“Trump is not essentially a conservative. Trump is an anti-liberal.”
– Newt Gingrich
“The thing that they’re attracted to is number one…it’s hatred for the Left.”
– Joey Gibson, Reveal
Joey Gibson is not a neo-Nazi, a white nationalist – he isn’t even what we would technically describe as Alt-Right; he doesn’t fight for a white ethno-State.
Instead, like Trump, Joey is a leader in which a wide coalition of people around him, from Alex Jones at InfoWars, to street fighting Proud Boys, have all put their stock in to. Gibson is an effective circus master under the big top of far-Right events across the West Coast, and best of all, he wears a mixed-race face – what better way to increase the opacity of what is going on behind the scenes. And like Trump, for Joey the uniting factor for both Patriot Prayer as well as his demonstrations as he told Reveal, is “hatred for the Left,” which more and more, is becoming a vision of the Right’s own creation.
And like Trump, Gibson is also a failure. At 33, he is a failed husband, a failed businessman, and a failed politician. But one thing that Gibson hasn’t failed at is bringing people across the far-Right together. In a recent livestream, almost on the verge of tears, he imployed people to stop the petty bickering and infighting that was dividing the far-Right and instead, he encouraged them to do what he does, swallow their pride and put aside differences for the good of the collective whole.
“Joey is attempting to rebuild a street fighting force and above all, re-build a broad far-Right coalition, that can again take to the streets as the movement did in the days before the backlash from Unite the Right in Charlottesville.”
But Joey’s ultimate task, and one that he is attempting to carry out this August, is much more bold. In short, Joey is attempting to rebuild a street fighting force and above all, re-energize a broad far-Right coalition, that can again take to the streets as the movement did in the days before the backlash from Unite the Right in Charlottesville. At a time when social movements against everything from police shootings to ICE are on the rise, and the fate of the Trump presidency seems undecided, never has the Right needed its foot soldiers more than now.
But as we will argue, despite Joey’s drive to leave the events of August 12th in the past, time and time again, Joey Gibson has associated himself with neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and members of the Alt-Right who are directly tied to, and in some cases, who attended physically, Unite the Right in 2017. Moreover, the largest growing, and most violent segment of Gibson’s supporters, and who make up the largest street fighting force against antifascists: the Proud Boys, also have clear and direct connections to Unite The Right, despite their leaders drastic attempts to distance themselves after the fact. Meanwhile, the only strategy that Gibson seems keen on advancing is the escalation of both violent rhetoric and actual violence, as some of his best fighters carry out random attacks against the community at large.
And as the drumbeat for these attacks grow louder and more violent, they set the stage for the far-Right to engage in yet another massacre while masses of people mobilize to protect themselves and their communities.
“Not Gonna Fall for the Lies”: Joey Gibson and the White Nationalists
On May 26th, Joey Gibson, in a rare “campaign rally” in front of his die-hard supporters, argued that the Unite the Right rally was in fact, all a big setup; a vast conspiracy to get conservatives and Trump supporters off the streets and make them look bad in the eyes of everyday Americans. Echoing others attempts by conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones of InfoWars to frame the August 12th events in Charlottesville as a “false flag,” and even some Republicans, Gibson went on to complain that because of Charlottesville, more and more members of the far-Right were exiting the streets.
He told the crowd:
“Charlottesville was basically an attempt to destroy all the freedom rallies all over the country. These so-called white supremacists, under a guise of conservative ideology, invited all these conservatives to Charlottesville and all these people showed up with all these racist flags… from that moment, no one wanted to rally.”
To Gibson, the real goal of Unite the Right had nothing to do with the stated intentions of its many organizers, but instead was part of a vast conspiracy, meant to make people like himself, look bad. Like Gavin McInnes has argued, Gibson brought doubt to the idea that “white supremacists” even exist, but then went on to imply, that if they do, they somehow managed to “trick” everyday conservatives into attending their event stacked with nothing but neo-Nazi and Alt-Right speakers.
According to Gibson, people on the far-Right shouldn’t feel bad about Charlottesville, nor should they feel bad about neo-Nazis, Alt-Right trolls, and white nationalists marching side by side with them – instead, what they should be concerned about it winning the war against “ANTIFA” and staying in the streets. Anything else, was just ‘fake news.’
But as Joey ranted about Unite the Right, arguing to his audience that the event itself was a frame-up, and thus “conservatives” need to return to the streets and forget about the neo-Nazi boogeyman, he was also being livestreamed on Facebook with a “V” logo that incorporated an American flag; the logo of the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights (FOAK). Currently, the organization is almost non-existent, along with its leader, Kyle Chapman. Why? FOAK is being sued for its role in Unite the Right. The irony, seemed to be lost on Joey.
Months later, Gibson recorded himself while driving, seemingly on the verge of tears as news arrived from Berkeley that drama had unfolded between bay area rally organizers and members of the Proud Boys. The drama centered around an article written by the Southern Poverty Law Center that simply quoted from a Facebook video made by Sacramento Proud Boy leader, Gabe Silva, who called for his troops to escalate their violence in upcoming rallies in Portland and Berkeley.
As the SPLC wrote:
Gabe Silva, a leader of the Sacramento Proud Boys who is a regular at right-wing rallies on the West Coast, made a frank call for violence in a Facebook video he streamed days after he attended the June Portland rally. The little political substance in Silva’s rambling 32-minute video, which he captioned “Portland… the game has changed,” centered on his opposition to communism and belief that antifa — the bogeyman of the far right — has some nefarious plot to spread it throughout the U.S.
