By Emilio Nesrala: Staff Writer
On September 29th, 2020, President Trump was asked to publicly condemn white supremacist groups during the first presidential debate of the year. After asking for a specific group to condemn, Joe Biden named the Proud Boys. Trump’s message to them was to “stand back and stand by,” shocking political pundits across the United States. Who are the Proud Boys and why have they been such a controversial topic?
The Proud Boys have been around since 2016 when they were founded by Gavin McInnes, initially describing themselves as “western chauvinists,” meaning they identify as people who have an overwhelming sense of loyalty and patriotism towards their country. In a recent statement written to USA Today, Ronald Coleman, a spokesperson for the Proud Boys, wrote, “We do not care what color you are or what your background is… if you love America… we consider you a brother.”
Despite this, many still view the Proud Boys as a racist and hateful group. Amongst those who classify them as a hate group stands the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit law advocacy group who claims to monitor the activities of domestic hate groups and other extremists within the United States. They explained that the group is well known for their “anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric,” citing many instances in which members made hateful statements towards those who practice Islam, even including one particular instance in which McInnes, the founder of the Proud Boys, stated that it was “fair” to call him Islamaphobic.
More recently, the Proud Boys have played a large role in the increasing civil unrest in cities such as Portland, Oregon, where it is common to find many left-leaning advocacy groups. The leader of the group, Enrique Tarrio, has publicly denounced any violence done by their group though, stating in an interview done by All Gas No Brakes, an American YouTube channel, that those on the left often “incorrectly” consider them to be a violent group because they “make self-defense look like assault.”