When Chris Wallace confronted the candidate Donald Trump in a Presidential debate last year, and asked him to denounce the Proud Boys and white supremacy, he didn’t exactly get that.
Instead, the Proud Boys, designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, were catapulted to celebrity status.
“The election period was a massive spike of Proud Boys activity in the street that honestly started right after that debate,” said Hampton Stall, senior researcher with the Armed Conflict Location Event Data Project (ACLED), a private group that collects information on violence worldwide.
In November 2020 alone, the Proud Boys made at least 40 outdoor appearances at protest events, demonstrations, and riots, often tied to “Stop the Steal” activities. Their momentum culminated in the January 6 insurrection that has led to charges of conspiracy to 15 Proud Boys.
Even the imprisonment of leader Enrique Tarrio, an admitted FBI informant, has not damaged the group.
Instead, they are organizing at a more local level, joining rallies of right wing flashpoints like anti-masking and critical race theory; anti-abortion “prayer” events with Christian organizations; and events removing Confederate statues.
“What they want to do is normalize their brand of politics, which is one that is authoritarian, that wants to push the creation of a more hierarchical society where men, and white men in particular, retain the most power,” according to a researcher at the SPLC.
The SPLC sees Republican lawmakers embracing the Proud Boys and their brand of violence and suppression of free speech with words of war, revolution, and violence. In six states, bills were introduced that sought to protect drivers who ran over protesters.
The Proud Boys claim an alliance of 40,000 members in 40 chapters across the country. While researchers have previously said the numbers were likely inflated, the past months since Trump’s infamous embrace have been a period of grass roots growth for the Proud Boys.
See this complete story at NPR.