But Silva’s vague complaints about “universal moralism,” “gender fluidity” and high taxes were overshadowed by his repeated insistence that violence is the only way forward and, in fact, inevitable. “The time is now. We’re gonna have to get some swollen fists. We’re gonna have to get some swollen fists. We’re gonna have to fight, alright?” he said.
Moreover, after the release of an article on the grassroots media platform Indybay.org by antifascists exposed Berkeley organizer Amber Cumming for inviting a white nationalist group, the American Guard which had also been at Charlottesville to do security after getting several thousand dollars from InfoWars, Cummings decided to dis-invite the group, leaving the Berkeley event without any security. “When your guy is a former leader of the KKK, then yeah that makes sense,” Gibson argued, in apparent agreement with Amber’s decision to ban the white nationalists.
But while Joey on camera seemed glad that American Guard wasn’t coming, on the other hand, he was more than willing to pose for photos with white nationalists who attended his rallies and also traveled to Unite the Right in Charlottesville, and continued to work closely with groups who’s membership also attended.
Joey Gibson takes a photo with Christopher Richie, who attended Unite the Right in Charlottesville. On June 30th in Portland, Richie was seen attacking counter-protesters. Antifascist flyer about Christopher Richie
As Rose City Antifa has long documented, over the last several years, Patriot Prayer rallies have been a safe haven for white nationalists, neo-Nazis from The Daily Stormer, and members of the Alt-Right – not to mention lone wolfs like Jeremy Christian who went on to kill two people on a Portland train while attempting to murder a third. Organizers in groups like Identity Evropa have also stated that they use these rallies to recruit other people to their organization. This is not to mention members of the Proud Boys, many of which hold white nationalist and Alt-Right views, yet do not always buy into the entire ideological package.
As Rose City Antifa wrote:
At these far-right rallies, the members of the Proud Boys are given free reign to attack anti-fascist activists and other community members, creating space for more overtly fascist groups to organize, acting as de facto body guards for groups like Identity Europa, Cascade Legion, Daily Stormer Book Clubs, Patriot Front, and other white nationalist and fascist groups and individuals.
After Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson’s own gang of enforcers, Warriors for Freedom LLC (aka American Freedom Keepers, aka American Freedom Warriors) dissipated following allegations that Gibson stole money and resources from other members, many of those former street fighters became Proud Boys, and that group picked up the task of beating up activists on behalf of Gibson. The Proud Boys are currently one of the largest and most active groups among the various nationalist and racist groups taking part in Joey Gibson’s far-right rallies.
To go through the entire roster of racist, neo-Nazi, Alt-Right, and white nationalist groups and individuals that have attended or participated in Patriot Prayer would honestly take to long, and that has already been documented at length by Rose City Antifa. But needless to say, beyond just creating a space in which these people are welcome, Joey often uses people within these groups as security, as he has done with the Cascade Legion, a white nationalist organization, or fought with them side by side, like “hate Preacher” and white nationalist Allen Pucket. In other words, Gibson is not simply “lazy” when it comes to removing white nationalists from his rallies; he physically doesn’t want to remove a large section of his support base.
— Susan Pai (@susanpai) August 26, 2017
One interaction between Patriot Prayer and a member of a white nationalist group highlights this relationship in great detail. In the PSU Vanguard, Jake Von Ott, recalled how Patriot Prayer leader and Proud Boy member Tiny Toese once thanked him for fighting on the front lines of Patriot Prayer rallies along with the other white nationalist members of his group:
“Tiny reached out to me and called me up over Facebook and said, ‘You know, I support [IE] and what you do,” Von Ott said.
Von Ott added that Toese told him IE members were “the only people that actually were up front the entire time along with the Street Preachers. The Oath Keepers just sat back—in his words—with their fancy gear and stayed in the back the whole time.”
Another member of the Proud Boys, Levi Romero, further summed up this reality of a “united front” and big tent on the far-Right in a recent video, where he proclaimed, “Nazis are my best friends, all they want is nationalism, what’s wrong with that? They want to introduce, fuckin’, good shit for America.”
Proud Boys parade their token members of color as evidence that they aren't racists. Here, one explains the truth: "Nazis are my best friends, all they want is nationalism, what's wrong with that? They want to introduce, fuckin', good shit for America." #DefendPDX #GetOutGibson pic.twitter.com/7zQo8sqgNn
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) July 19, 2018
While on livestreams and in press interviews, Joey Gibson is quick to distance himself from white nationalists and neo-Nazis, but as we have seen, his big-tent coalition, those he works closely with, and those that attend his rallies, tell a much different story. Even those that have attended Unite the Right, or are a part of groups that helped plan it are given a free pass. Nowhere is this more readily apparent, than with the Proud Boys.
What’s In an Ethno-State?: Paleoconservatism and White Nationalism
“You’re a chauvinist, that means you’re prejudiced or whatever, you believe in the superiority of whatever the thing is, and you say West, as in Western Civilization, what exactly is that? You’re essentially doing White Nationalism but you came up with a new name for it.”
– Podcaster on The Right Stuff
Before we can begin to dive into the Proud Boys, we first have to understand the world that they come from. The Proud Boys, do not fight for an all white ethno-State, nor, as neo-Nazi groups like Patriot Front are attempting to do, trying to brand a fascist version of American Nationalism that would end in the revolutionary seizure of the State and the forced expatriation of all non-whites and/or genocide.
