media co-founder Gavin McInnes and describe themselves as “western chauvinists” and say they are not connected to the “alt-right,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center website. McInnes reportedly left VICE in 2008 over “creative differences” and reportedly named the group after the song “Proud of Your Boy” from the Disney musical “Aladdin. They claim that western white men are under siege from leftist forces and call themselves a “fraternal group” that has an “anti-political correctness agenda.” McInness is said to have ties to other white supremacist groups, having donated to far right websites like VDare.com and American Rennaissance, which publish writings by racist authors.
In the below video, McInnes makes clear why the Proud Boys are so prone to violence.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has been following the group for a long time and said they purposely provoke violence in many places they have gone. Ahead of another rally in Portland, Oregon, the organization said that the Proud Boys have made the city a focus of their agitation, while bolstering President Trump.
“Groups like the Proud Boys have been emboldened by President Trump’s recent announcement that Portland, NYC, and Seattle will be designated ‘anarchist jurisdictions,’ the SPLC said in a media statement. “What’s also troubling is that their actions have been further encouraged by right-wing media outlets such as Fox News, which has aggressively defended vigilante violence, particularly in their coverage of an Illinois teenager Kyle Rittenhouse who is being charged for killed two people at a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. The Proud Boys, and other groups have defended the teen shooter as a ‘hero.’ “
Members of the violent hate group have appeared alongside other white supremacist groups at protests around the country, most notably the deadly “Unite The RIght” rally in Charlottesville, Va. Heather Heyer, a counterprotester, was struck and killed by a car driven by James Alex Fields. A former Proud Boys member, Jason Kessler was part of organizing the event, which brought militia groups, racist sympathizers, Ku Klux Klan members and other extremists together.
Kessler reportedly disavowed the violence at the Charlottesville rally, but was also on record disparaging Heyer. He later blamed those remarks on taking antidepressant Xanax. McInness later claimed that he kicked Kessler out of the group after the incident.
Last month during a protest against police violence around the country in Portland, Proud Boys members showed up along with armed militia members, bringing paintball guns, rifles and handguns, pepper spray, rocks, and other weapons, The Washington Post reported. Portland police arrested and seized a gun from Skylor Noel Jernigan, 27, a far-right activist, in the incident. That rally followed a smaller right-wing event the prior week in Michigan that ended in gunfire.
The SPLC has done major work identifying their activities in Portland and noted the damage they have the potential to inflict. Over the past weekend, the Proud Boys held a rally in the city that called out to white supremacists and other fringe groups to align with them.
“Saturday’s rally is the latest in a long series of sustained provocations that the Proud Boys have held in Portland,” said SPLC Senior Research Analyst Cassie Miller, in a statement. “Each time, the goal of these events has been the same: to incite violent confrontations with counter-protesters, blame any resulting violence on the left, and press for further repression and retaliation against those they consider their political adversaries.”
The Proud Boys claim to have chapters in the U.K., Norway, Canada and Australia, according to Quartz.com. On their website, they also say they have a presence in places as far as Israel, China and Japan. In Britain, members there were reportedly buying Fred Perry polo shirts -- seen as a uniform for the group -- to ship back to the United States. The clothing line has distanced itself from the Proud Boys, saying its logo represents "inclusivity, diversity and independence." In Australia, Proud Boys have been seen participating at conservative political events. One politician has called for McInnes visa to be denied because of the Proud Boys reputation.
Trump photo by Getty Images; Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images