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Late into the morning on January 6, 2021, about 300 men from the far-right fraternity known as the Proud Boys assembled on the eastern side of the Capitol Building across the street from the Supreme Court. They traveled from as far as Washington State to stop the Democrats from “stealing” the presidential election they presumed Trump would have surely won. How exactly would they negate the millions of votes cast in disfavor of their dear leader, though? They revealed their plot to reinstate Trump directly to a bevy of press photographers and to hundreds of strangers watching their every move via livestream.
A bearded Proud Boy with the alias “Milkshake” said the quiet part out loud.
“We’ll take the fucking capitol!” shouted Milkshake, AKA Seattle Proud Boy Daniel Lyons Scott.
Another Proud Boy with the foresight to cover his face and body in all black cautioned, “Let’s not fucking yell that, alright?”
Then the group’s co-leader Ethan Nordean, a muscular and insufferably vain Proud Boy from Washington State, replied through a megaphone, “It was ‘Milkshake,’ man; you know. Idiot!”
The Proud Boys then gathered together for a staged group picture while their march leader Joe Biggs beamed like a father delighted by the accomplishments of his mediocre children. As the photojournalists’ cameras flashed, the Proud Boys yelled the bastardized Swahili word for freedom, “Uhuru!”. The Proud Boys mockingly use the phrase as a slogan because of its relation to The Uhuru Movement, a Pan-African socialist organization associated with Fred Hampton’s Black Panther Party.
When the photojournalists departed, the Proud Boys marched to the western side of the Congressional Building to soon initiate one of the most ridiculous coups in world history. The video and livestream evidence helpfully posted by the Proud Boys themselves would induce federal prosecutors into arresting Biggs and Nordean weeks later.
That same day, Senators Josh Hawley (MO) and Ted Cruz (TX) refused to certify the electoral victory of Joe Biden after he won the popular vote by over 7 million votes and the Electoral College by 74 votes. This was preceded by federal courts rebuking almost all of Trump’s legal allegations of “voter fraud.” Cruz refused to recognize the electoral results of elections held in Arizona and Pennsylvania as legitimate even after far-right demonstrators attacked the Congressional building in an ill-conceived coup which left five people dead. Hawley disregarded the inevitability of Biden’s win through continuing to reject the voter certification of Pennsylvania and Arizona merely hours after the attempted coup. Earlier in the day, Hawley raised his fist in solidarity with the attackers as capitol security evacuated his colleagues from the building. He still hopes to run for president in 2024.
The mood of Proud Boys’ Telegram channels appeared as bleak as Hawley’s political career. Not-so-Proud Posters felt their “God Emperor” had betrayed them when they stormed the capitol on his behalf. The president had not made their lives significantly better or repaid them for spilling their blood to water the proverbial tree of liberty. Trump refused to intervene when large social media platforms belatedly banished their content to seedy malfunctioning apps like Parler, which promised but failed to deliver actual encryption features to its mostly far-right user base. Government agencies and activists could therefore easily archive and mine Proud Boy spaces for their users’ data for evidence of their participation in the half-baked coup on January 6th. Trump, of course, was too self-absorbed and fretful about his own political career to bother granting pardons to the “Patriots” who stormed the capitol in his honor, although he made sure to pardon his wealthy political operative friend (and professed Proud Boy) Roger Stone. Proud Boys on Telegram panicked.
“Fucked his supporters,” said one Seattle Proud Boys’ meme following the capitol attack. “We only have US to count on!” Then the next Telegram post revealed a cartoon man sobbing bloody tears in his “Make America Great Again” hat before his lower face transformed into a half-skull face mask emblematic of neo-Nazi terror network Atomwaffen Division and more broadly ‘Terrorgram’–the section of right wing extremist social media that gives up on achieving its goals through the Republican Party and turns to terrorism instead.
Even before the MAGA movement’s political disaster on January 6th, the Proud Boys could barely contain their enthusiasm for fascism and their disdain for democracy and racial justice. The second most popular Proud Boys’ Telegram channel, Proud Boys Uncensored (which is run by an openly neo-Nazi member of the group), has close to 32,000 subscribers (the Official Proud Boys channel has almost 33,000.) A poll conducted on the former channel on December, 18, 2020 asked subscribers “Would you support the balkanization of the US?” Around 62% of the 4,600 respondents supported dividing the United States by racial demographics and political ideology, or burning the whole nation down and “starting over”. Another poll dating to December 31, 2020 conducted on the same Telegram channel found that 77% of respondents would rather live under “Authoritarian Fascism that preserves your nation/heritage/people while punishing those who commit evil’. It should be noted the other options in the poll were mostly jokes designed to make fascism look like the logical choice.