Instead, the Proud Boys are for using the existing system, its police force, and its militarized powers at the border to, as Gavin McInnes famously stated:
I love being white and I think it’s something to be very proud of. I don’t want our culture diluted. We need to close the borders now and let everyone assimilate to a Western, white, English-speaking way of life.
While most members of the Alt-Right and white nationalists of all stripes would argue that it is a lost cause to preserve white dominance over American politics, economics, and culture, especially after the changes to immigration policy in 1965 which allowed non-whites to enter the country in great numbers. Thus an all white ethno-State must be created argues the Alt-Right, while paleoconservatives would argue that a non-revolutionary solution is still on the table. This is why groups like Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys have put so much of their energy and their branding into backing Trump, as they see him a vehicle to enact the policies that they think will re-solidify white (or ‘Western’) male dominance over American society.
Out of paleoconservativism, its two leading lights, Sam Francis, a former columnist for the Washington Post, and Pat Buchanan, a former Republican insider and Presidential candidate, have spelled out its ideology clearly, and offer a road map from its foundations in the post-civil rights era up to today.
And looking at the paleoconservatives is important, not only because they produced the building blocks for what was to become the Alt-Right, but that more over they argued for the winning of a cultural war, a war that had replaced the fight against communism after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Instead of a globalized New World Order that was spelled out by Bush, they envisioned the regrowth of an American empire founded upon nationalism, patriarchy, and Christian “civilization,” that was under constant threat of degradation from feminism, diversity, consumer corporate capitalism, and ‘the Left.’
Moreover, both Francis and Buchanan promoted the idea of the “Middle American Radical,” a term that came long before “fly over country,” “Deplorable,” and “the forgotten Americans” were used interchangeably. With Middle American Radicals (MARs), Francis and Buchanan saw, like Marx did the proletariat, a class for itself.
As Sam Francis wrote:
The historic core of American civilization is under attack. Quotas, affirmative action, race norming, civil rights legislation, multiculturalism in schools and universities, welfare, busing, and unrestricted immigration from Third World countries are all symbols of that attack and of the racial, cultural, and political dispossession they promise to inflict upon the white post-bourgeois middle classes.
MARs were alienated from both elite institutions and mainstream media, but also were opposed to, and often were violently organized against, the social movements of various groups organizing against structural racism and oppression: especially black people. As MARs argued, these groups simply wanted special rights and always at the expense of the true Americans.
Thus, MARs, as Francis, Buchanan, and others like David Duke saw them, had a implicit, and at times, explicit – racial consciousness, that was not based around simply becoming a declasse or the changing of production, but moreover, in the fundamental shift post-civil rights of racialized and gendered power within the US.
As antifascist author Leonard Zeskind wrote in Blood and Politics:
Francis argued that Middle American Radicals had expressed themselves in a string of movements throughout the 1970s: against school busing, against the ceding of the Panama canal, and finally in electing Ronald Reagan president.
The similarities to the present moment are staggering, but Pat Buchanan also pointed out another key aspect of what was to come, the idea that the terrain of war had moved from the world stage and into the inter-sanctum of the US itself, in the form of a very real cultural war, that ultimately was to decide who was included and who was excluded from American society.
During a speech at the 1992 Republican convention he stated:
As columnist Sam Francis writes, it is about power, it is about who determines the norms by which we live, and by which we define and govern ourselves…Who decides what is right and wrong, moral and immoral, beautiful and ugly, healthy and sick. Whose beliefs shall form the basis of law?
Of course for people like Buchanan and Francis, it should be white, Christian, elite men who should shape and control society, and not anyone else. Everyone else was simply a guest and had better play by the rules of the house.
Richard Spencer introducing Ron Paul in 2007.
Do Libertarians disavow? pic.twitter.com/eTSh2t0YQL
— Yes Margaret? 🍁 (@MargaretsBelly) March 10, 2017
This is the bedrock of what was to become the Alt-Right laid upon until the late 2000’s, when Richard Spencer and others became disillusioned with the Ron Paul campaign. The elites in control of the US had forfeited the positions of power over the country by allowing the amount of non-whites to reach too high of levels; soon they argued, non-whites would out produce white children, and suddenly white Americans would exist inside a land that was conquered by strangers from the inside out.
Beyond elections, beyond waging a cultural war, and beyond simply putting faith in the institutional racial power of the American system, the newly coined Alt-Right argued that a revolutionary ethno-State, not so much unlike the southern Confederacy, should be founded.
But as the Trump presidency dawned, and the far-Right founded itself part of a larger coalition around Trump which all sought to get out of his Presidency certain things; from the opening up of drilling in the arctic, the overturning of Roe v Wade, to the shutting down of the border, the Trump administration also faced a very real problem – from the streets.
Despite Trump playing himself up as a strong man, a deal maker, and as someone that people simply love, want to fuck, and want to be, (“the poor man’s billionaire”), Trump was also just as quick to fold, roll back, and allow various policies to be defeated in the face of mass resistance. From the Muslim Ban to Bannon’s removal to the recent policy of child separation, mass resistance forced Trump’s hand, especially at a time when major sections of the elites had no faith in Trump, he is he subject of mass ridicule, and polls are not in his favor.
In short, Trump needed an army.
