The Proud Boys are a far-right militant group that is known for violent street fighting promoting common tropes found among the alt-right, including white nationalism, misogyny, and anti-LGBTQ+ ideals. They have been designated as a terrorist group by the Canadian government.
The group has been investigated for its connection to the infamous January 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C. This investigation revealed the Proud Boys played a core role in the riots, with several leaders and prominent figures with the group being arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy for their roles.
Since the insurrection, the group has changed their focus onto the LGBTQ+ community, in particular attacking demonstrations around drag queens and trans rights. They have staged numerous anti-trans protests and actions, many of which were counterprotesting peaceful demonstrations for transgender rights.
We see there are no old trannies. They die of drug overdoses and suicide way before they’re 40 and nobody notices because nobody knows them. They are mentally ill gays who need help, and that doesn’t include being maimed by physicians.
The Proud Boys were founded in 2016 by Gavin McInnes, being announced to the public on September 15, 2016 in the far-right magazine Taki’s Magazine. The group was explicitly founded as “Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world,” and are described by McInnes as having a longing for “when girls were girls and men were men.”
A 2018 news article estimated the group’s membership at around 6,000, but Proud Boys chapters were reported to have grown substantially in 2021. The 2021 insurrection may have affected numbers, however, and no firm estimates currently exist.
The Proud Boys are not registered as a nonprofit, and as such do not have their finances visible to the public. It is thereby unknown how much money they bring in collectively, and how much is spent within their organization.
It is known that they once used the Christian fundraising site GiveSendGo in order to raise funds for their causes, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars across the website, with the funds being advertised to donors as funding equipment for their chapters and for medical costs for various members of their organization. GiveSendGo cut ties with the group after a public campaign in the wake of the capital riots on January 6th.
Members of the Proud Boys have had to pay upwards of $1 million following a lawsuit in which they were charged for targeting and damaging a historically Black church’s campus.
History of Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism
While originally not focused on LGBTQ+ issues, The Proud Boys have come to target the LGBTQ+ community in recent years, reportedly targeting 28 LGBTQ+ or LGBTQ+ friendly events. The group typically dresses in black and yellow gang colors and frequently hold signs accusing trans people of pedophilia.
Events disrupted by the group include a Drag Queen Story Hour at the San Lorenzo Library in California, which has been investigated as being a hate crime, and an adults-only drag show at a bar in Woodland, CA that was canceled due to threats of violence. Altogether, anti-LGBTQ+ activity by the Proud Boys comprises over 40% of their activities for 2022, with the amount rising in the years since.
Proud Boys have also collaborated with neo-nazi groups in pushing for these anti-trans protests. Neo-nazis promote the idea that all trans people deserve to be killed or forcibly converted to being cisgender in the most charitable of cases. Proud Boys have been described by internal members as though many of the members were endorsing the views of the Nazi Party
The group has received positive attention from former US president Donald Trump, who said “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left, because this is not a right-wing problem, this is a left-wing [problem].”
January 6 Insurrection
On January 6, 2021, numerous right-wing actors rioted in the United States Capitol in an attempt to overturn the election of Democrat Joe Biden. The event resulted in numerous people being charged with terrorism, and the impeachment, though not the removal, of former president Donald Trump.
The Proud Boys’ role in the riot has been thoroughly investigated, and it was found that members of the group played a large role in increasing the number of the crowds and rioters. Several leaders of the group were charged with seditious conspiracy for their roles in instigating the insurrection. This includes the former leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio.