The FBI began identifying the Proud Boys as a white nationalist “extremist group” this year, a new filing shows. It’s the first public confirmation of the agency’s classification.
The disclosure appears in an Internal Affairs investigation into a deputy sheriff in Clark County, Washington who had ties to the group. “The FBI categorizes the Proud Boys as an extremist group with ties to white nationalism,” the report states. It notes that this public categorization occurred at some point in 2018, contemporaneously with the Southern Poverty Law Center identifying it as a hate group.
The report adds that “some Proud Boys members have contributed to the recent escalation of violence at political rallies held on college campuses, and in cities like Charlottesville, Virginia, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.”
The report was completed in mid-August, prior to the Proud Boys’ more recent involvement in brawls following an event at the Metropolitan Republican Club in New York City, as well as this past weekend’s protest in Philadelphia.
“Proud Boy’s members have been documented as having called for the closure of all prisons, the issuing of firearms to everyone, the legalization of all drugs, the deportation of all illegal immigrants, and the shutdown of the government,” the report reads. For the deputy sheriff named in the documents, affiliating with these beliefs violated the Sheriff’s Office’s nondiscrimination policies, as well as her oath of office.
As part of the investigation, the deputy sheriff stated she knew about “the three levels of becoming a Proud Boy,” but not the fourth. “The fourth calls for a Proud Boy to either fight with Antifa (Anti-fascist) or get beat up by Antifa or get arrested,” the report explains. This suggests that the organization incentivizes the very kind of violent interactions that it then tries to blame on members of Antifa.
Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes himself has in the past called for violence directly, but has downplayed those comments when called on it. Responding to the fact that his neighbors don’t care for him, McInnes said this past June, “And what is the horror? The horror is that I like Trump, and that if I like Trump I might be conservative.”
McInnes currently has his own show, Get Off My Lawn, on Conservative Review TV (CRTV).
The report also notes that the Proud Boys, founded in 2016, were not initially designated as a hate group and were originally too small to be on the FBI’s radar. “However, upon closer examination of publicly available open source materials and publications,” it states, “the Proud Boys at its foundation were transparent about what they believed in and what they promoted.”
There is still some doubt about the FBI’s priorities. As white supremacists were organizing their gathering in Charlottesville, for instance, the FBI was instead focusing its concern on a new brand of “black identity extremists.” These so-called “extremists” include Black Lives Matter and a host of other civil rights activists.
The FBI has excused its decision to label them “extremists” by pointing to a number of incidents in which individuals who claimed to be associated with those movements carried out acts of violence, although experts have since noted the acts in question were mostly targeted at law-enforcement, suggesting the individuals were motivated by anti-police sentiment, rather than by race.
Members of the Black Lives Matter movement and similar groups have disavowed those individuals, insisting they do not represent the larger wave of activists fighting racial injustice.