A ‘Multicultural’ White Supremacy: Enter the Proud Boys
The myth of “diversity is our strength” is contingent on nobody trying it. When we’re all forced to live side by side, we’ll quickly realize we are incompatible, and agree to disagree…Thanks to the Marxist myth of ubiquitous equality, this “mismatch” leaves blacks [worse off] than they would have been had they been left to their own devices.
– Gavin McInnes, American Renaissance
I’ve known alt-right pioneer Richard Spencer since he got me the job at this magazine and even he, the head of the snake, comes across as perfectly reasonable in conversation. He doesn’t think nonwhites can be included in a harmonious America, but everything else on his plate is relatively civil.
-Gavin McInnes, Taki’s Magazine
In the fall of 2016, Trump got one of those armies.
On September 15th, 2016, Gavin McInnes announced the formation of the Proud Boys on the paleoconservative online website, Taki’s Magazine. McIness had started to write for Taki’s back in April of 2009, 15 months after a 31 year old Richard Spencer had taken over as the managing editor. In fact, as McInnes wrote, “he got me the job at this magazine.” Spencer himself landed the gig at the start of 2008, after being let go from The American Conservative for being, just a little too racist. He found a home at Taki’s however, and would stay as the managing editor until December 2009, where he would go on to launch Alternative Right, which would publish such fare as “Is Black Genocide Right?”
As McInnes wrote on the formation of the Proud Boys:
Though the exact details are kept secret, the meetings usually consist of drinking, fighting, and reading aloud from Pat Buchanan’s Death of the West. There were about fifty men at this gathering and no women because women are not allowed. The basic tenet of the group is that they are “Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.” Like Archie Bunker, they long for the days when “girls were girls and men were men.” This wasn’t controversial even twenty years ago, but being proud of Western culture today is like being a crippled, black, lesbian communist in 1953.
While McIness is clearly attempting to be humorous, he at the same time essentially summed up the entire paleoconservative credo all in one paragraph: not only was it a return to “classical” racial and gender roles, for those that sought that return, they in fact where the true minorities and oppressed class within their own empire. In defiance, they would not only refuse to stop being “Proud,” (which also implies that ‘someone’ or ‘something’ is forcing you to be ashamed) but moreover ultimately obtain the highest degree of Proud Boyism by engaging in violence with those that would try and confront them.
But the Proud Boys also included another key aspect: unlike Alt-Right organizations such as Identity Evropa, the Traditionalist Worker Party, and others that were forming and growing at around the same time, the Proud Boys were supposedly open to people of all races and sexualities. While at first, the Proud Boys stated that “Black Proud Boys” and people of color:
must adhere to some strict and rather awkward requirements. Proud Boys of color “are Western Chauvinists and recognize that white men are not the problem,” and “they don’t whine about racism or blame it for their problems.”
However, in an article published after Unite the Right, the group back tracked and stated:
There are NO racial requirements to be in the Proud Boys. There are no special rules for black Proud Boys (this overrides anything previously published about black PBs) or any other non-white PBs. We don’t care what your sexual preference is and that includes guys dating trans.
Over and over again, the Proud Boys have pointed to these policies and their token members of color, who are queer, etc, first and foremost as proof that they are not Alt-Right, but moreover that they are in fact inclusive.
In some ways they are correct: the Proud Boys politically, just as McInnes always has been, are not neo-Nazis, national socialists, Alt-Right, or white nationalists – they are not fighting for the revolutionary take over of the American State or the creation of a new all-white ethno-State. Their movement is also not bound by the same internal laws as that as the Aryan Brotherhood or the National Policy Institute.
Politically, like Buchanan who they revere, the Proud Boys by and large are paleoconservatives, or Western Chauvinists, to bring the terms into the 21st Century. They think that social and cultural movements that seek to confront and destroy long institutionalized caste systems of race and gender hurt – namely white men, and therefore are bad. Like Buchanan saw the MARs, the Proud Boys see themselves as largely white men, as an oppressed class of people, who are becoming outsiders in their own homeland.
Above all, as McInnes has long stated, while they pay lip service to a version of libertarianism inside the country, they believe that the borders must be closed and people within the country be forced to acclimate to a “white, English speaking” way of life. Thus beyond a cultural war, a regime. The need for this is based upon popular ideas among the Proud Boys that are also echoed by its leaders such as McInnes and Kyle Chapman, who believe that the system is carrying out a “war on whites,” and that this equals a campaign of “white genocide,” both of which are popular talking points for the Alt-Right and white nationalists.
Buchanan lost hardcore white nationalist support when he picked arch-conservative Ezola Foster as his running mate for President in 2000, yet his campaign saw him paring with an African-American woman as an attempt to shake his image as a white supremacist.
Thus, central to the Proud Boys philosophy, like that of the white nationalists, is race and gender. As one of McInnes’s video states in the subtitle, “Does being against The Great Replacement and White Genocide make one a Nazi?,” the answer can be no, but it still means that race lies at the center of your program. Where it differs from that of white nationalists and neo-Nazis is that the Proud Boys don’t have as many stipulations about Jews, queers, and people of color, and think that the American State as it currently exists can be a vehicle for carrying out their program, ala a politician like Trump, whereas the white nationalists and neo-Nazis think that only the revolutionary seizure of power will do.
Moreover, the Proud Boys are open to people of color, women, queers, and even trans individuals being part of their group, as long as they are down with the over all program. This in itself is evidenced by the fact that McInnes, Chapman, and Augustus Invictus (former Proud Boy and FOAK leader) all have been married to and fathered children with non-white women, as well as the various token Proud Boy members who are of color, such as Tiny Toese.
