S.T. - Jobless - Community Defender
The Proud Boys were officially started by Gavin Mcinnes in late 2016, right around the time the Trump campaign for president was officially underway and already causing lots of political turmoil in the streets. Minnesota had a small number of Proud Boys in the initial grouping back then. They had a Facebook group of about 40 or 50 until Facebook decided to delete the Proud Boy groups entirely (there is currently 90 throughout MN and part of WI). Being a member of the Facebook group didn't necessarily mean one was a member, though. Becoming a "proud boy" only happens when one makes a public declaration that the "west is the best" and that one "will not apologize for creating the western world". This grouping appeared to mostly be comprised of extremely-online basement dwellers, and their activities in the Twin Cities didn't really begin in earnest until this year. The November presidential election, and the emergence of the Stop The Steal / Hold The Line protests rekindled the ire of the local Twin Cities Proud Boys, who were present from the very first demonstration outside the governors mansion. Leo Dantona, one of the local leaders, was photographed holding up the "OK" hand sign with other organizers, which included Bikers For Trump's Emily Hartigan and Becky Strohmeier. According to their own Facebook posts and comments, the objective of the Proud Boys was/is to help provide security for the rest of the Trump supporters. They teamed up with other fascists from local 3% militias, Bikers for Trump and others to accomplish this goal. I say this because it is a rather unique development, for the "moderate" Trump crowd to fully embrace and organize alongside Proud Boys and other fascist groupings may not be a surprise to some, but to others it was. In previous years, at least in MN, there was always something of a demarcation between the Trump supporters and the "alt-right". At this point in time, that distinction is no longer visible from an outside observers point of view.
After a week or two of these rallies, many in the Workers Defense Alliance and other working class antifascists began to organize counter demonstrations in areas nearby to the Stop The Steal rallies. Utilizing a model of mass-organization and marching to directly confront the fascist rallies, the fascists had some rough, if not downright demoralizing afternoons out there in the cold. However, the model of mass street actions hit a snag, as soon the police presence soon began to outnumber both the fascists and the antifascists (I think we all know which side the police prefers). Turns out, it's hard to directly chase fascists out of town when they are given FULL protection from the local law enforcement agencies! We want our people to remain as free as possible to remain in the long-haul fight against the capitalist system of american empire, so that more or less means not inviting state repression upon ourselves. We cannot become a one trick pony. Our tactics need to grow and evolve. We propose a two-pronged strategy of mass antifascist space-taking with positive political demands on the one hand, and pressure on the day to day lives of far right organizers on the other. We invite others to join us in this fight in whatever capacity they have to participate. There are folks who feel they cannot participate due to criminal record, warrants, age, infirmity, disability, immigration status, etc. While it may be true that front-line work carries the greatest risk of physical injury or arrest, we can assure our readers, that front-line work is not the only role out there. There is a role for everyone in this fight.
The Proud Boys represent a unique threat in the american political landscape. In a short period of time, Gavin Mcinnes managed to create and spell out the political program of this group, all the while avoiding any semblance of accountability for his words or actions. In my opinion, it is critical to understand the failure of the neoliberal ideology, and the shortcomings of free speech, in order to understand the blindspot that Mcinnes/Tarrio and the Proud Boy's are taking advantage of. Gavin's explicit endorsement of violence toward what they view as the intolerant left, or toward trans people, or toward multiculturalism, or feminism, is a small but critical element of their makeup. These are views that are shared by the broad majority of their membership. Sure some members might be on the fringe right, including men's rights activists, neo-traditionalists and anti-vaxxers, but the Proud Boys offer a big tent for all those groups to come together and plot violence against their political enemies. That is the biggest thing the proud boys are selling, fraternal belonging, and violent adventurism. In order to combat them effectively, those opposed to fascist paramilitaries running around in their streets need to understand the Proud Boys' inception and unique development. We need to know what they are selling, and who they are selling it to. Because as economic conditions worsen, and political gridlock continues, the Proud Boys will only grow in number and resolve. We need to match and exceed their organizational efforts. We need to expand popular support for ANTIFA, or antifascist political activism. Breaking down the stigmas and myths that revolve around antifascism is crucial. Little old grannies and grandpas used to be antifascist. Perhaps for different reasons then, yes. But the time has come to update our understanding of the fascist threat and how it attempts to present itself as a populist working class answer to all of our complex socio-economic problems. Once you understand the hipster nazi, you can defeat it. And once your neighborhood/school/workplace knows about the hipster nazis, well, the bastards won't stand a chance then, will they?