Far-right, neo-fascist, anti-migrant: The Proud Boys represent an intolerant fringe group in the United States, and are known for their misogynistic views and violent offensives against the left.
The group has been mired in controversies since the attack on the US Capitol Hill on 6 January 2021, during which an angry mob supporting the then president Donald Trump stormed the seat of the US government in Washington DC, sloganeering and participating in the destruction of property.
On 7 June, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, the former head of the Proud Boys, along with other members were charged with seditious conspiracy for their "coordinated attack" on the Capitol to stop the Congress from certifying Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election.
Their trial will begin in August in Washington's federal court.
Who Are the Proud Boys?
The Proud Boys were formed ahead of the 2016 US presidential election by Canadian-British right-wing activist Gavin McInnes, the co-founder of Vice Media. Since its formation, the all-male group has been known for street violence, particularly against left-wing groups such as Antifa.
The group's name is derived from a song of the popular Disney film Aladdin. Its members can be recognised with their Fred Perry polo shirts and 'Make America Great Again' (Trump's election slogan) caps.
The group's founder said that the existence of the group was necessary as society did not permit men to be proud of Western culture. So much so that it has publicly declared that it is an all-male organisation for "western chauvinists."
A number of women have also pledged support to the group, which has rapidly grown in popularity since its formation during Trump's tenure.
The group's modus operandi includes street violence, gang assaults, and rioting as well as organising public rallies and protests. A number of their members have also been charged and convicted for violent crimes.
Its initiation process is unheard of. As per The Wall Street Journal, members can only be included after a multi-step process, including getting punched in the torso and arms by at least five members until the prospective recruit recites the names of five breakfast cereals.
As per the Anti-Defamation League based in the US, the Proud Boys currently have 119 'chapters' spread across 46 of the country's 50 states.
The group was declared a 'terrorist organisation' by Canada after the Capitol Hill violence.
People affiliated with the right-wing group have often made misogynistic comments, with many of them even supporting rape.
They have also expressed anti-LGBTQ, anti-Muslim, and anti-migrant views on social media sites – one of most important reasons they were banned by Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
Colin Clarke, a researcher at the Soufan Center, said that the Proud Boys see themselves as the "logical counterweight" to Antifa, which make them the 'fa', implying 'fascists': a label embraced by a majority of them.
Some of their members also espouse white supremacist and anti-semitic views, in line with the Ku Klux Klan.
According to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism, 83 of the group's members have carried out ideologically motivated crimes across the US by end-2021. This includes at least 54 members who participated in the Capitol Hill riot.
The group gained national attention after Trump asked them to "stand back and stand by" during the first presidential debate ahead of the 2020 election.
Since they are banned by popular social media websites, they promote their views on less popular sites like Telegram, Gab, and Parler.
The Proud Boys' former head Tarrio had said around two years ago that he planned to direct the group's attention away from Antifa and more towards "big tech" companies, like Google, Twitter, and Facebook, which were "silencing conservatives."
After the COVID-19 pandemic struck, several group members also undertook protests against preventive measures like vaccines and masks.
The Capitol Hill Riot
After Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 US presidential election, the Proud Boys had initiated the "Stop the Steal" campaign, as they believed that the result of the election was a sham.
Pro-Trump protesters, with over 2,000 in number, stormed the US Capitol on 6 January, in scenes that were broadcast live on multiple news channels across the world. Several parts of the building were occupied for hours, with protestors vandalising public property and assaulting law enforcement officials.
This came as members of both Houses of the US Congress were meeting to conduct the vote certifying the Electoral College victory of Biden in the election. Both Houses had to be evacuated, before the Senate reconvened later.
At least 54 Proud Boys members were reported to have been involved in the violence, which led to at least five deaths and left hundreds injured. Four police officers who had responded to the siege died by suicide within seven months.
(With inputs from The Wall Street Journal.)