In the end, what matters for the Proud Boys, and what its leaders like McInnes articulate time and time again, is not a rigid vision of the nuts and bolts of the future, and the ins and outs of each and every group or individual that should be included or excluded from society, but instead, they are more interested in ensuring that white men ultimately control and dictate that society be organized in their own interests. This is summed up by McInnes himself, writing in the white nationalist journal, American Renaissance:
I don’t dislike minorities. I hate white liberals and the good news is, their days are numbered. The myth of “diversity is our strength” is contingent on nobody trying it. When we’re all forced to live side by side, we’ll quickly realize we are incompatible, and agree to disagree.
“Kessler Is Our Boy”: The Proud Boys and Unite the Right
“We are a men’s club that meets about once a month to drink beer. We have attended rallies where we felt our friends were in danger but that’s not what we’re about. We’re not political activists.”
– We Are Not Alt-Right, Proud Boys Magazine
“On Saturday we held a rally in Berkeley to promote free speech. We knew there would be trouble so we came prepared to fight.”
“You don’t [see Proud Boys at Alt-Right events]. You either see someone who used to be a Proud Boy or someone who is dressed the same as us.”
– Proud Boys Magazine, We Are Not Alt-Right
On April 15th in Berkeley, California, Proud Boys, neo-Nazis, militias, members of the Alt-Right, Patriot groups, and Trump supporters brawled with antifascists in black bloc, and after several hours, were successful in breaking out of the park and pushing their way up onto a major street in Berkeley. The event was seen as a major victory for the various far-Right factions that assembled, and each section of the far-Right left to go replicate the success in their own corners of the country.
Berkeley was important for several reasons. First and foremost, it showed the far-Right that it had power when it came together in a coaltion. Thus, we watched as Kyle Chapman fought side by side with members of Identity Evropa, who in turn stood next to African-American Trump supporters and future far-Right organizers like Amber Cummings, a transgender woman from Antioch, California.
And when asked about the neo-Nazis seen giving “Heil Hitler” salutes on the streets of Berkeley that day, like Trump and InfoWars in the months before, people like Chapman, who himself was a fan of many neo-Nazi and white nationalist books and groups, simply claimed such pictures were fake news, hoaxes, or were created by the Left.
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) August 25, 2017
In the weeks following the events on April 15th, Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman would go on to found the military wing of the Proud Boys, the “Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights” or (FOAK), along with future Unite the Right speaker Augustus Invictus acting as its second in command. Gavin McInnes would herald this as a major turning point, and gave Chapman leadership control over the group.
Oath Keepers and Three Percenters held similar “Free Speech” rallies in Boston and beyond, bringing with them speakers like Kyle Chapman. Rally attendees like Joey Gibson soon launched rallies of their own in the Pacific Northwest and in the Portland area. Also, Nathan Damigo, a recently freed ex-con who became “racially aware” in prison after reading David Duke, and then the leader of Identity Evropa, would go on to conceptualize another “Free Speech” rally, this one held in the American south, in the small town of Charlottesville, Virginia.
— Michelle Dione 🐈 (@ShelleDione) September 1, 2017
But as the good times were rolling post-Berkeley, McInnes was also careful to go out of his way to create distance between the growing Alt-Right and his own formation. In a video entitled, Why We Don’t Let Nazis in the Proud Boys, it ironically starts of by stating, “There aren’t Nazis anymore,” which begs the question why McIness needed to say these ‘fictional’ characters were not invited into his very real group? This distancing from the Alt-Right and outward neo-Nazis was also backed up by Kyle Chapman, who in a series of interviews claimed that while he embraced many Alt-Right talking points, didn’t believe in ehtno-nationalism and embraced instead a version of American, civil nationalism.
But while McGinnes did his best on video and on social media to attempt to portray the Proud Boys has having nothing to do with the Alt-Right, on the streets, something very different was taking place. On June 10th, Proud Boys took the streets along with militia members, neo-Nazis, and members of the Alt-Right at ‘Act for America’ anti-Muslim rallies across the US. On June 25th, Proud Boy and FOAK leader Augustus Invictus further solidified his relationship with the outwardly neo-Nazi and white nationalist wing of the Alt-Right by speaking at a Washington DC rally. Then, in early July, Proud Boys were shut down and met with protests in Connecticut when Invictus tried to give a speech alongside other far-Right and Alt-Right groups.
In early July, antifascists in the bay area also published a long expose on the Rise Above Movement, which linked a variety of Alt-Right and Proud Boy factions across Southern California and who were also promoted by prominent members of the Proud Boys, such as Kyle Chapman and Juan Cadavid (who has since been removed from the organization). As the report wrote:
Members of both the Proud Boys and DIY Division [which became Rise Above Movement] have begun to organize monthly get togethers in Laguna Beach, and are seen in the photo above holding banners that bear the symbol of ‘Identity Generation,’ a white nationalist group in Europe, alongside Trump and American flags.
What is clear instead, is that both groups need each other. The Proud Boys need the numbers and the muscle of the neo-Nazis, while the neo-Nazis need the cover of pro-Trump groups.
