A 2018 internal affairs report from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office in Vancouver, Washington, states that the “FBI categorizes the Proud Boys as an extremist group with ties to White Nationalism.”
The internal affairs report — which outlines an investigation into a sheriff’s deputy’s membership in the Proud Boys — states that the “Proud Boys were publically [sic] categorized as an extremist group by the FBI in 2018 … ”
The FBI has never publicly described the Proud Boys as “extremist,” but the internal affairs documents show the federal agency is willing to do so when instructing local law enforcement.
The Proud Boys, a self-described fraternity of “western chauvinists,” is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group has been implicated in acts of political violence across the country in the last two years, but has nevertheless been embraced by certain factions of the Republican party.
The internal affairs report — provided to HuffPost by the government transparency group Property of the People — was written by Michael McCabe, headquarters commander at the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.
“The FBI has warned local law enforcement that the Proud Boys are actively recruiting in the Pacific Northwest and that some in the group have contributed to the escalation of violence at political rallies held on college campuses, and in cities like Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington,” McCabe writes in the report.
McCabe told The Guardian that the FBI had classified the Proud Boys as “extremist” during a briefing.
The Proud Boys is explicitly anti-feminist, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-transgender and anti-leftist. As an organization, it is also decidedly pro-President Trump. Its members often don red Make America Great Again hats with their black Fred Perry polo shirts.
Gavin McInnes, who co-founded Vice before leaving the media company in 2008, founded the Proud Boys and often incites its members to commit acts of violence. “Fighting solves everything,” he has said.
In October, McInnes spoke at the Metropolitan Republican Club in Manhattan, where he re-enacted the 1960 assassination of Inejiro Asanuma, a leader of the Japanese Socialist Party, who was killed on live television by a far-right ultranationalist. (McInnes called the assassination an “inspiring moment.”)
After the event, Proud Boys members violently assaulted leftist protesters in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The NYPD arrested multiple Proud Boys members days later.
Although McInnes has publicly rejected the racist “alt-right” — which has allowed the Proud Boys to attract members of color — he has close ties to white nationalist figurehead Richard Spencer.
Jason Kessler, who organized the deadly white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017, was a Proud Boy. Alexander Ramos, who claimed to be a Proud Boy, was convicted in the beating of Deandre Harris, a young black counterprotester, at the Charlottesville rally.
“The FBI’s failure to initially identify the Proud Boys as a violent organization allied with White Nationalists is hardly surprising given the FBI’s long record of targeting social justice activists as terrorists while turning a blind eye to the threat posed by the radical right,” Ryan Shapiro, executive director of Property of the People, told HuffPost in a statement.
David Gomez, a retired FBI executive and former head of the Seattle counter-terrorism program, told HuffPost that the FBI describing the Proud Boys as “extremist” is not some sort of formal designation, nor does it mean the agency is currently investigating the Proud Boys. Rather, it’s simply how the FBI is apparently describing the group to local law enforcement agencies.
Gomez, however, says he doesn’t care for the “extremist” label, and prefers more specific descriptors for violent organizations. “What’s extremist to you and extremist to me is very different,” he said. In the Pacific Northwest, Gomez joked, “I would probably be considered extremist because I’m a conservative guy.”
The FBI came under criticism in 2017 after leaked documents revealed the agency had created the term “black identity extremists.” The label, civil rights activists charged, was overly broad and could lead to law enforcement targeting black activist groups, as the FBI has done in the past.
The FBI would not elaborate for HuffPost why the agency might describe the Proud Boys as an “extremist” group.
“The FBI does not and will not police ideology,” the FBI said in a statement, adding that the agency does, however, share “intelligence regarding possible threats” with “state and local law enforcement partners.”
McInnes — who has been photographed wearing a neo-Nazi band’s T-shirt, who has described transgender people as “gender n****rs,” and who has called Muslims “stupid” and inbred — told HuffPost that the FBI calling the Proud Boys extremist is “absolutely insane and further proof we are living in a clown world.”
“False allegations like this have innocent men facing serious charges,” he said, referring to the Proud Boys arrested in New York. “Two of the five here in NY facing felonies are married to black women and have black kids. Way to go, media.”
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office, which didn’t immediately respond to a HuffPost request for comment Monday, started investigating the Proud Boys after it was revealed one of its deputies, Erin Willey, was a member of the Proud Boys Girls.
Willey was fired from the sheriff’s office in July after a local newspaper, The Columbian, published a photo of her wearing a “Proud Boys Girls” sweatshirt.
During the course of the internal affairs investigation into her conduct, Willey told investigators she believed her allegedly abusive ex-boyfriend, a Proud Boys member named Graham Hayden Jorgensen, had sent the photo to the newspaper in an attempt to get her fired. (Jorgensen couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.)
The internal affairs report states that Willey “actively participated in the manufacturing, advertising and selling of Proud Boys Girls’ merchandise on a website.”
The report ultimately found that Willey, by being affiliated with the Proud Boys, violated at her oath of office and department policies regarding non-discrimination, harassment and off-duty conduct
Willey couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.