Proud Boys – stand back and stand by.”
That was how President Trump responded during Tuesday’s presidential debate when he was specifically asked to “condemn white supremacists and militia groups.”
If Trump’s comments were intended as a condemnation and disavowal of the hate group known as the Proud Boys, that’s not how they’ve been received by the group itself. By the next day, the Proud Boys were celebrating Trump’s remarks. According to The New York Times, a Proud Boys member said that the group was “already seeing a spike in ‘new recruits.’”
We can shed some light on the Proud Boys because we have been tracking and studying the group since shortly after its founding in 2016, as part of our mission to monitor groups peddling hate and extremism across the country.
These details may be unsettling to read, and we sincerely wish we lived in a world where hate groups like the Proud Boys didn’t pose a threat and could be safely ignored. But when it comes to fighting extremism in the real world, we believe that information is power – that it is essential to study, track and monitor hate groups in order to stop their spread and limit their influence.
With that in mind, here are five fast facts to know about the Proud Boys:
- The Proud Boys is a group of self-described “western chauvinists” who adamantly deny any connection to the racist “alt-right,” insisting they are simply a fraternal group spreading an “anti-political correctness” and “anti-white guilt” agenda. However, actions speak louder than words. Rank-and-file members are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric, and they maintain affiliations with known extremists.
- The SPLC first designated the Proud Boys as a hate group in 2017, listing three chapters: New York City (the group’s headquarters), Dallas and Indiana (statewide). In 2018, we listed 44 active chapters of the Proud Boys across the U.S.
- Violence is a core part of the Proud Boys’ ideology and functions as their main recruiting tool. The “fourth degree” of Proud Boys membership is reserved for those who have fought against antifascists. And the violent rallies held this summer in Portland, Oregon, and other cities around the country have contributed to a major uptick in Proud Boys applicants on Facebook, the space they use to organize their chapters.
- Members of the Proud Boys have appeared alongside other hate groups at events like the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. More recently, members appeared in a group with far-right skinheads attacking counterprotesters in New York City.
- The Proud Boys serves as a “gateway” group to other, even more extreme hate groups. Some white nationalists have described the Proud Boys as an essential step on their road to extremism because it introduced them both to a weakened form of white nationalist rhetoric and to more hardcore white nationalist figures
Our SPLC Extremist File on the Proud Boys contains detailed information about the group, including multiple examples of their hateful rhetoric in action.
We simply couldn’t do this work – studying, tracking and monitoring hate groups like the Proud Boys –