Thus, what was happening on the streets and what was being presented by Gavin McInnes were clearly two different realities. Speaking to this reality as it played out in New York, Alt-Right and neo-Nazi podcaster Mike Peinovich, who would go on to be one of the speakers at Unite the Right stated:
Let’s break down the Proud Boy constituency. Now, I am friends with the New York Proud Boys. I’m good friends with the leader of the New York Proud Boys, [Sal Cipolla]. He’s a good guy. People probably know who he is, it doesn’t matter. He’s a good guy. You know, he’s not going to be TRS for various reasons. He can go back last. Basically Proud Boys is like, look… if you’re a white guy with a white girlfriend or no girlfriend then you’re going to be TRS, you’re going to be [Daily] Stormer… and loving that stuff, and you’re just a hair’s breath away from jumping into the Alt Right and being one of us, being a White Nationalist. The other people have certain hang-ups, it’s personal issues. They’re Jewish, they’re half-white, they’re mixed race or they have a non-White girlfriend of wife.
I’ve gone and hung out with these guys, we’re not at the point where we’re sending people back, whatever, we need to build relationships and things like that. Let me tell you something, you don’t need to be 100% White to not like Jews…I sit down, have beers with the leader of the New York City Proud Boys and all we do is talk about the fucking kikes.
In short, in the eyes of Peinovich, the Proud Boys represented an “Island of Unwanted” toys, men who for some reason could not become full fledged members of the Alt-Right, but still had a congruent and parallel organization to join: the Proud Boys.
Video from member of the Proud Boys as well as the American Guard, Brien James. As the SPLC wrote: “Brien James, the state representative for the Indiana Proud Boys and a member of FOAK. James gained his racist skinhead credentials in the Outlaw Hammerskins and the Hoosier State Skinheads before becoming one of the founding members of the Vinlanders Social Club (VSC), a racist gang known for its extreme violence.” James went on to march at Unite the Right.
By the time that Unite the Right came around, Proud Boys had been mixing it up in the streets with antifascists and standing side by side neo-Nazis, Alt-Right trolls waving “Kek” flags, and a variety of far-Right forces. Moreover, many Proud Boys were sharing and consuming Alt-Right memes, podcasts, and talking points; as exemplified by the spread of popular memes on places like 4chan and 8chan such as “It’s Okay to Be White” to the use of common symbols such as the “Kek” flag and the “OK” hand sign. For a movement that really wanted to draw the line in the sand as to who was what, from the outside it sure seemed like one big crossover.
Even some other big groups on the far-Right began to take notice of the space being taken up by the Alt-Right and white nationalists. On the Oath Keepers website, Navy Jack wrote:
White Nationalist organizations have worked to tie [Trump’s] agenda to their agenda. By showing up at any pro-Trump rally or event and using these opportunities to recruit, these organizations have been steadily growing. Expanding out, they are now targeting “free speech” rallies and luring participants into their web of deceit.
If the leaders and followers of the white nationalist and fascist movements want to label me a “cuck” because I will never support their cause, so be it. The real “cucks” are the people that get suckered into attending a “#UniteTheRight” or “Free Speech” rally that is nothing more than an opportunity for white nationalists and fascists to promote racial segregation.
June 10th, Proud Boys Magazine published a story quoting Gavin McInnes on the upcoming Unite the Right rally where he simply stated: “I’m just not coming to your rally, no offense,” but did not use the words “disavow.” Following statements from the Proud Boys before Unite the Right went on to encourage those who wished to attend to go, and a statement from FOAK right before UtR simply stated that the group will be in attendance at the rally.
But as August 12th grew closer, those on the Alt-Right began to reach out to Gavin, Chapman, and the Proud Boys to see if they would be willing to stand with the Alt-Right in support of a Confederate monument in Chancellorsville, Virginia.
But there was also another drive that was pulling the Alt-Right and the Proud Boys together in Charlottesville: Jason Kessler. Kessler at the time before Unite the Right, for a white nationalist, looked solid on paper. He had connections to local Republicans, he wasn’t covered in tattoos or looked like some over the top neo-Nazi skinhead, and he also had a job writing for Tucker Carlson’s The Daily Caller, where he even covered an Alt-Right rally he spoke at in May, which in many ways, laid the ground work for Unite the Right, three months later.
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) August 17, 2017
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) August 17, 2017
Kessler was also a member of the Proud Boys, having even been “jumped” into the organization. In return, Kessler worked his way up the ranks, appearing several times on The Gavin McInnes Show throughout the summer, as did Kyle Chapman and Augustus Invictus.
As Unite the Right started to come together on paper, the chief question was if the Proud Boys were going to publicly be a part of the event and what role would the militias play? According to screenshots of Proud Boys discussions on the subject, while the topic was surely discussed, ultimately Gavin was the first in June to officially decide not to endorse Unite the Right. On June 21st, an anonymous author on the Proud Boys magazine website “broke” the story of Gavin disavowing the rally on a Facebook post, which stated:
“BEEN ASKED A LOT ABOUT THIS “UNITE THE RIGHT” THING GOING ON IN AUGUST. THE ELDERS HAVE TOLD ME TO DISAVOW. I GET THAT IT’S ABOUT FREE SPEECH AND WE WANT EVERYONE – EVEN WHITE NATIONALISTS – TO HAVE THAT RIGHT BUT I THINK IT’S COMING AT A TIME WHEN WE NEED TO DISTANCE OURSELVES FROM THEM. I’M NOT PUNCHING RIGHT. I’M JUST NOT COMING TO YOUR RALLY – NO OFFENSE.”
However, as the event drew closer, another Proud Boys statement was created that pushed back on Gavin’s initial “disavow,” and instead proclaimed that each and every chapter, and each and every Proud Boy, had their own autonomy to attend the event.