Since Trump’s electoral loss, the Proud Boys classified many of the politicians they used to fanboy over as “globalist deep-state” swamp-dwellers, with Senator Josh Hawley being the notable exception. Amidst the hysterical rage of Proud Boys’ social media, a video clip played melodramatic background music mixed with a generically sinister drum beat while Hawley delivered his first speech as Senator to Senate President Mike Pence. With the clichéd bravado of “debate-me” bro posturing mixed with the canned politician’s cadence of simulated indignation, the ivy league-educated lawyer remarked:
“The media, Hollywood, academia, they relentlessly press their priorities on the rest of us. They advocate liberation from the duties of family and tradition…They assault the foundations of the ‘great American middle’…These are the great aristocrats of our age. They live in the United States, but consider themselves citizens of the world. They run businesses and universities here, but their primary loyalty is to their own agenda for a more unified, progressive—and profitable—global order. They’ve effectively run this country for decades and their legacy is national division, and national decline. Mr. President [Mike Pence], it is time to reclaim our revolutionary heritage…Now we must stand together to renew the promise of our enduring revolution. We must put aside the tired orthodoxies of years past, and forge a new politics of national renewal”.
“Whoa, Hawley is our guy?” commented the Proud Boy in astonishment.
The Proud Boys had reason to perceive Hawley as “their guy” given how his rhetoric resembles the text underlying the far-right group’s political ideology–-“Death of the West” by white nationalist and former presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan. His reference to a “global order” promoted by rootless “elites” intent on usurping the authority of the nation and the traditions of the ‘great American middle’ sounded like a loud dog whistle for the “New World Order” conspiracy propagated by the likes of Buchanan.
Buchanan ran for president multiple times since the early 1990s and worked in media and communications roles during the Nixon and Ford administrations. He most prominently worked as President Reagan’s White House Communications Director. Buchanan’s tenure as Communications Director included advocacy against sanctions imposed on apartheid South Africa, support for contras in Nicaragua who murdered thousands of indigenous people, and advocacy for harsher punishments for undocumented Hispanic immigrants. While Buchanan sought to increase deportations for Hispanic immigrants, he lobbied against the deportation of Karl Linnas, an Estonian Nazi concentration camp chief. Although Buchanan left the Regan administration in 1987, he lived to see Trump and associated far-right organizations like the Proud Boys popularize his politics. Reflecting upon Trump’s success, Buchanan remarked, “I was elated, delighted that Trump picked up on the exact issues on which I challenged Bush [during his failed Republican presidential primary campaign against Bush Senior in 1992]…And then he goes and uses my slogan? It just doesn’t get any better than this”.
Former Vice News founder, noted public urinator, and multi-millionaire Gavin McInnes cited Buchanan’s book as an inspiration for initially establishing the Proud Boys back in 2016; original members would actually read from “Death of the West” in bars. Far from a grass roots organization, McInnes founded the Proud Boys and popularized ideas borrowed from the likes of Buchanan through the help of Taki’s Magazine, a far-right publication founded by Greek billionaire Taki Theodoracopulos, where Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer worked as a managing editor. Writing in 2017, McInnes said, “I have been working with enormously powerful people and big names to fill [the] void” between the far-right ideas the ‘people’ supposedly believe and the cultural values imposed upon them. McInnes used the assistance of Theodoracopulos to wage Buchanan’s “culture war”. Who were their targets? Social movements advocating equality, dating back to desegregation and the civil rights struggles of the sixties and seventies. The “culture war” eventually transitioned into the bumbling imitation of literal warfare when Proud Boys committed violence on city streets and in the nation’s capital.
FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES
Family members of Trump and Trump’s political allies met prominent Proud Boy leaders at various GOP events. Proud Boy Chairman Enrique Tarrio first met relevant Republican figures during CPAC 2019. Tarrio met President Trump’s son Donald Trump Junior on February 28,2019; then on November 4,2019, Tarrio posed for a picture with Donald Trump Jr., and Donald Jr.’s girlfriend and Trump senior’s campaign advisor Kimberley Guilfoyle. A week later, Tarrio gloated on his Telegram channel about how president Trump’s son knew him on a first name basis and promoted his failed 2020 congressional campaign. Both Guilfoyle and Trump Jr. spoke at the “Stop the Steal” rally which occurred during the capitol attack.
Tarrio additionally posed for photographs with Rep. Dan Crenshaw (TX) and Senator Ted Cruz at CPAC 2019. Cruz later co-authored a resolution dating to July 18, 2019 which designated anti-fascists as “domestic terrorists”. The resolution alluded to alleged Portland antifascists punching far-right writer Andy Ngo multiple times in late June of that year; he was discharged from the hospital less than a day after the incident. Ngo previously implicated himself in fascist Ian Kramer’s plan to attack a Portland leftist bar called Cider Riot. That assaultleft a woman hospitalized with multiple vertebra fractures and put Kramer in jail for one year until the judge released him pending trial. Enrique Tarrio interestingly co-wrote an online petition addressed to President Trump to classify antifascists as domestic terrorists 20 days before Cruz penned his Senate resolution intended for the same purpose.
Trump eventually took notice and posted a vitriolic tweet on June 29,2019 which demanded that Congress classify antifascists as domestic terrorists equivalent to the nihilistic Salvadoran gang MS-13. Trump renewed calls to classify “Antifa” as a terrorist organization while he called Black Lives Matter a “symbol of hate” during his 2020 presidential campaign. As a conciliatory gesture to black voters, he promised to have the Justice Department additionally classify the KKK as a terrorist organization; however, the U.S. government has neglected to do so since the inception of the group during the Reconstruction era. The most recent documented incident of KKK violence occurred when a self-identified Klan leader named Harry Rogers drove through a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters in Henrico County, VA, during the wave of summer protests against the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department.
Trump’s sympathetic gestures towards the Proud Boys culminated in an endorsement of the misogynistic fraternity during the televised presidential debates with Joe Biden. When asked whether he would condemn the Proud Boys’ violence by debate moderator Chris Wallace, Trump replied, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by…but I’ll tell you what, somebody needs to something about antifa and the left, because this is not a right-wing problem—This is a left-wing problem”.
Heeding Trump’s call to “stand back and stand by”, the Proud Boys mobilized for a series of “stop the steal” rallies held in December in Washington D.C. to contest the democratic electoral process. Street violence against antifascist counter-protestors and black people supportive of Black Lives Matter followed. Then on December 12, 2020, hundreds of Proud Boys marched in military formation next to a red “Women for America First” bus chartered by long-time tea party activist Amy Kramer, who later co-organized and spoke at the “Stop the Steal” Rally which occurred on the same day as the capitol attack. During the final day for Congress to certify the presidential election results, the Proud Boys played an integral role in toppling the barricades on the western side of the Congressional Building. A Proud Boy and marine veteran named Dominic Pezzolabroke a Senate sub-floor window situated on the western side of the structure—An action which signified the first successful breech into Congress. Far-right demonstrators intent on murdering or kidnapping Trump’s political foes finally had the opportunity to heed their president’s command and take “their” county back through violence. Pazzola himself allegedly intended to murder Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi as retribution for acknowledging Trump’s electoral loss. Leader Joe Biggs scouted out Senators in their offices.
MAIN-STREAMING: THE PROUD BOYS’ LONG TERM PLAN
The Proud Boys entrenched themselves in Republican Party infrastructure long before the breach of the congressional building. Prior to attempting to run for federal office in Florida, Enrique Tarrio met Trump’s former Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at a bar located inside the Trump Washington D.C. Hotel on December 7, 2018. The poorly attended American Priority Conference which hosted conspiracy theorists and white supremacists took place close to Washington, D.C. during the same period Tarrio met Sanders. Most likely Tarrio went to D.C. to attend this conference according to pictures he posted to his now-deleted Facebook account. The next year, the American Priority Conference moved to the Trump National Doral Miami Golf Club in Florida where Donald Trump Jr. and Sarah Huckabee Sanders were keynote speakers. The private immigrant detention center company GEO group financially sponsored the conference while enriching the Trump family business directly. Soon after the U.S. capitol attack, Sanders announced her intention to run for governor of Arkansas in 2022.
