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US Politics

Who are the Proud Boys to whom Trump said "stand back and stand by"?

The self-described "Pro-Western-chauvinist" group, founded by Gavin McInnes in 2016, is considered by many to be an alt-right extremist group responsible for instigating violence.

A man gestures the OK sign that is now seen as a symbol of white supremacy, as hundreds gathered during a Proud Boys rally at Delta Park in Portland, Oregon on September 26, 2020.

During Tuesday night's first Presidential debates between President Donald Trump and former Vice-President Joe Biden, the moderator Chris Wallace brought up the topic of law and order. Asked if Trump would disavow white supremacists and militias, Trump said the now infamous line "Proud Boys stand back and stand by." He failed to disavow either giving the Proud Boys their new motto and a boost.

Who are the Proud Boys?

The group is considered by the Southern Poverty Law Center a "hate group", for which they are being sued for defamation by McInnes. The Proud Boys claims to be a fraternal organization that gets together to drink beer, fight and read Pat Buchanan's "Death of the West." They state that they are a libertarian organization that is pro-business, "venerating the housewife" and are against racism.

However, the founder Gavin McInnes, co-founder of Vice Magazine, has through numerous statements and publications vocalized views that would indicate to the contrary. He has repeatedly made denigrating remarks about Muslims and has called himself Islamophobic. As for women, he doesn't seem to hold them in very high esteem either, has made demeaning comments of them.

The male-only organization's actions also take away the veneer of a libertarian, free speech supporting group. They have been involved in altercations with Black Lives Matter protesters, along with other groups protesting. They say they are protecting American from a left-wing threat. They often take advantage of clashes between protesters and police to instigate violence themselves, notably in Portland and Kenosha.

Birds of a feather fly together

They have been associated with alt-right and white supremacists groups, with whom they have participated in rallies, often resulting in violence. A former member, who was only expelled after outrage at the event, Jason Kessler organized the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally in August 2017. Joe Biden said that President Trump's failure to condemn the racist rhetoric of the rally-goers at the event was the reason he felt he had to run for President. In late-August, they participated in a "Back the Blue" caravan rally in Portland with several extreme right groups. Both rallies ended in violent confrontations and bloodshed.

Not welcome

Last week the clothing brand Fred Perry stopped selling its black and yellow polos, one of the group's symbols, saying in a statement "It is incredibly frustrating that this group has appropriated our shirt and subverted our Laurel Wreath to their own ends. The Laurel Wreath has represented inclusivity, diversity and independence." Their conduct and rhetoric has also caused them to be banned from several social media platforms and online pay platforms.