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) June 24, 2017
The new statement even went so far as to “disavow” McIness’s original “disavowal.” It wrote:
An original version of this statement appeared earlier that included the ridiculous term “disavow” and was meant to lampoon the elders. That is not who we are and that is not OK.
Such a statement seems to give credence to Mike Peinovich’s comments that members of the Proud Boys wanted to attend, despite the hand rubbing of “elders” like McInnes. The original statement went on to state:
We are not Alt-Right and we are not white nationalists. We don’t say that to appease anyone. It’s just how the group has evolved. The organizers are correct when they say we have to unite against our common enemy, the far left. This is why we refrain from punching right. This is why we protested the removal of Confederate Statues. There is a war on freedom happening right now in the West and we stand with anyone who wants to fight it. That doesn’t mean the Proud Boys are compelled to do everything the Alt-Right does. Not punching right does not mean following right to every event.
That being said, if a chapter or an individual Proud Boy feels compelled to go, we encourage him to do so. Chapter autonomy is a big part of the group as well as personal liberty.
Free speech is for everyone. This event isn’t ours, which is why our name is not on the flyer, but we wish them nothing but the best.
At around the same time, members of the Proud Boys military wing, FOAK, issued their own statement, stating that they were in fact attending the event:
A few days after Unite the Right, the page telling Proud Boys they could attend Unite the Right if they were so inclined, was quietly removed from the website. At the same time, McInnes went into over drive, pushing the line that the Proud Boys had nothing to do with Unite the Right and that they were in fact, “Not Alt-Right.” But once again, reality tells us a much different story.
Members of the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knight (FOAK) the military wing of the Proud Boys, guards Proud Boys and FOAK leader Augustus Invictus at Unite the Right. Invictus was scheduled to speak. FOAK members wear the “V” patch logo with the American flag.
Another Proud Boy and member of FOAK, Alex Michael Ramos, also attended Unite the Right, and was also involved in the savage car-garage beating of teenager DeAndre Harris, becoming one of the few members of the far-Right to be arrested in relation to violence on August 12th.
ALERT: Alex Michael Ramos is an associate of the Atlanta Proud Boys/FOAK and the III% Georgia Security Force. Here are more pics from Cville pic.twitter.com/8AWvsapFjo
— Atlanta Antifascists (@afainatl) August 15, 2017
In the screen shot below, we can see Ramos’ Facebook page, under his name is the Proud Boy mantra, “Im A Western Chauvinist Who Refuses to Apologize for Creating the Modern World The West Is the Best”
“I thought Trump’s response was great, we should study this…because we know that Soros has been planning this, and like trying to create provocative events, and the whole thing looks staged to me…”
“It’s all fake news, it’s all lies. We disavowed it, we had nothing to do with it. We disavowed the Alt-Right, Proud Boys are not Alt-Right. I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it a million more.”
– Gavin McInnes
The fallout from Unite the Right was swift and intimidate. Militia members, especially in the Three Percenters issued “stand down” orders to their chapters to not get involved in demonstrations that exploded following the death of Heather Heyer.
Alex Jones, which like the Proud Boys had at times flirted with and ridden the wave of the Alt-Right, advanced the standard theory that the events in Charlottesville were completely staged, that the neo-Nazis weren’t real, and that it was all a setup by George Soros to create an excuse to clamp down on conservatives. Of course, the clampdown never happened, but Jones used his popular formula of claiming that a tragedy was in fact staged by conspiratorial forces, all to attack people just like Jones himself, especially at a time when his platform was receiving widespread support, even from the State.
For his part, Gavin McInnes went to work distancing himself from both the Alt-Right, Jason Kessler, and the events in Charlottesville. As for Kessler, on his show he stated that before UtR, he had even kicked Kessler out of the Proud Boys. He would go on to claim that the Proud Boys had “disavowed” Unite the Right, and in fact had nothing to do with it. Any claims for the “far-Left” or the “far-Right” – were simply “fake news.” Looking into the camera he stated, “In the context of this poor women’s death, everything has changed.” On this, we agree.
Others within the Proud Boys and the wider far-Right saw that the events in Charlottesville had the possibility of turning off many Trump supporters, weakening the Center, and pushing many liberals and progressives into supporting antifascists. In turn, many began to support and promote a variety of conspiracy theories that centered around the car attack and the death of Heather Heyer. None of these theories are even worth discussing, but their goal was an attempt to downplay the magnitude of Heather Heyer’s death in the eyes of the public in order to recenter the nuetrality of far-Right street protest. By and large, this failed to generate traction, however, it created a whole new cottage industry for the far-Right, as it wrote its own myths about the events of August 12th.
— Amir Famil (@amirfamil) August 16, 2017
— Amir Famil (@amirfamil) August 16, 2017
Unite the Right killed the growing momentum of the “big-tent” far-Right coalition that had been on the rise since the clashes in Berkeley in April, 2017. Rallies organized by members of the far-Right were quickly surrounded and opposed by tens of thousands of people. In Boston, over 40,000 showed up to confront Kyle Chapman and others. Before the rally had even begun, Kyle Chapman kicked Augustus Invictus from the bill, for fear of being seen openly with him after his name had become so associated with Unite the Right, despite the fact that he himself was so deeply connected to it. Then a week later, tens of thousands more showed up to confront Chapman and Joey Gibson in San Francisco and then Berkeley. Again Augustus was scheduled to speak; again he did not even show. Soon, Chapman and Augustus were at each others throat on social media, with Augustus claiming that Chapman used the movement for drugs and women, and both accusing the other of being a white nationalist.
