The FBI has officially declared the 'Proud Boys,' a far-right 'Western chauvinist' group with a penchant for street fights, as 'extremist'

Stephanie Keith/Getty ImagesProud Boys founder Gavin McInnes takes part in an alt-right protest of Muslim Activist Linda Sarsour on May 25, 2017 in New York City.
  • The FBI has designated the far-right “Proud Boys” as an “extremist group with ties to white nationalism,” according to a document from the Clark County sheriff’s office in Washington state.
  • The Proud Boys, which recently made headlines over its involvement in street violence in New York City and Portland, was founded by Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes.
  • The Proud Boys are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric, the Southern Poverty Law Center says on its website.

The FBI has designated the far-right “Proud Boys” as an “extremist group with ties to white nationalism,” according to a document from the Clark County sheriff’s office in Washington state.

The report was obtained by The Guardian via the government transparency nonprofit Property of the People, and it marks the first reported instance of the FBI referring to the group as “extremist.”

According to the document, “The FBI has warned local law enforcement agencies that the Proud Boys are actively recruiting in the Pacific north-west.”

“Proud Boys members have contributed to the recent escalation of violence at political rallies held on college campuses, and in cities like Charlottesville, Virginia, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington,” the document added.


Read more: 2 stats show why the US government has struggled to fight the rise of white nationalism and domestic terrorism

The authenticity of the report was confirmed to The Guardian by its author.

The Proud Boys, which recently made headlines over its involvement in street violence in New York City and Portland, was founded by Vice Media cofounder Gavin McInnes during the 2016 presidential campaign. The group describes itself as comprised of “western chauvinists” and believe the “West is best.”

McInnes has sought to distance the Proud Boys from associations with white nationalism and the alt-right, but the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) describes it as a “hate group.” The Proud Boys are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric, the SPLC says on its website.

President Donald Trump has faced criticism over his approach to right-wing extremism, as critics say his rhetoric emboldens such movements and those associated with them.

A recent poll by the Public Religion Institute found that a majority of Americans (54%) believe Trump’s decisions and behaviour have encouraged white supremacist groups.


Read more: Most Americans think Trump has encouraged white supremacists, and some are worried he has become a ‘legitmising voice’ for hate groups

Trump in 2017 cut funding to groups focusing on countering right-wing violence, a move that faced condemnation after the president’s response to violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which was organised by former Proud Boys member Jason Kessler.

Since his presidential campaign, Trump has frequently emphasised the danger of “radical Islamic terrorism,” but law enforcement data shows white supremacists and other far-right extremists have killed more people since the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, than any other category of domestic extremist.

The FBI has also faced criticism over its approach to white nationalism and associated groups, as critics say it has not been quick or forceful enough to thwarting far-right extremism even as it’s targeted “black identity extremists.”

“The FBI’s failure to initially identify the Proud Boys as a violent organisation allied with White Nationalists is hardly surprising given the FBI’s long record of targeting social justice activists as terrorists while turning a blind eye to the threat posed by the radical right,” Ryan Shapiro, executive director of Property of the People, told HuffPost in a statement.

The FBI avoided explicitly addressing the designation of the Proud Boys as an extremist group in comments to INSIDER, but did say it “does not and will not police ideology.”

“Our focus is not on membership in particular groups but on individuals who commit violence and criminal activity that constitutes a federal crime or poses a threat to national security,” the FBI said. “When it comes to domestic terrorism, our investigations focus solely on criminal activity of individuals-regardless of group membership-which appears to be intended to intimidate or coerce the civilian population or influence the policy of the government by intimidation or coercion.”

The FBI added that it “regularly assesses intelligence regarding possible threats and works closely to share that information with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners.”

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