The Canadian government has just become the first to designate the Proud Boys — founded by Canadian writer and far-right commentator Gavin McInnes — a terrorist entity, which makes giving them money or buying Proud Boys paraphernalia a crime in Canada.
While constantly denying that they have white nationalist or racist ties, the Proud Boys have regularly been associated with far-right activities and street violence in the last several years — particularly as highly vocal foes of Antifa and the Black Lives Matter movement. And after gaining widespread media attention first in a mention by then-President Donald Trump during a televised debate last fall, and then when its current leader was arrested in Washington D.C. ahead of the January 6 riots, the Canadian government is declaring the organization a hostile terrorist one.
"The group and its members have openly encouraged, planned, and conducted violent activities against those they perceive to be opposed to their ideology and political beliefs," the Canadian government said in briefing materials, as reported by the Associated Press. "The group regularly attends Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests as counter-protesters, often engaging in violence targeting BLM supporters. On January 6, 2021, the Proud Boys played a pivotal role in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol."
The Canadian government is classifying the Proud Boys as neo-fascist organization, saying it has semiautonomous chapters in the United States, Canada, and abroad, all of which engage in political violence, and whose members espouse "misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and white supremacist ideologies."
While the organization has been, from its founding, sexist, "Western chauvinist," and fairly twisted from the beginning — with a noted emphasis on preventing its male membership from masturbating to pornography in order that they focus their energy on bedding women and procreating — McInnes (who also co-founded VICE) began trying to distance himself from what he created just two years after its creation. As the Guardian reported, McInnes's public split with the Proud Boys came directly after the FBI categorized them as "an extremist group with ties to white nationalism" — though he was still part of the group when it took part in the idiocy and violence in Charlottesville in 2017.
How quickly "Western chauvinism" can become outright white supremacy.
McInnes wasn't quite so complete in his disavowal of the group, however — in the same breath he claimed that his quitting was "100% a legal gesture, and it is 100% about alleviating sentencing" for seven Proud Boys members who were prosecuted in New York following a brawl in October 2018. McInnes said "at the very least this will show jurors they are not dealing with a gang and there is no head of operations."
Facebook began banning Proud Boys-associated accounts in 2018.
Not long after, Miami-based Enrique Tarrio began being called the group's leader in North America — a role he seemed to take seriously in heading to D.C. last month to take part in a planned insurrection. Tarrio ended up being arrested in D.C. on January 4, however, in connection with the burning of a Black Lives Matter banner at a church the previous month. (Tarrio identifies as Afro-Cuban, and Vice actually did a piece in 2019 about Miami's Latinx conservatives including Tarrio and his Proud Boys chapter.)
And then in recent weeks it became public that Tarrio was once a government informant in Miami, having opted to work undercover and cooperate with authorities to reduce his sentence in a fraud case a decade ago.
McInnes continues to fight the "hate group" and white-nationalist associations with the Proud Boys, with a lawsuit he filed against Southern Poverty Law Center still pending in Alabama — he claims in the suit that the law center defamed him by designating the Proud Boys a "hate group."
In response, the law center has said in filings that McInnes has previously acknowledged the "overlap" between Proud Boys members and white nationalist groups, and its members "have posted social media pictures of themselves with prominent Holocaust deniers, white nationalists, and known neo-Nazis," they said.
A San Francisco-based Proud Boy was among those charged last month in connection with storming the Capitol. And a self-proclaimed Proud Boy from Texas named Philip Anderson, who is Black, flew to San Francisco to host a failed rally for supporters of Donald Trump and "free speech" outside of Twitter's headquarters in October — an event that only resulted in him having his teeth punched in by a counter-protester.
Top image: Members of the Proud Boys and Antifa stand off near Black Lives Matter Plaza on December 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. Thousands of protesters who refuse to accept that President-elect Joe Biden won the election are rallying ahead of the electoral college vote to make Trump's 306-to-232 loss official. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)