Update 4:06 p.m.
The Proud Boys, a band of street fighters whose members routinely appear at right-wing rallies in Portland, have been designated “an extremist group with ties to white nationalism” by the FBI.
The group is “actively recruiting in the Pacific Northwest” and “[has] contributed to the recent escalation of violence at political rallies,” including those in Portland, the FBI told Clark County authorities this summer.
The FBI provided its assessment of the Proud Boys as part of an internal affairs investigation by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. The Guardian revealed the documents, first obtained by transparency group Property of the People, Monday in a story on its website.
It’s the first time that an FBI evaluation of the group has become public.
[Read the documents here.]
Sgt. Chris Burley, a Portland Police Bureau spokesman, told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Monday afternoon that “at this time” he was unaware of any similar briefings between the FBI and the members of the bureau.
Started in 2016 by conservative writer and political commentator Gavin McInnes, the Proud Boys have billed themselves as “pro-Western fraternal organization” and have vigorously fought accusations by critics that members are associated with white nationalists or other bigoted groups.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, for example, lists them as a hate group, citing their supporters’ documented history of promoting misogyny, Islamophobia and violence.
Members have made appearances alongside Vancouver’s Joey Gibson at his Patriot Prayer rallies in the Portland area over the last 18 months.
A number of them, outfitted in yellow and black Fred Perry polo shirts and red “Make America Great Again” baseball caps, have tangled with counter-protesters, throwing punches and drawing blood.
The FBI provided its assessment of the Proud Boys to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 2 as the agency investigated a former female deputy’s alleged ties to the group, Cmdr. Michael McCabe told The Guardian.
Two days later, on Aug. 4, hundreds of Proud Boys from around the country joined Gibson in downtown Portland for a so-called “freedom march” where some participants brought guns and other weapons.
That event ended when police used riot control weapons on the hundreds of counter-demonstrators who came to protest Gibson’s rally.
The group’s public image began to take a hit later that summer.
Twitter started suspending accounts affiliated with the Proud Boys a week after the Aug. 4 event in Portland and Facebook and Instagram followed suit last month, citing policies against organized hate groups, hate speech and promoting violence.
In October, members of the Proud Boys in New York City were arrested after they were caught on video brutally beating two or three protesters after an event at Manhattan’s Republican Party headquarters.