The NYPD announced Monday it was conducting an “active investigation” into violence that occured Friday night in New York City between members of a group called the “Proud Boys,” and black-clad protesters that the Proud Boy’s leader and some media outlets have dubbed “Antifa” -- short for anti-fascist.
Dermot Shea, NYPD chief of detectives, said Monday at a news conference that “we feel confident” enough evidence exists to charge nine Proud Boys with “riot or attempted assault” charges. Likewise, Shea said, there was enough to charge three anti-fascist protesters with riot and attempted assault as well.
“We will not tolerate any violence on the streets of New York City, and anyone, from any group, who participates in violence will be vigorously investigated," Chief Shea emphasized.
Still, Shea cautioned, “This would be cross-complaint situation,” meaning it would be up to a jury to decide who started what, and whether anyone was justified using force to defend themselves, as New York State criminal law allows in certain situations where safe retreat is not possible.
Who are the Proud Boys, what do they stand for and why are they drawing protesters and police scrutiny? Here are some answers.
1. Who are the Proud Boys?
The Proud Boys are an exclusively male group that seeks a return to a social order defined by pre-feminist gender roles and an unabashed belief in the supremacy of Western culture.
The Proud Boys don't have an official uniform, but many members can bee seen sporting a black Fred Perry polo shirt with twin-yellow tipping around the collar and a yellow crest embroidered on the left side of the chest. Sometimes this shirt is coupled with khaki pants, or topped with a red "Make America Great Again" hat."
The group is divided into chapters, and each have monthly meetups. The total size of the group is difficult to ascertain; the group's founder, Gavin McInnes, says there are chapters across the United States, and in other countries. The New York chapter, led by McInnes, appears to number in the low hundreds.
2. Who is the Proud Boys' founder, Gavin McInnes?
McInnes founded The Proud Boys in 2016, and serves as their leader and spokesman. McInnes is British-born, Canadian-raised. He co-founded Vice media in 1994 in Montreal, along with Suroosh Alvi and Shane Smith. After moving to New York City, McInnes left Vice in 2008 over what he called “creative differences.”
Those differences were on stark display in a 2003 New York Times profile of Vice, that included sketches of its founders, including McInnes. “I love being white and I think it's something to be proud of,” McInnes told the newspaper.
“I don’t want our culture diluted,” he added. “We need to close the borders now and let everyone assimilate to a Western, White English-speaking way of life.”
With regard to women, McInnes told the Times that he had been a women’s studies major in college, but had since come around to the view that “‘No means no’ is Puritanism.”
He elaborated on this idea 10 years later, in “Taki’s Magazine,” an online journal of paleoconservatism and Libertarian politics and culture published by Greek socialite Taki Theodoracopulos and edited by his daughter, Mandolyna.
There, he wrote women “want to be taken. In fact, through trial and error, I learned they want to be downright abused. ... When I got an email that said, ‘Thank you for raping me last night,’ I realized everything I learned in college was a lie.”
3. What Do The Proud Boys Stand For?
In a video posted to the Proud Boys website, McInnes said he was inspired to found the Proud Boys by America’s history of clubs, such as the Elks, the Shriners or the Masons. He blamed renowned feminist Gloria Steinem for declaring such clubs sexist “and that was the end of clubs.”
But, he said, one day he had a thought: “Why don’t we bring this back? Why don’t we have a men’s club. No parameters, just dudes.” The Proud Boys, he said, have “one caveat. And that is: You have to be a Western Chauvinist .... You have to think, ‘The West Is The Best.’”
According to the group’s website, Proud Boys’ core values include: minimal government, maximum freedom, anti-political correctness, anti-drug war, closed borders, anti-racial guilt, anti-racism, pro-free speech, pro-gun rights, glorifying the entrepreneur, venerating the housewife and reinstating a spirit of Western chauvinism.
4. Where Does The Proud Boy Name Come From?
A song from “Aladdin,” according to McInnes. “We’re called Proud Boys,” he said, because he went to one of his children’s music recitals at school and heard the male child of a single mother singing “‘Proud of your boy / I’ll make you proud of your boy.’ It’s some song from Aladdin.”
5. How Much Violence Is Baked Into The Proud Boys?
Like the Knights of Columbus, McInnes has said, there are four “degrees” of Proud Boy membership. To start, a prospective Proud Boy must declare he is “a Western chauvinist who refuses to apologize for creating the modern world,” according to the Proud Boys’ website.
The second “degree” of Proud Boy membership entails being “jumped in” to the group, like some street gangs jump members in. As McInnes explained it, “You have to get beaten up by five men … until you can name five breakfast cereals.” It's not clear to what extent some of these rites have a tongue-in-cheek element to them, or how much variation in severity exists between chapters.
