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Proud Boys Signal More Domestic Terrorism: ‘The War Will Soon Commence’

The Proud Boys were recently designated as a domestic terrorist organization in Canada, with American activists calling for the same in the United States. With dozens of Proud Boys facing federal charges in connection with the January 6th attack on the US Capitol, the members of the right-wing citizens’ militia are even more energized and have plunged even deeper into the far-right extremist movement to oppose public health measures designed to control the resurgent pandemic.

In early August, Proud Boys clashed with anti-fascist activists in downtown Portland after an appearance by a right-wing pastor, Artur Pawlowski, who has garnered attention for an arrest in Canada when he defied COVID restrictions. Jeffrey Grace, who faces charges related to the January 6th Capitol assault and who has been identified as a member of the Proud Boys by the FBI, was captured on video shoving another man, according to a court filing.

(Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Proud Boys have taken it upon themselves to interject into controversies over masking and the coronavirus vaccination during the past month, showing up at school board meetings and joining protests at government buildings, hospitals, and, in one case, a local pizzeria. A group with a violent track record of its own, the Proud Boys are helping to build a coalition in a volatile movement that has seen a threat to forcibly remove school board members who uphold a masking mandate in Pennsylvania, and an anti-vaccine activist in Los Angeles publicly shared city council members’ home addresses while calling on supporters to “sharpen your knives, get your guns,” and prepare for “civil war.”

The Proud Boys’ exploitation of grievances surrounding COVID restrictions reflects the group’s tendency to latch on to culture-war issues to drum up political tensions and undermine a government they see as illegitimate. Online, some of the Proud Boys’ rhetoric has gone beyond undermining faith in the government to the kind of insurrectionary rhetoric that preceded the assault on the Capitol.

“Be prepared,” Jeremy Bertino, a prominent North Carolina Proud Boy, wrote on the social media app Telegram on August 24th. Bertino threatened to “exterminate” left-wing counter-protesters in North Carolina in November 2020. He was stabbed in Washington DC the following month. On January 6th, he lamented that the insurrectionists didn’t complete the mission. “The end of civilization as we know it is near. Stack food, ammo and water. The war will soon commence,” Bertino’s post says. Bertino also shared a propaganda video aimed at the Australian government’s strict response to COVID, comparing them to Nazi Germany, another tactic recently employed by the more extreme faction of the Republican Party, including Marjorie Taylor Greene and Thomas Massie.

 

 



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