“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”
These are the words President Donald Trump proclaimed when Chris Wallace asked him to condemn right wing militias and white supremacist groups during the first presidential debate Tuesday night. An extremist group with ties to white nationalism, the Proud Boys were elated to hear the statement during the televised dumpster fire which drew 73.1 million permanently scarred viewers. In fact, the group took to the web via conservative channels (Proud Boys has been banned from Instagram, Twitter and Facebook) to express their delight with what they perceived as a not-so-subtle call to arms. Members and supporters of the Proud Boys rushed to create memes, t-shirts, logos and shoulder patches featuring Trump’s phrase. Seizing upon the news cycle to create merchandise has become a habit for the sect as “Rittenhouse Did Nothing Wrong tees” have been spotted at Proud Boy rallies since Kyle Rittenhouse’s arrest.
Trump’s statement also served as a rallying cry for the xenophobic, misogynistic fraternity and sparked a recruitment drive. Although exact Proud Boy membership numbers are unknown, in 2018 the FBI warned of their recruitment efforts throughout the Pacific Northwest. Ironically, the group encourages membership from any man, regardless of race or sexual orientation. A fundamental requisite, however, is that any prospective member “recognizes that white men are not the problem.”
For those just learning about this group, we provide a synopsis of the Proud Boys, its roots and core beliefs, and why federal and local law enforcement agencies are paying significant attention to this armed and dangerous collective.