- The Proud Boys group appears to be splintering and in disarray in the wake of the Capitol riot.
- Its leader, Enrique Tarrio, was unmasked as a former FBI informant, leading some chapters to secede.
- Its main Telegram channel was renamed after some complained the brand had grown toxic.
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The far-right Proud Boys group appears to be in chaos after evidence surfaced that its main leader, Enrique Tarrio, previously served as an FBI informant.
Tarrio had been arrested shortly ahead of the insurrection on destruction-of-property charges.
Reuters obtained a transcript of a 2014 court proceeding in which Tarrio’s lawyer acknowledged his role as an informant in multiple cases unrelated to the Proud Boys, a group that was founded in 2016.
Since the January 6 riot, the group has been thrown into disarray, with Tarrio’s history as an informant – which he denied to Reuters – spreading paranoia.
The group is split into various regional groups, or chapters. The Daily Beast reported on Sunday that the revelation about Tarrio prompted chapters in Alabama, Oklahoma, and Indiana to distance themselves from the central leadership.
On Telegram, the encrypted app favored by the group after it was barred by other platforms, its main channel was recently renamed. This, say experts, indicates that many adherents no longer want to be associated with the Proud Boys name.
“The Telegram channel dropping the name, different chapters breaking off from the national leadership, it all speaks to a rift that’s occurring in the Proud Boys,” said Jared Holt, a fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab to USA Today.
“That brand has become too toxic.”
And to add to its woes, the group was designated as a terrorist group by the Canadian government on February 3.
Canada’s public-safety minister, Bill Blair, said the group’s “pivotal role” in the Capitol riot influenced the designation, which allows authorities to freeze its assets and allows its members to be charged under terrorism laws in connection to violent crimes.
The group was founded by the Vice Media cofounder Gavin McInnes, a Canadian. He has since distanced himself from the group.
They gained notoriety for their involvement in violent clashes with Black Lives Matter supporters and antifa activists in cities across the US.
As president, Donald Trump boosted the group’s profile when he told the Proud Boys to “stand by” when challenged by Joe Biden about white nationalist groups during their first presidential debate.
Insider reported that the group sought to capitalize on Trump’s endorsement on Telegram, using the president’s comments to lure in new recruits and sell merchandise.
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