Gavin McInnes, the founder of the far-right Proud Boys group, is bailing on the organisation after leaked Washington state law enforcement documents indicated the FBI considers it an “extremist group with ties to white nationalism.” McInnes’ hasty departure follows a wave of arrests of the group’s members in connection with a street brawl with protesters in New York in early October. It also follows reports that the NYPD, which had come under massive criticism for initially only arresting protesters involved in the fight, confirmed to the NYC City Council it considers the Proud Boys to be a domestic terrorist group.
In a rambling, 36-minute YouTube video begging supporters to donate to a supposed legal defence fund, McInnes said, “I am officially disassociating myself from the Proud Boys. In all capacities, forever, I quit.” He portrayed the group as a “fraternal organisation” being unfairly persecuted by authorities, characterised himself as a victim of hysteria, and said that he was only resigning “reluctantly” because “rumours and lies and terrible journalism has made its way to the court system.”
McInnes also claimed that lawyers and law enforcement had told him that stepping down could “alleviate” whatever sentences are handed down to nine of the group’s members facing charges as a result of the brawl.
“This will show jurors that they’re not dealing with a gang and there’s no head of operations,” McInnes added, seemingly under the impression that his resignation in late November could possibly have any bearing on criminal proceedings related to an incident in October. He additionally asserted he was never the “leader” of the Proud Boys, just the “founder.” As the Daily Beast observed, this explanation does not stand up to any kind of factual scrutiny:
McInnes, a Vice co-founder who left the magazine in 2008, created the Proud Boys, their rules and membership tiers, including a fourth degree reserved for Proud Boys who get in a fight “for the cause.”
In the rest of the interminable clip, McInnes asserted that most of what he’s been targeted for are jokes taken “out of context”; that “we are not far-right, we’re ultra-nationalist”; and that the group could not be affiliated with white nationalists because “such people don’t exist.” The rest of the video consists mostly of bizarre non-sequiturs and pleas to donate to a crowdfunding campaign.
News that the FBI considers the Proud Boys to be an extremist group emerged amid the firing of a Clark County Sheriff’s Office deputy, Erin Willey, for violating department non-discrimination and anti-harassment policies by joining the affiliate organisation Proud Boys Girls.
McInnes denies being a racist, though he regularly spouts bigoted thoughts thinly cloaked as “politically incorrect” humour. As Bedford + Bowery noted, the fight in New York followed an event in which he celebrated the murder of Japan Socialist Party leader Inejiro Asanuma with a skit involving mean-spirited caricatures of Asian speech patterns, and “he has frequently had overt neo-Nazis on his show, himself stopping just shy of saying ‘the 14 words,’ a white supremacist slogan.”
The publication also wrote that while McInnes postures himself as a defender of free speech, he usually invokes free speech principles to justify stuff like “the use of the N-word, or saying that Muslims are violent due to ‘inbreeding,’ or to simply rail in disgust at trans people.” Per the Washington Post, one essay in which he contested charges of racism read more like a defence of white pride:
“When pestered about their pedagoguery, the politically correct left insists they need to police our language because ‘words are powerful’ and ‘words have meaning,’” he wrote in a 2011 essay. “It is not racist for white people to be unashamed of their race. Few people mind hearing ‘Navajo Power,’ but there’s this implication that for whites to show any kind of pride means they want to extinguish other races. That’s as absurd as saying a Dallas Cowboys fan wants all the other teams to die. To say black people are totally responsible for their lot in life now that it’s 2011 is not racist.”
McInnes is a citizen of the UK and Canada and lives in the U.S. on a green card, according to the Globe and Mail. There’s been no indication as of yet that mounting law enforcement scrutiny of his involvement with the Proud Boys could have legal consequences for his presence stateside, though the New York Times reported in mid-October that “a senior [NYPD] official said the police had opened a broad criminal inquiry into the group’s activities.” Former Australian Border Force chief Roman Quaedvlieg recently called for him to be barred from entering Australia.
In other news on perennial far-right attention seekers, former Rebel Media personality Laura Loomer recently got banned from Twitter for Islamophobia, the Daily Beast reported. Loomer’s previous best hits include stage-crashing a Donald Trump-themed production of Julius Caesar in New York, blaming a probable tire blowout on anti-fascist tire slashers, and getting banned from Uber and Lyft, also for racism.