Since President Trump’s inauguration, the GOP has repeatedly decried the supposedly “unhinged” tactics of the left.
After being mocked at the White House Correspondents’ dinner in April, for instance, conservative activist Matt Schlapp and his wife Mercedes walked out. The National Review compared those who protested Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to a “mob”, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Hillary Clinton of “unhinged tactics” after she said that “you cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for.”
So, naturally, it would make sense for the civility-loving Metropolitan Republican Club of New York City to invite Gavin McInnes, who founded a far-right group which regularly engages in street brawls and violence, to join them at a lecture Friday evening, where he’ll “discuss historical context and offer perspective on the environment that surrounded Otoya Yamaguchi in 1960’s Japan.”
McInnes, who was also one of the co-founders of VICE, founded the Proud Boys in 2016, a group which bills itself as a “pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the Western world.” McInnes has repeatedly insisted the group is not far-right or racist, describing the group in the wake of last year’s Unite the Right rally as “a men’s club that meets about once a month to drink beer” — despite the fact that Jason Kessler, a initiated Proud Boy, was the main organizer for the event.
In reality, McInnes’ group regularly engages in political brawls with counter-protesters, with some members seeming to delight in the violence. The group has been a regular staple at far-right rallies in Portland and the Pacific Northwest, where they clash, often violently, with counter-protesters. McInnes himself has also said that “fighting solves everything.”
That same penchant for punching was on display last weekend in Providence, Rhode Island, where a group of Proud Boys traveled to join the right-wing group Resist Marxism for a rally outside the State House. Among those in attendance was 22-year-old Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, who was previously accused of assaulting a man at a Portland parking lot. In video of the rally at Providence, Toese can clearly be seen throwing the first punch at counter-protesters.
In a video of the Proud Boys in the immediate aftermath of the incident, Toese can be heard gloating, “That bitch that was in front of me, I didn’t give a fuck. I lucked out, I was like fucking bitch, boom.”
An eyewitness to the event, who spoke to ThinkProgress on the condition of anonymity, claimed the Proud Boys threw the first punch, and said they were given massive leeway by law enforcement, who stood by and allowed the fight to continue until a counter-protester aimed a fire extinguisher at the Proud Boys.
“Once the brawl reached fever pitch, that’s when the Freedom of Speech rally started,” the individual told ThinkProgress. “The Proud Boys filed off and there was nobody there for the rally…the cops shut it down and then they [The Proud Boys] went back to fighting.”
“They’re just hooligan thugs,” the source added. “There’s no strategy, there’s no skill — if it wan’t such a heated issue, it’d be the equivalent of a bar-room brawl.”
That the lecture McInnes is attending Friday focuses on Otoya Yamaguchi is also no coincidence. Yamaguchi was a teenage member of an extreme right-wing group in Japan who, in 1960, stabbed Japan Socialist Party leader Inejiro Asanuma to death at a political rally. A photo capturing the incident has been regularly altered online into “fashwave,” a form of online far-right propaganda.
McInnes, along with several other Proud Boys accounts, was suspended from Twitter in August prior to the anniversary Unite the Right rally in Washington D.C. According to Buzzfeed News, Twitter claimed the accounts had violated Twitter’s policy on “violent extremist groups.”
The Metropolitan Republican Club’s decision to host McInnes has already drawn strong criticism. On Thursday night, the clubhouse hosting the event was vandalized, with two orange anarchist symbols spray painted on the door. New York City Antifa denied they had anything to do with it.
ThinkProgress have reached out to the Metropolitan Republican Club for comment.