Proud Boys members face charges amid crackdown

PORTLAND, Oregon – In the months following the siege of the United States Capitol in January, federal investigators took a close look at...

PORTLAND, Oregon – In the months following the siege of the United States Capitol in January, federal investigators took a close look at the Proud Boys, a far-right nationalist group at the forefront of the riot. Officers searched the group’s encrypted messages, looked at video footage of their exploits and mounted criminal cases against at least two dozen members.

Canadian authorities have joined in the crackdown, labeling the group as a terrorist organization, a move that allows the government to seize assets in that country.

Group leader Enrique Tarrio was sentenced Monday by the local Washington District Court to five months in prison for possession of high capacity rifle magazines days before the siege and for burning a stolen Black Lives Matter banner after a separate trial. Trump’s rally turned violent in December.

But despite intensifying scrutiny, an organization that has built itself as a bunch of brethren ready for a violent confrontation over what its members see as an assault on Western culture shows no sign of fading away. Members began to regroup online and join rallies.

On Saturday, several Proud Boys took part in a protest against South Carolina’s coronavirus control measures – one of many forays the group is making into local politics. Then, on Sunday, dozens of activists wearing the group’s yellow and black colors gathered in Portland, Oregon, where they battled the streets with anti-fascist counter-protesters, firing paintball guns and smashing windows. An arrest took place after gunshots broke out.

The event had been billed as a rally to unite right-wing groups, but it featured the Proud Boys, a group whose members espoused misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant views. Sunday’s rally turned into a protest against the incarceration of the rioters who besieged the Capitol on January 6.

With supporters coming from California, Washington state and as far away as New York City, the event showed that the Proud Boys were ready to continue to engage in the kind of public violence that first attracted police repression.

The Proud Boys were created in the 2016 presidential election and gained tremendous momentum through the tenure of President Donald J. Trump, who called them to “take a step back and be ready”; their members have enjoyed a certain degree of leniency of law enforcement officers which at times favored the group in its conflicts with the antifa and other leftist protesters.

That changed after January 6, when a crowd of around 100 Proud Boys and their supporters walked through the security gates of the Capitol and, according to prosecutors, played a leading role in helping the largest crowd of protesters. pro-Trump to violently violate the building. Members of the group were “at the tip of the spear”, according to court documents, among the first rioters to smash windows, smash doors and confront the police inside. The FBI has further learned that before and after the attack on Capitol Hill, two Proud Boy executives spoke of pissing off “standards” – ordinary people in the crowd.

In the aftermath of the riot, federal authorities used all their power to investigate the organization. FBI agents executed search warrants in New York, California, Florida, Missouri and Washington state. Prosecutors analyzed hundreds of private messages on apps like Telegram and social media platforms like Parler. Investigators targeted Proud Boys leaders in particular, arresting branch presidents from Honolulu, Seattle, Philadelphia and the Winston-Salem area of ​​North Carolina.

Among the targets of federal crackdown are the Proud Boys of the Pacific Northwest, which has a long history as a base for far-right groups. One of them, Ethan Nordean of Auburn, Washington, has been labeled by federal authorities as one of the leaders in the attack on Capitol Hill. Federal agents also arrested two brothers – Matthew Klein and Jonathanpeter Klein – for their roles on Capitol Hill.

Both Mr. Nordean and the Klein brothers were rooted in the conflicted world of the Proud Boys long before January 6. Mr Nordean has become one of the group’s most prominent figures after knocking out an antifa activist in Portland during a protest in 2018. The Kleins have appeared at other events in Oregon, prosecutors say, including one last year in which police stopped a truck as it appeared the men in the vehicle were preparing for a violent conflict. Matthew Klein, one of the people in the vehicle, was cited for illegal possession of firearms.

At an event last summer in Salem, the state capital, a group of right-wing protesters – several of them wearing Proud Boys clothes – pursued a smaller group of counter-protesters, beating and shooting them. paintballs. The Proud Boys then celebrated one of the attacks in a video posted online.

Although the Proud Boys have long been among Mr. Trump’s strongest supporters, the events of January 6 prompted some members of the group to reassess their support for the former president. Mr Nordean later told his colleagues, in a group chat obtained by the FBI, that he felt betrayed by Mr Trump for encouraging the Proud Boys to believe that “great justice” was at hand. the horizon but that he never kept his promise.

“I followed this guy for 4 years and gave it all and lost it all,” Mr Nordean wrote in the chat. “Trump, you left us on the battlefield bloody and alone.”

Since the January 6 riot, the Proud Boys Pacific Northwest chapter, which includes groups from Oregon and Washington, has chosen to break with the national organization and its national president, Mr. Tarrio, according to a court declaration filed. by Daniel Arellano, the group’s Seattle chapter president. This movement came even as Mr. Tarrio’s story as a federal informant was suddenly exposed, damaging his position among many of his peers.

But throughout the turmoil, Mr Tarrio, who lives in Miami, managed to maintain his grip on power despite a handful of competitors challenging his authority.

Mr Tarrio’s personal problems worsened on Monday with the announcement that he would spend just over five months in prison.

The sentence came a day after the Proud Boys’ last violent foray into Portland. They gathered in a retail parking lot on Sunday, waving an American flag and hoisting a banner referring to those arrested in the January 6 riots as “political prisoners.”

After anti-fascist protesters arrived at the scene, the Proud Boys pursued them with batons, maces, improvised fireworks and paintball guns. “Let’s go,” one of the Proud Boys leaders shouted as the group set off in pursuit of anti-fascist activists, who also used violent tactics during the confrontation and at one point attacked a journalist documenting the scene.

At a nearby college, several Proud Boys surrounded a counter-protester sitting in a truck. One of them got into the truck and started hitting the man.

Later, about 10 miles away in the city’s downtown core, a man was arrested after exchanging gunfire with anti-fascist protesters, according to a police report and a review of video footage from the scene. No one seems to have been hit.

The man who was arrested, Dennis G. Anderson, a 65-year-old resident of Gresham, has been charged with illegal use of a weapon and illegal possession of a firearm, and the Police Department of Portland said he was looking for one or more additional people. who may have shot a gun.

Mr Tarrio claimed support for the group had only increased since Jan.6 and said he expects the Proud Boys to likely focus less on big public events for the foreseeable future. Instead, he said, in addition to supporting those accused of crimes in the Capitol seat, he is exploring a candidacy and wants to help the Proud Boys get elected across the country.

“People think we’re just going to leave,” Tarrio said in an interview on Monday. “We’re not. Like it or not, we’re here to stay.

Stephen Piggott, a researcher who monitors right-wing extremism for the left-wing nonprofit Western States Center, fears this may be true. “They have not wavered in their commitment to commit acts of violence,” he said.

Neil Mac Farquhar contributed reports.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Proud Boys members face charges amid crackdown
Proud Boys members face charges amid crackdown
Newsrust - US Top News
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