FBI denies designating the Proud Boys as extremist group
The FBI on Tuesday denied classifying the Proud Boys as an extremist group, contradicting an internal law enforcement document that recently drew parallels between the “pro-Western fraternal organization” and white nationalists.
“We do not intend and did not intend to designate the group as extremist,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Renn Cannon said during a media event held at the bureau’s Portland offices, The Oregonian reported.
“That was not our intention. That’s not what we do,” Mr. Cannon added, according to the outlet.
FBI officials clarified the bureau’s stance after an internal affairs report drafted by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office in neighboring Washington state alleged that federal investigators have categorized the Proud Boys as “an extremist group with ties to white nationalism.”
Clark County officials requested a briefing on “domestically inspired acts of violence,” and FBI agents subsequently offered details on domestic threats posed by militias, white supremacists and anarchists, Mr. Cannon told reporters, according to The Oregonian.
The Proud Boys were discussed during the briefing, Mr. Cannon confirmed, but the FBI “tried to characterize the potential threat from individuals within that group,” he explained, The Oregonian reported.
“There have been instances where self-identified Proud Boys have been violent,” he added. “We do not intend and we do not designate groups, especially broad national groups, as extremists.”
“I can see where Clark County representatives came to that conclusion,” he added.
Beth Anne Steele, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s office in Portland, confirmed in a statement that the bureau has not designated the Proud Boys as an extremist group, the city’s NBC affiliate reported.
Representatives for neither the Clark County Sheriff’s Office nor FBI headquarters in D.C. immediately returned requests for comment.
Started in 2016 by Vice Media co-founder and conservative commentator Gavin McInnes, the Proud Boys have billed themselves as a “western chauvinist” fraternal group. Critics have labeled the Proud Boys a right-wing mob, however, and several of its events have ended in violent brawls.
“The FBI has warned local law enforcement agencies that the Proud Boys are actively recruiting in the Pacific Northwest and that some Proud Boys members have contributed to the recent escalation of violence at political rallies held on college campuses, and in cities like Charlottesville, Virginia, Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington,” the Clark County Sheriff’s Office wrote in the Aug. 2 report.
More recently, the Proud Boys gained notoriety after a street fight broke out following an Oct. 12. appearance by Mr. McInnes, 48, at the Metropolitan Republican Club in New York City. Nine alleged members of the Proud Boys face criminal charges related to the brawl, and Mr. McInnes said last month that he is “officially disassociating” himself from the group to help reduce their sentences.
“At the very least, this will show jurors they are not dealing with a gang and there is no head of operations,” Mr. McInnes said last month.
Representatives for the Proud Boys did not immediately return a request for comment.