Proud Boy “Elder” and marine infantry veteran Nick Ochs participated in the U.S. capitol attack and had connections to the Republican Party and influential conservative nonprofits. His recent Twitter posts advocated for the U.S. government to imprison Muslim congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib in Guantanamo Bay despite his performative declarations against “censorship”. Ochs furthermore adores murderous fascist dictators like Augusto Pinochet and is an enthusiastic apologist for the white supremacist apartheid colony of Rhodesia in what is currently Zimbabwe, although he’s married to a black woman. This winter, he even posted a meme about putting on shorts styled after the Rhodesian Army in preparation for the imminent race war/civil war euphemistically referred to as the “Boogaloo” by the far right. His violent rhetoric online transitioned into real-life political violence when he flew from Hawaii to fight in the streets of Portland, Oregon during August 2018. Archived video from his former Facebook page shows Ochs in body armor marching with men carrying weapons
Like his idol Richard Nixon, Ochs does not believe men should employ or work with women. He furthermore longs for the state to execute women who have abortions at any stage of gestation and has an affinity for wife-beating jokes. As a testament to his “manliness”, he bragged about his persistent incontinence on his Telegram channel and once left a pool of piss in the sink for his wife to clean up since he could not bother to use the toilet.
Ochs furthermore gleefully compared undocumented Hispanic immigrants to animals in a meme posted to his deleted Facebook account. Another meme posted to his Facebook joked about the military using tear gas against Central American refugees at the Mexican border, including against women with young children. Ochs and Neo-Nazi Proud Boy Levi Romero additionally joked on Telegram about the U.S. government separating young children from their families and imprisoning them in facilities where Border Patrol deprived them of soap, toothbrushes, blankets, and even flu vaccines against CDC recommendations.
Ochs’ beliefs and actions helped rather than hindered his professional career as a Republican Party activist. While heading the Proud Boys’ Hawaii Chapter, he served as Vice-Chair for the 2016 Hawaiian Trump Campaign and met Trump himself while wearing the Proud Boys’ uniform. Along with Enrique Tarrio, he hobnobbed with influential Republican politicians at CPAC 2019 and even persuaded Rep. Dan Crenshaw to autograph his bottle of Trump vodka. Ochs’ connections landed him a job as a “consultant” for the American Conservative Union (ACU)—The same nonprofit which coordinates the annual Republican Party conference CPAC for mainstream party figures. He then flew to South Korea during October 2019 to set up an international CPAC conference intended to popularize American conservative politics abroad and had dinner with the likes of Fox News Host Jeanine Pirro. When Pirro noticed Ochs’ Proud Boys’ tattoo, she feared any association with him would justify the termination of her contract with Fox News and pressured ACU Executive Director Dan Schneider to fire Ochs behind the scenes. Ochs ultimately worked for the American Conservative Union for two years between 2017 to 2019 despite his social media accounts widely advertising his membership in the Proud Boys. He additionally led the Turning Point USA chapter at the University of Hawaii Manoa with the Proud Boys’ help. The Hawaiian GOP formally endorsed Ochs for State Representative during his failed political campaign in 2020.
Senior level Proud Boys involved themselves in every aspect of capitol attack and maintained relationships with Republican nonprofits and politicians. Enrique Tarrio and Nick Ochs led Trump booster groups and both men attempted to run for office with party support. Major political figures parroted the groups’ talking points and even authored legislation on their behalf. The Proud Boys must have garnered support from influential Republican figures given their clear role in coordinating the coup and their brazen lack of concern about getting caught. The question is not whether the Republican Party enabled the Proud Boys’ attack on the capitol building, but to what extent did they grant assistance?
Prior to Washington D.C. authorities banning Tarrio from the city two days before the insurrection, the Proud Boy chairman bragged about attending an allegedly “private tour” of the White House on December 12,2020. Although White House officials retorted that the tour Tarrio attended was indeed public, he first required a background check and sponsorship from an elected official in order to participate. The question remains: who granted Tarrio access to the White House? Did he use the tour to devise a method of breaching the capitol building to preclude Congress from certifying Biden’s victory? These fundamental questions will go unanswered as long as Democratic leaders and the public continue to ignore the violent counter-revolution coordinated by the Proud Boys and their friends within the Republican Party.