The Proud Boys, a far-right group which promotes and glorifies violence, has been included on an FBI list of extremist groups.
The new classification, revealed in a report released by Washington state law enforcement and reported by the Guardian, came with a warning that the group is actively recruiting in the Pacific north-west region of the United States.
Vice Media co-founder, Gavin McInnes, founded the Proud Boys in 2016. The group is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
The report describes how the group has “contributed to the recent escalation of violence at political rallies held on college campuses, and in cities like Charlottesville, Virginia, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington”.
The FBI now categorizes the group as “an extremist group with ties to white nationalism,” the report states.
McInnes and the Proud Boys have been at the center of several high-profile violent incidents. Last month McInnes promised to reenact the assassination of socialist Inejiro Asaanuma in 1960 before he appeared at the Manhattan Metropolitan Republican Club, WNYC reported.
Following McInnes speech, violence erupted in New York City, prompting New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to call for an FBI investigation into the group. The Daily Beast reported Cuomo instructed the New York State Police Hate Crimes Unit to work with the FBI to investigate the group’s involvement in several street brawls.
The report was also very clear in its assessment that membership of the Proud Boys would be classified as a violation of the Clark County sheriff’s department oath to uphold the laws of the United States as the Proud Boyd have called for the closure of prisons, the widespread distribution of firearms to the population, and the legalization of all drugs. These values are against the laws of the United States and it would be inappropriate for law enforcement agents to become members of such a group.
The clear guidelines come after former Clark County Clerk Deputy Erin Willey was fired last July following the publication of an image of her wearing a “Proud Boys Girls” sweatshirt, a female auxiliary group of the Proud Boys.
The FBI told the Guardian that the bureau “does not and will not police ideology” making it clear that the decision to classify Proud Boys as an extremist group did not come from its ideology but from its threat to the laws of the United States.
The FBI statement added that the agency “regularly assesses intelligence regarding possible threats and works closely to share that information with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners.”
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Oliver is a UK-born freelance writer and journalist based in Boston. He is a self-confessed politics junkie with a passion for foreign and environmental policy. His work has been featured on Open Democracy, International Policy Digest, and the London Economic. He was a regular contributor for ASEAN Today.