The World Community for Racial Justice


“Proud Boys – 5 facts, stand back and stand by.” The SPLC Extremist File

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 –


Trump’s executive order “intended goal is clear,” the “recommendations that will give more power and protection to law enforcement, reinvigorate tough-on-crime measures, and cut down on the rights of citizens.”

By Tom Jackman

Judge rules federal law enforcement commission violates law, orders work stopped as attorney general prepares to issue report

The LDF sued Barr and the commission in April, seeking an injunction to declare it was not properly constituted and to stop the commission from submitting or publishing any report. The commission’s

A national commission on policing launched earlier this year by President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr has violated federal law by seating only people in law enforcement and failing to include members with different perspectives such as civil rights activists, defense attorneys or mental health professionals, a federal judge ruled Thursday as he halted the group’s work. The commission also did not file a charter, post public notice of its meetings or open them to the public, so even though it has already sent its draft report and recommendations to Barr for release later this month, the judge prohibited Barr from publishing a final report.

The ruling by Senior U.S. District Judge John D. Bates in Washington came in response to a lawsuit from the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, which sought an injunction against the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice for violating laws on how federal advisory committees must work. Bates did not issue an injunction yet, but asked both sides to file briefs on what should be included in an injunction, said he would order the commission to change its membership and comply with other aspects of the law, and that it could not issue a report until it had done so.

“Especially in 2020,” Bates wrote, “when racial justice and civil rights issues involving law enforcement have erupted across the nation, one may legitimately question whether it is sound policy to have a group with little diversity of experience examine, behind closed doors, the sensitive issues facing law enforcement and the criminal justice system in America today.”

The 18-member commission was composed entirely of state and federal law enforcement officials, with no one from the civil rights, criminal defense, social work, religious or academic fields. Members were sworn in on Jan. 22, and then heard months of testimony by teleconference from experts in a variety of police, prosecutorial and social fields. The commission also formed 15 working groups, with more than 100 members, to draft sections of the report focusing on topics such as “Reduction of Crime,” “Respect for Law Enforcement,” “Data and Reporting” and “Homeland Security.”

The Federal Advisory Committee Act requires that a committee’s membership be “fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented and the functions to be performed,” so that its recommendations “will not be inappropriately influenced by the appointing authority.” The working groups were also largely tied to policing, with only five of the 112 members not from law enforcement. After the suit was filed, the speakers who testified before the commission were more diverse in professional backgrounds.

Police groups lobbied Congress for years to form a commission that would take a comprehensive look at improving American policing, as a similar panel did in the 1960s, to devise new ways to fight crime and use technology to improve policing. When various bills stalled in Congress, Trump signed an executive order last October creating the group, with the president acknowledging the assistance of the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Chiefs of Police in launching the project.

The law also requires that advisory committee meetings be open to the public, with notice posted in the Federal Register, along with a charter for the committee. The commission did not post a charter or meeting notices in the register, but did send out news releases announcing the virtual meetings as well as posting transcripts and recordings of the meetings. Reporters and others could dial in and listen to the teleconferences. A meeting that Barr held in June with the commission, on the same day Trump signed an executive order on police reform, was not announced and the Justice Department declined to release a transcript or recording.

Trump’s order called for the commission to submit its report and recommendations to the attorney general, who was then required to send his final report to the president by Oct. 28. The Justice Department planned to release it at the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention in late October, according to an email in the court file. Now, the report and the commission’s months of work are in limbo.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said the department, which provided staff and guidance to the commission, declined to comment.

Natasha Merle, one of the LDF lawyers who argued the case, said she didn’t think it was too late for the commission to comply with the law and incorporate new viewpoints. But to offer civil rights groups such as LDF a seat at the commission table, “and then put out the report as is, that is not a seat at the table,” Merle said. “We would say a seat at the table is allowing substantive comments, hearings and a new report. For there to be any real relief, to really get at the crux of the issue, you would have to incorporate these members’ viewpoints and put them into the report.”

