As protests against police violence and racism have been undying in many parts of America for months on end, counter-protesters and vigilantes like Kyle Rittenhouse have continued to show face, too. This weekend, after 100 days of Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, a far-right group known as the Proud Boys showed up in Oregon to counter-protest the anti-fascist and BLM demonstrators — and they violently clashed with them, causing serious harm.
After attending a nearby pro-Trump rally, the Proud Boys and other demonstrators showed up at the Oregon State Capitol Building in Salem carrying guns and baseball bats. When word spread, counter-protesters from the left showed up — and that’s when the far-right group took it into their own hands to literally bash them away.
Videos from the scene show the crowd punching a Black Lives Matter protester, beating them with a baseball bat, and macing them with pepper spray. Men in camouflage backpacks can be seen descending on the anti-racist protestor, while shouting, “Take a hike!” and “Get them!” The men then swarmed the person and began beating them up while yelling profanities and insults. Accord to the Associated Press, they also fired paint-gun pellets before police began to arrive.
But this is nothing new for members of the Proud Boys: the group has been wreaking havoc in the world since they were established by Gavin McInnes amid the 2016 presidential election (McInnes was a co-founder of VICE Magazine, but has not been involved with Vice Media Group since 2008. VMG acquired Refinery29 in 2019.)
The Proud Boys were originally a group of men who wanted to gather to drink and talk about masculinity. But they’ve since become one of the most well-known hate groups in America. They have been documented as an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, though they deny any specific connection to the far-right. In their own words, they are explicitly anti-feminism, against transgender people, anti-immigration, open Islamaphobes, and often espouse white supremacist ideologies.
The group only accepts men, and self-describes as “Western chauvinists” with an agenda of spreading “anti-political correctness” and being “anti-white guilt.” They’ve appeared alongside other hate groups at extremist gatherings including the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, which united racists in the South, Klansmen, antisemites, and militias.
Since the Black Lives Matter protests began in late May, the Proud Boys have continued to show up at events. More recently, on 22nd August 2020, members of the Proud Boys appeared in Portland to fight counter-protesters, and incited more violence while there — armed with mace, clubs, and paintball guns.
Following this past weekend’s violence started by the Proud Boys in Salem, the Salem Police Department made multiple arrests of those who attacked some of the counter-protestors, according to reports. The Proud Boys currently have another rally planned in Portland on 26th September.