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) August 19, 2017
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) October 25, 2017
In many ways, this was just the tip of the ice-burg. Across the US, members of the far-Right and Alt-Right that were tied to the Charlottesville demonstrations were fired from their jobs, outed in their neighborhoods, and protested against at their schools. Journalists released hard hitting exposes ranging from white nationalists in the military, to Milo singing to Richard Spencer who gave Nazi salutes.
A dark cloud hung over the Right, and to cope, websites like InfoWars and The Gateway Pundit began a new strategy of trying to link everything from train crashes to mass shootings to antifascists. As McInnes stated at the time of the Las Vegas shootings:
“I thought, yesterday, ‘Oh, good!’ Sorry, I know it’s a horrible word to use in such a catastrophe. But I thought, ‘The narrative may have switched now. Right-wingers are no longer the murderers of Heather Heyer. Now we’re the victims of Stephen Paddock.’”
Ironically as it turned out, Stephen Paddock was a Trump supporter.
The Man To Lead Them
Unite the Right has become the event that the far-Right desperately wants to move behind, and in the moments of violence and direct confrontation that they were able to engage in on June 30th in Portland, they caught a glimpse of where they hoped to be heading: open warfare against the general population. And the man to lead them: Joey Gibson.
In many ways, Gibson was the last man standing that could take up the task. Chapman himself was already tied down with a variety of court cases, legal problems, and also the lawsuit that linked FOAK to Unite the Right. Gibson also wasn’t camera shy, and his gravitation towards more Patriot themes did better with Trump audiences than Stickman’s talk of “the war on whites.”
Gibson was also able to harness a religious aspect to his far-Right activism: he called Portland a “dark city” and claimed that only “criminals” lived there. He talked about cleansing the streets, and the power of people who “respected” and loved freedom of speech, God, and the constitution. While Stickman bashed commie heads in so Lauren Southern could talk about refugee conspiracy theories, Gibson had God on his side!
After Proud Boys carry out string of violent attacks on public, Joey Gibson in run up to August 4th rally, calls city of #Portland a "disgusting" "dark city" that is the "laughing stock" of US. Claims his "freedom loving" troops will bring "the light." https://t.co/3xradjmcAy pic.twitter.com/oqfzLqijga
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) July 19, 2018
But this rhetoric is simply a justification to attack a broad section of the population. And as recent events have shown, the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer members are also keen on attacking random people outside of the context of street demonstrations, as they have recently attacked a person on the street in Portland, and another at the Vancouver Mall, in both instance, after hurling pro-Trump slogans and abuse, before beating them.
THe Warrior and the Victim
Okay, fine, you got it. It’s official. This is a war.
I’m trying to help…moderates to come together.”
– Joey Gibson, Reveal
In the weeks leading up to June 4th, Joey Gibson and the Proud Boys have done one thing consistently: increase the level of violent rhetoric and threats.
This includes Joey Gibson claiming that the police will allow them to engage in “mutual combat,” open talk of bringing firearms, discussion of infiltrating counter-protesters in order to attack them, and in some cases, out right death threats from Patriot Prayer attendees.
At #Portland rally, Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer called for immigrants heads to be "smash[ed]…into the concrete," seen giving Nazi salutes and screaming racial slurs. They don't just want to fight 'the Left,' but attack broad segments of the population. https://t.co/dPlbZby4QS pic.twitter.com/d2drdkAuhB
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) July 5, 2018
In predictable response, far-Right “journalists” like Tim Pool and Alex Jones have been running defense, playing up fears that “ANTIFA” will come armed, based solely on one line on a reddit forum that in the face of increasing talk from Patriot Prayer about bringing guns wrote, “Maybe we should bring ours too.”
After Joey Gibson got heat for posting various videos talking about bringing guns to #Portland, Alt-Lite "journalist" + water boy for neo-Nazis Tim Pool now is playing up 'ANTIFA' bringing guns via the massive scoop of one single line from a random person on a Reddit forum. pic.twitter.com/JCn07kStEs
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) July 31, 2018
Gibson is buying into this narrative, and playing up both a vision of himself as a fearless warrior willing to go into battle, and also as a helpless victim at the hands of rampaging black bloc thugs.
Days before Joey Gibson, Patriot Front, and the Prpud Boys are set to have a rally, long time Gibson friend and Patriot Prayer supporter is openly talking about murdering people. https://t.co/1Ku6imq1xQ
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) August 2, 2018
As history has shown, when the far-Right plays up its own conspiracy theories and pumps its base full of violent rhetoric and fear, the end result is not necessarily more numbers, but instead the creation of a select few people that are willing to shoot up a pizza shop to stop a pedophilia ring, blow away worshipers in a mosque, or run down protesters in their vehicle.
The ultranationalist shooter who murdered a homeless man with impunity in this story, Joe Vinci, has links to Joey Gibson's far-right Patriot Prayer organization. https://t.co/kG0pa9Dq8I
— Always Antifascist (@RoseCityAntifa) August 1, 2018
But while Alt-Right trolls beat the drum of open violence against anyone that would stand up to them and Trump, thousands of people across the Pacific Northwest, in Berkeley, and beyond, are getting organized to send a message to these bullies that we are strong, we are united, we will protect each other, and we are not afraid.