To attain third degree Proud Boy membership, according to McInnes, “You have to quit porn and get a tattoo.” Quitting porn includes forswearing masturbation, unless you’re within reach of a woman, and you have her permission, McInnes has said.
The fourth and final Proud Boy degree requires violence, "a major fight for the cause," McInnes told Metro in 2017. "You get beat up, kick the crap out of an antifa," and possibly get arrested, he said. Proud Boys who win fights are celebrated in a section of the group’s online magazine, and cheered with a slogan: “They fucked around. They found out.”
McInnes repeated this point on Newsmax TV’s “The Steve Malzberg Show” in 2017 and said "Fighting is fun — fighting solves everything.”
6. Are The Proud Boys A Hate Group?
The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Proud Boys as a hate group, but, as noted above, the Proud Boys themselves claim to be “anti-racist,” and images of Proud Boy members include people of all races. McInnes himself concedes he is "an Archie Bunker sexist" and may be Islamophobic, according to the New York Times.
7. What Triggered The Latest Skirmish?
McInnes was invited to speak at the Metropolitan Republican Club, located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, on Friday night, Oct. 12. The night before, two suspects, the NYPD said, spray painted the universal symbol of Anarchism on the doors to the club, broke windows and glued locks, the Associated Press reported.
The vandals left a note, saying the damage was "just the beginning,” and, without naming McInnes, criticized Republicans for inviting "a hipster-fascist clown to dance for them, content to revel in their treachery against humanity,” according to the Associated Press.
McInnes showed up Friday evening wielding a Katana -- a Samurai sword, according to Bedford and Bowery, a local news website. Inside the club, McInnes portrayed Otoya Yamaguchi, who assassinated the leader of the Japanese Socialist Party on live television on Oct. 12, 1960 -- exactly 58 years before McInnes’ appropriation.
In his talk, McInnes drew a line between what Yamaguchi did and the recent rise of socialist politicians in America, such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “The DNC now believes socialism is better than the free market!,” he said, before warning, “Never let evil take root.”
The Metropolitan Republican Club, for its part, defended giving McInnes an amplifier for his message.
"He is part of the right," Ian Reilly, chairman of the club’s board, told Gothamist, a New York City news website. "We promote people and ideas of all kinds from the right. We're open to different views. We would never invite anyone who would incite violence."
8. Who Started The Street Fight After The Talk?
Outside the Metropolitan Republican Club -- on East 83rd St. between Park and Lexington Avenues -- some 60 to 80 protesters held signs opposing the Proud Boys and white supremacy, chanting “No racists, no KKK, no fascist USA,” according to the New York Daily News.
When the event was over, McInnes taunted protesters with his Katana as he left the club, the Daily News reports, before getting into a car and driving away. The NYPD said an examination of the sword revealed it to be made of plastic.
The rest of the Proud Boy contingent, about 50 strong, was directed by police west toward Park Avenue, then south on the east side of Park Avenue. Meanwhile, scooter-borne NYPD officers prevented protesters from following the Proud Boys, keeping the two groups separated, video shows.
That video, taken by Sandi Bachom, an independent documentary videographer, as well as another taken by YouTube livestreamer Christopher Wright, who calls himself “Conservative In NY,” capture the Proud Boys being herded from the club, and south on Park Avenue.
But when the tail end of the group of Proud Boys headed south on Park Avenue reach 82nd St., a number of Proud Boys turn left onto the block, at first walking then running east on 82nd St. toward a group of six black-clad protesters, the videos show and police said.
Those six protesters, who had evaded police by heading to Lexington Avenue and circling the block onto 82nd St., were standing on the sidewalk roughly halfway down the block, yelling at the Proud Boys, Chief Shea said at Monday’s news conference, where he showed journalists a third video, taken from a surveillance camera.
The protesters held their position, staring east in the direction of the Proud Boys, the video made public by the NYPD shows.
As the Proud Boys close the distance between themselves and the protesters, the protesters ready themselves for a fight. Then, one of the protesters throws what appears to be a white-capped, Poland Spring water bottle in the direction of the Proud Boys.
A second later, Proud Boys charge into the frame of the video, punching, kicking and wrestling with the protesters. Two of the protesters run; four fight. Outnumbered, the remaining protesters retreat one-by-one. Thirty-eight second later, Chief Shea said, three members of the NYPD arrive on scooters and break up the remaining fighters. No one is arrested.
The Proud Boys on 82nd Street retrace their steps, returning to Park Avenue, and turn south, continuing on their original route.
9. What Now?
With the NYPD bearing down on the Proud Boys, McInnes was unrepentant about the violence his group engaged in. While he did not respond a request for comment emailed to the Proud Boys’ website, McInnes told the Huffington Post that Antifa “picked a fight without the means to back it up - again.”
Then, repeating the Proud Boys celebratory slogan for its members who win fights, McInnes added “Fuck around and find out.”
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