Members Only | September 29, 2021 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
Why isn’t the full force of the US government being brought down on the Proud Boys? Democracy and freedom demand it
The FBI has the means, but not the will.
Far-right extremism, or white supremacy, is the fastest growing ideology in the United States. The impact of white supremacists terrorizing Black communities has led to calls for serious action, even an anti-lynching bill. This alone reflects how dangerous they are.
Add to that the January 6 insurrection and the evidenced involvement of the Proud Boys, and other groups, leading to the FBI describing the attack on the United States Capitol as an act of domestic terror.
A mountain of evidence suggests that, just as Canada did (and as I’ve written previously for the Editorial Board), the United States should follow suit and list the Proud Boys (and others) as domestic terror groups, as part of its initiative to tackle white supremacy.
But that hasn’t happened. Failure means the problem persists with the potential to worsen. The safety of Black people and people of color, and the internal security of the United States, depends on such a bold move happening. The failure to treat the Proud Boys as they should be by the federal authorities is continuing to have consequences.
How many more like Kyle Rittenhouse are on the sideline, “standing by,” for their chance, brainwashed by the nonsense of the Proud Boys? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
Indeed, a couple of things have taken place recently that have once again brought this worrying reality into sharp focus. First, the clashes several weeks back between the Proud Boys and anti-fascists.
The scenes in Portland, Oregon, turned ugly, but thankfully nobody was killed. Here’s the thing that’s alarming. Prior to the Proud Boy protest and the counter demonstration, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell publicly announced that officers would not intervene. The Proud Boys are a threat, but here they were treated with kid gloves.
The lack of policing means that an approach of doubling down will be needed the next time the Proud Boys appear. Because the calculated failure to leave them to their own devices in the streets is akin to Trump’s message. It’s extremely dangerous, and dare I suggest, not how millions of Americans want their tax dollars spent with policing. Surely, those Proud Boys who watched events unfold in Portland at home on the TV will be salivating at the prospect of the next protest.
The plot thickens even further.
Just days ago, a judge ruled that prosecutors in the murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the Kenosha shooter who shot three people at a protest against police brutality in 2020, will not be able to play for jurors a video of Rittenhouse allegedly stating his desire to shoot people — while agreeing with the Proud Boys’ tactics. The news is another example of how dangerous the Proud Boys and their ilk have become.
They can terrorize the Capitol, greenlighted by the former president, and, others would argue, in the streets, allowed to do so by a police chief in Portland. Apparently the Proud Boys were allowed to post banners around the city before the violence took place.
Their white supremacist ideology is something the likes of Kyle Rittenhouse was sympathetic to. How many more like Rittenhouse are on the sideline, “standing by” for their chance, brainwashed by the nonsense of the Proud Boys? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
In recent day, the Times reported that a member of the Proud Boys who was present and took part in the insurrection was also an FBI informant and was texting his contact throughout the day.
That the FBI remained in contact suggests that law enforcement were more informed about imminent violence than previously suggested. One thing is clear by now. Law enforcement have more than enough evidence and knowledge, and means, as do the FBI, to halt the Proud Boys in their tracks before they carry out further serious crimes.
Trump was a dream come true for the Proud Boys. God only knows what messaging he might have continued giving to white supremacist groups had he secured another term. Biden needs to now break up the dangerous groundwork that was laid for groups like them. And ordinary Americans need to push him. The safety of tax-paying Americans, and American democracy itself, is depending on it.
Richard Sudan covers human rights and American foreign affairs for the Editorial Board. Based in London, his reporting has appeared in The Guardian, Independent and others. Find him @richardsudan.