The LDF sued Barr and the commission in April, seeking an injunction to declare it was not properly constituted and to stop the commission from submitting or publishing any report. The commission’s “intended goal is clear,” the LDF’s lawsuit argued: “recommendations that will give more power and protection to law enforcement, reinvigorate tough-on-crime measures, and cut down on the rights of citizens.”

Before the suit was filed, The Justice Department had provided a detailed outline on April 10 to members of the “Respect for Law Enforcement and the Rule of Law” working group for its chapter of the report, according to documents the LDF later obtained and filed in the case. The outline recommends that the Justice Department “should work to correct the myth of excessive use of force by law enforcement officers” and “should play a leading role in correcting the narrative regarding the number of individuals incarcerated in the United States.”

Last month John J. Choi, the prosecutor in Ramsey County, Minn., where St. Paul is located, resigned from a working group of the commission, saying the commission “had no intention of engaging in a thoughtful and open analysis” of the American justice system, “but was intent on providing cover for a predetermined agenda that ignores the lessons of the past.” A Justice Department spokeswoman noted that when Choi resigned, his working group had already submitted its report.

Justice Department lawyers argued that the commission doesn’t fall under the federal committee law, known as FACA. Instead, it is exempted under another law, the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, or UMRA, which does not require diverse membership or public notice if a committee’s meetings “are held exclusively between Federal officials and elected officers … or their designated employees with authority to act on their behalf.”

Judge Bates, who has served on a number of committees dealing with legal procedures and is chair of the federal judiciary’s Advisory Committee on Civil Rules, seemed skeptical of this exemption in oral arguments on Sept. 17. First, he asked if there were any commission members “who have backgrounds in civil rights organizations … criminal defense … community organizations … that are not police organizations?” Justice Department attorney Bradley P. Humphreys said he did not have the members’ résumés but it was “certainly possible they have that experience.”

Bates then noted that nonmembers have testified in the commission’s hearings, though the exemption to FACA cited by Humphreys says the meetings will be held “exclusively between” the commission members. “It’s the commission that’s driving the ship,” Humphreys said. “The explicit purpose is to make recommendations to the president.”

“Just because that’s its purpose,” Bates responded, “doesn’t mean it’s outside FACA. FACA exists to have some specific requirements, unless some exemption applies. The exemption in UMRA is pretty specific.”

Bates, an appointee of President George W. Bush, ruled Thursday that FACA did apply to the commission, and the UMRA exemption did not. “Indeed, the Court is hard pressed to think of a starker example of non-compliance with FACA’s fair balance requirement,” Bates wrote, “than a commission charged with examining broad issues of policing in today’s America that is composed entirely of past and present law enforcement officials.”

Bates acknowledged that the commission is in its end stages, required to produce its report by Oct. 28 and disband within 90 days. He instructed both sides to file briefs by next week on possible injunctive relief “requiring the Attorney General and the Department of Justice to ensure the Commission has a fairly balanced membership.” He also ordered the commission to file a charter and designate a federal officer as required by FACA, and “refrain from publishing any report produced by the commission until the requirements of FACA are satisfied.”

Miriam Krinsky, executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution, a national group of elected prosecutors working toward criminal justice reform, said that, “The skewed makeup of the Commission and its working groups — and its secretive and closed process — underscores the bias and predetermined agenda inherent in the establishment of this group. … Sadly, at a time when trust in law enforcement is at an all-time low, this Commission represents nothing more than a sham proceeding designed to further a political agenda.”

The commission’s members are:

Chairman: Phil Keith, director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Vice Chairman: Katharine Sullivan, principal deputy assistant attorney general of the Office of Justice Programs. Commissioners: David Bowdich, deputy director, FBI; James Clemmons, sheriff of Richmond County, N.C.; D. Christopher Evans, chief of operations, DEA; Frederick Frazier, Dallas police officer; Robert Gualtieri, sheriff of Pinellas County, Fla.; Gina Hawkins, police chief in Fayetteville, N.C.; Regina Lombardo, acting director of ATF; Erica MacDonald, U.S. attorney for Minnesota; Ashley Moody, Florida attorney general; Nancy Parr, commonwealth’s attorney in Chesapeake, Va.; Craig Price, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety; Gordon Ramsay, chief of police in Wichita; David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; John Samaniego, sheriff of Shelby County, Ala.; James Smallwood, Nashville police sergeant; Donald Washington, director of the U.S. Marshals Service.


A Pro-Trump Militant Group Has Recruited Thousands of Police, Soldiers, and VeteransAn Atlantic investigation reveals who they are and what they might do on Election Day.Stewart RhodesStory by Mike Giglio

Editor’s Note: After this story was sent to press for the November issue of The Atlantic, President Donald Trump was asked in the September 29 debate whether he would “condemn white supremacists and militia groups and say that they need to stand down.” The president said “Sure,” and then said that the Proud Boys, a militant nativist group, should “stand back and stand by” as the election approaches.

Stewart rhodes was living his vision of the future. On television, American cities were burning, while on the internet, rumors warned that antifa bands were coming to terrorize the suburbs. Rhodes was driving around South Texas, getting ready for them. He answered his phone. “Let’s not fuck around,” he said. “We’ve descended into civil war.”

It was a Friday evening in June. Rhodes, 55, is a stocky man with a gray buzz cut, a wardrobe of tactical-casual attire, and a black eye patch. With him in his pickup were a pistol and a dusty black hat with the gold logo of the Oath Keepers, a militant group that has drawn in thousands of people from the military and law-enforcement communities.

Rhodes had been talking about civil war since he founded the Oath Keepers, in 2009. But now more people were listening. And whereas Rhodes had once cast himself as a revolutionary in waiting, he now saw his role as defending the president. He had put out a call for his followers to protect the country against what he was calling an “insurrection.” The unrest, he told me, was the latest attempt to undermine Donald Trump.

Over the summer, Rhodes’s warnings of conflict only grew louder. In August, when a teenager was charged with shooting and killing two people at protests over police brutality in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Rhodes called him “a Hero, a Patriot” on Twitter. And when a Trump supporter was killed later that week in Portland, Oregon, Rhodes declared that there was no going back. “Civil war is here, right now,” he wrote, before being banned from the platform for inciting violence.

By then, I’d spent months interviewing current and former Oath Keepers, attempting to determine whether they would really take part in violence. Many of their worst fears had been realized in quick succession: government lockdowns, riots, a movement to abolish police, and leftist groups arming themselves and seizing part of a city. They saw all of it as a precursor to the 2020 election.

As Trump spent the year warning about voter fraud, the Oath Keepers were listening. What would happen, I wondered, if Trump lost, said the election had been stolen, and refused to concede? Or the flip side: What if he won and his opponents poured into the streets in protest? The U.S. was already seeing a surge in political violence, and in August the FBI put out a bulletin that warned of a possible escalation heading into the election. How much worse would things get if trained professionals took up arms?

I’d been asking a version of these questions since 2017, when I met a researcher from the Southern Poverty Law Center who told me about Rhodes and the Oath Keepers. She’d received a leaked database with information about the group, and she said it might contain some answers.

Rhodes was a little-known libertarian blogger when he launched the Oath Keepers in early 2009. It was a moment of anxiety on the American right: As the Great Recession raged, protesters met the new president with accusations of socialism and tyranny. “The greatest threats to our liberty do not come from without,” Rhodes wrote online, “but from within.” Republicans had spent eight years amassing power in an executive branch now occupied by Barack Obama. The time for politics was ending. “Our would-be slave masters are greatly underestimating the resolve and military capability of the people,” Rhodes wrote.