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Proud Boys


Proud Boys is a hate group that promotes white nationalism, along with misogynist and anti-Muslim views, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group describes itself as a “pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world, aka Western chauvinists.”

Gavin McInnes, the Canadian-American co-founder of VICE Media, initially established the Proud Boys in 2016 but distanced himself from the group early the following year. From 2018–21, Enrique Tarrio served as leader of the group, which aims to radicalize white men and desensitize them to violence.

Roger Stone, one of Trump’s key allies, befriended Tarrio prior to the 2020 election, and once Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during the September 2020 presidential debate, members paid attention and participated in 79 MAGA rallies across the country. They also played a key role in the insurrection, believing that they were being called on to wage “all-out revolution” to keep Trump in the White House.

In its ongoing investigation of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the Department of Justice (DOJ) charged key members of the group with seditious conspiracy in 2022. On May 4, 2023, after a four-month trial, a jury in Washington convicted five Proud Boys members on multiple felonies.

In addition to Tarrio, who is facing a recommended sentence of 33 years in prison, Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, and Zachary Rehl were found guilty of seditious conspiracy and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, according to the DOJ. On Aug. 31, 2023, Biggs and Rehl were sentenced to 17 and 15 years in prison, respectively (along with 36 months of supervised release), and the following day Nordean was sentenced to 18 years in prison (with 36 months of supervised release).

All four plus fellow Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola were also found guilty of “obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to prevent members of Congress and federal law enforcement officers from discharging their duties, civil disorder, and destruction of government property.” In addition, Pezzola was found guilty of assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers and robbery involving government property. On Sept. 1, 2023, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison (plus 36 months of supervised release).

In 2017, Proud Boy Kyle Chapman formed the group’s paramilitary arm, the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights. That year the group played a key role in the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that led to the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer.

Widely considered “foot soldiers for the Right,” the Proud Boys have frequently been involved in violence, and have discussed how and when to use violence against leftist.protesters The group has provided security for Republican political candidates, collaborated with the conservative group Patriot Prayer, and gotten involved in local conflicts over Covid restrictions, drag shows, and efforts to teach the true history of slavery in public schools.

Given the group’s role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the Canadian government has designated the Proud Boys as a terrorist organization.  

January 6, 2021

  • On Dec. 20, the day after Trump tweeted that a Jan. 6 protest “will be wild,” the Proud Boys created a so-called Ministry of Self-Defense for “national rally planning.” Through an encrypted chat group, members began recruiting others and fundraising for protective gear.  
  • On Dec. 29, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio told members not to wear their traditional black and yellow colors on Jan. 6, but rather to wear all black so that they appeared to be antifa members. 
  • On Dec. 30, Tarrio received a plan called “1776 Returns,” which called for occupying buildings within the Capitol complex and elsewhere.
  • On Jan. 3, members of the chat group discussed the best ways to attack the Capitol.
  • On Jan. 4, Tarrio was arrested for destroying property in relation to the banner burnings the previous month. Police said they found two high-capacity magazines in his possession when they arrested him.
  • After his release from jail on Jan. 5, Tarrio met with Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes in a parking garage.  
  • On Jan. 5, the Proud Boys created a new chat group called Boots on the Ground. Ethan Nordean (aka Rufio Panman) and Joseph Biggs stepped in to replace Tarrio, but maintained contact with him. 
  • Police recovered a Chinese-made Bao Feng radio from Nordean’s home, which they allege the Proud Boys used on Jan. 6 to try to evade authorities as they were communicating with each. 
  • On the morning of the attack on Congress, Proud Boys members cased the Capitol, according to testimony from documentary filmmaker Nick Quested. They observed the fortifications at the complex and the number of police on location. 
  • While Trump was speaking at the Ellipse, the Proud Boys positioned themselves in front of an entrance to the Capitol that was less well protected by security guards. Standing near the front of the crowd, Nordean allegedly provoked the officers.  
  • At the gathering on the Peace Circle at the northwest end of the Capitol grounds, Proud Boy Joe Biggs apparently goaded another protester, Ryan Samsel, into forcefully entering the grounds by overturning the bicycle barricade obstructing access to the Capitol. 
  • Proud Boy Dominic “Spazzo” Pezzola was one of the first people to breach the Capitol using a police riot shield to smash a window and allowing other rioters to enter the building. 
  • The Department of Justice (DOJ) charged members of the Proud Boys with seditious conspiracy following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, and in fall 2022, several members pleaded guilty to the charges. On May 4, 2023, five members were convicted of sedition and found guilty of other crimes related to the insurrection. Four months later, U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly—a Trump appointee— handed each man sentences ranging from 10 to 18 years.