Alt-right Proud Boys are targeting Juneteenth this year, expert warns

Enrique Tarrio in 2019 surrounded by Proud Boys and members of the Three Percenters and Oath Keepers militias in Portland, Oregon Photo: Shutterstock

On the heels of news that the Proud Boys are planning disruptive protests during the Pride month of June, the counter-extremist expert Samantha Kutner warns us that the alt-right group is specifically targeting Juneteenth celebrations as well.

In an attempt to appropriate the federal holiday celebrating the end of slavery, the Proud Boys are organizing their own event on June 17th, expanding their vitriol to not just LGBTQ discrimination but also white supremacy.

“They target everyone who doesn’t belong to their in-group,” Kutner explained to LGBTQ Nation in a recent interview. “Their extremism is framed as an assertion of their masculinity, anything that is a perceived threat to that is a target.”

Kutner’s insights on this organization stem from her access to the Proud Boys’ encrypted networks, such as Telegram, her first-person experiences dealing with its members, as well as her work as co-founder and chief intelligence officer of the counter-extremism consulting film Glitterpill LLC. This expertise has earned her the moniker “The Proud Boys Whisperer.”

“That is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the ethnographic research I’ve conducted with members,” Kutner laughed. “I have a rapport with members over the years in order to facilitate dialogue and discussion. And I’m also embedded in the networks of study. And because my company is trusted in this space, people often send us information. So it comes from a variety of sources.”

While the information Kutner gleaned has determined a date for the Proud Boys’ incident, details such as location and severity are more opaque. But, statistics of past incidents pave a roadmap to answer these questions.

Samantha Kutner, aka The Proud Boys Whisperer, warns of an Alt-Right incident planned to eclipse this year's Juneteenth.
Provided by Samantha Kutner Samantha Kutner, aka The Proud Boys Whisperer, warns of an Alt-Right incident planned to eclipse this year’s Juneteenth.

According to data provided by the Khalifa Ihler Institute, since its founding in 2016, the Proud Boys have engaged in 39 separate rallies and other public events in Portland, Oregon alone, by far the most in any American city. By contrast, the second city in which they were most active was Washington DC, with 21 incidents. After that Miami and Sacramento tie for third, each with 17 incidents.

Other major cities should also be on alert, such as San Francisco and New York, where Proud Boys have recently participated in violent protests at LGBTQ+ gatherings. In March, Robert Porco, a man affiliated with the Proud Boys, was arrested for assault after he allegedly approached a victim and struck him in the face. The victim suffered from “physical injury” and “swelling to his nose,” police reported.

“[The Proud Boys] are a very real threat to the LGBTQ communities,” said Kutner. “They want to ‘bully the queers.’ We have behavioral data that shows their long history of homophobic and transphobic rhetoric and actions, which is in direct conflict with the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. They’re also willing to co-attend rallies with explicitly racist groups and explicitly racist public figures.”

The most prominent of these rallies was the 2017 Unite the Right event in Charlottesville, North Carolina, where Proud Boys joined hundreds of white supremacists to protest the removal of a Confederate statue.

The Proud Boys’ founder and former member Gavin McInnes insists that this organization is distinct from the alt-right — he’s described it with the cloyingly deceptive phrase “alt-lite.” McInnes has said his group doesn’t adhere to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. However, Proud Boys brandished tiki torches and chanted “Jews will not replace us!” shoulder to shoulder with overtly racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan during the Charlottesville event.

“I like the idea of unity and I’m outraged at white genocide,” McInnes said during an interview while collaborating with neo-Nazi Mike Peinovich on logistics for the Unite the Right rally, “but there may be some misgivings from the group.” Peinovich responded that many Proud Boys “seem on board with white nationalism.”

Gavin McInnes, Proud Boys founder, Emily McInnes, hate group
YouTube screengrab Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes

McInnes’ assertation that the Proud Boys aren’t racist is commented upon by Meadhbh Park in the book Male Supremacism in the United States: From Patriarchal Traditionalism to Misogynist Incels and the Alt-Right. In a chapter entitled “Fight Club: Gavin McInnes, the Proud Boys, and Male Supremacism,” Park wrote that the organization “allows non-white men to join so long as they believe systemic racism does not exist and that there should be no ‘racial guilt,’ as the Proud Boys put it.” But, Kutner is quick to dismiss the validity of this precept.

“Part of the Proud Boys and their ability to navigate after Charlottesville and every other major incident involving the group is their ability to position themselves as ‘just a fraternal drinking organization,’ said Kutner.

“Glitterpill LLC has behavioral data that shows their true ideology, and that is white supremacy,” Kutner added. “That is not even crypto-fascist at this point. This is actual fascism. McInnes, the original co-founder of Vice News, has had decades of experience in creating alternative media, and also revels in media manipulation. It’s actually part of the strategy for Proud Boys to manipulate public sentiment, launder their ideology for journalists who may not know enough about the group to understand what they really are, and further spread their narratives to recruit.”

McInnes himself belied his own statements on his eponymous talk show during an interview with white nationalist Emily Youcis. During the episode, the host recited the “14 Words,” a white supremacist slogan that states “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” Notably, MicInnes substituted the more socially acceptable term “Western” for “white.”

It’s worth pointing out that the African-American and LGBTQ+ communities are not mutually exclusive. By targeting both Pride Month and Juneteenth, the Proud Boys are putting the most marginalized members of both communities, trans women of color, directly in their crosshairs. According to a report by ‘Everytown for Gun Safety’, between 2017 and 2021, 73% of tracked homicides were of Black trans women, even though they make up only an estimated 13% of the transgender population.

For Kutner, the best way to prevent future violent alt-right incidents, like those that may occur on Juneteenth this year, is a combination of vigilance against hate groups like the Proud Boys and solidarity for the groups they target.

“In addition to monitoring from organizations like the [Anti-Defamation Leage], or the Center on Extremism,” Kutner posited, “it’s also important to support and amplify the voices of marginalized communities.”

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