Proud Boys leader says group has ‘been through the wringer’ as Capitol insurrection indictments pile up

Henry ‘Enrique’ Tarrio says the far-right group has been hit hard as federal prosecutors investigate the 6 January attack

Nathan Place
New York
Wednesday 02 June 2021 19:09
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Five months after the United States Capitol riot, the far-right group Proud Boys has been battered with indictments and suffering from internal divisions.

“We’ve been through the wringer,” Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, chairman of the Proud Boys, told AP News.

More than two dozen Proud Boys have been arrested as federal prosecutors investigate the 6 January attack, during which Donald Trump supporters, including right-wing groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, stormed the Capitol. Investigators have charged four leaders of the Proud Boys – though not Mr Tarrio, who wasn’t there – with planning and leading the insurrection.

Disheartened by the federal onslaught, several chapters of the group have split off from the national leadership. The Seattle, Las Vegas, Indiana and Alabama branches have all declared their independence.

“We reject and disavow the proven federal informant, Enrique Tarrio, and any and all chapters that choose to associate with him,” the Alabama chapter said in February, referring to Mr Tarrio’s 2012 cooperation with the FBI on a fraud case.

Meanwhile, experts say the group has lost some of its sense of purpose since Mr Trump left office. After his 2020 defeat, the former president lied for months that the election had been stolen, and the Proud Boys fought to overturn his defeat. But after Mr Trump decamped for Mar-a-Lago, it became unclear how to keep up the fight.

“I think something kind of like that is happening right now in the broader far-right movement, where the cohesive tissue that brought them all together – being the 2020 election – it’s kind of dissolved,” Jared Holt, an analyst at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, told AP.

Mr Holt compared the 6 January attack to the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacist protesters clashed with left-wing counterprotesters, leaving one of them dead.

“Like ‘Unite the Right,’ there is a huge disaster, a PR disaster, and now they’ve got the attention of the feds,” Mr Holt said. “And it’s even more intense now because they have the national security apparatus breathing down their necks.”

The Proud Boys claim to have over 30,000 members across the US. Mr Trump briefly elevated the group to national infamy by mentioning them at a presidential debate, commanding them to “stand back and stand by.”

The group calls itself “Western chauvinist” and denies any connection to white supremacism, but experts dispute that claim. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which studies hate groups, notes that the Proud Boys have repeatedly attended white supremacist rallies and trafficked in “anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric.”

“The Proud Boys’ actions belie their disavowals of bigotry,” the SPLC says.

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