The Proud Boys are a violent, nationalist street gang that formed in 2016 amid now-President Donald Trump’s election campaign. Though the group was always known for plotting and carrying out attacks on protesters at political rallies, it gained new notoriety after Trump acknowledged them during a presidential debate with Democratic candidate Joe Biden on Tuesday.
Initially the Proud Boys were a small group of self-described “Western chauvinists” under Vice magazine co-founder Gavin McInnes, and made a name for themselves in right-wing circles by fighting with leftist protesters at pro-Trump rallies in and around cities like Portland, Oregon, and New York City. After Trump’s election, their numbers grew, as did their reputation for violence.
By 2017, it was a full-blown gang, complete with a uniform — a black and yellow Fred Perry polo that the company recently discontinued in North America due to the group’s adoption of it — and a ranking system whose rules included forgoing masturbation and beating up leftists and anti-fascists. McInnis himself (who hadn’t worked at Vice since 2008) was a rising reactionary talk show host on YouTube, spewing his racist and misogynist ideology to millions of viewers, and regularly inciting violence among his gang members. “Fighting solves everything,” he has said.
But while McInnis has remained insulated from the consequences of his speeches, his Proud Boys continue to get exposed and arrested for assaults, threats and other crimes and gaffes.
Ten Proud Boys were arrested and charged after beating protesters in the street following a GOP event in Manhattan in late 2018. Two of them were sentenced to four years in jail, and the incident led McInnis to step down as their leader (though evidence suggests he’s still involved). Their former lawyer, Jason Lee Van Dyke, was investigated as part of an assassination plot against a man he was involved in a legal battle with, had previously been