As Pride Month approaches, watchdog groups are warning that the neo-Nazi and vehemently anti-LGBTQ+ Proud Boys have big plans to disrupt events around the country. Many are worried they are going to get violent, as the group has a history of doing so.
Heidi Bierich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, told Business Insider that they are “seeing just a singular focus on LGBTQ people” from the Proud Boys and other far-right groups. “And I don’t see how we don’t end up having more violence next month. It’s frankly getting a little out of control.”
LGBTQ Nation spoke with PEN America about the parallels between what happened then and what’s happening now.
The Proud Boys are planning to reappropriate Pride Month into “Proud” Month to celebrate “Western values” and “straight pride” and to “challenge this perversion of the Nuclear Family and Gender,” as one Proud Boy reportedly posted on Telegram.
Get the Daily Brief
The news you care about, reported on by the people who care about you:
“We want to focus on straight love and the love of our straight lives,” someone wrote. “Family, childrens [sic] innocence, mothers, fathers and our fight to keep the nuclear family in tact.[sic]”
“It is a dangerous thing, because the Proud Boys are all about violence,” Bierich said, adding that another violence-focused white nationalist group, Patriot Front, is also planning to have a bigger presence at Pride events.
A December 2022 report found that last year, the Proud Boys abruptly shifted their focus to anti-LGBTQ+ action in mid-2022.
The data came from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) as well as tracking from Vice News. The report found that 100% of anti-LGBTQ+ actions involving the gang took place between late May and December of this year. It also found that the group participated in more anti-LGBTQ+ demonstrations than any other far-right group last year.
Increasing Proud Boys activity in the South and Southwest seems to have coincided with increased anti-LGBTQ+ activism from so-called “parental rights” groups and Christian nationalists. “Where these groups have popped up around the country this year, the Proud Boys have followed,” said Southern Poverty Law Center senior research analyst Cassie Miller.
Miller explained last year that the group appears to be acting “in lockstep” with the GOP and right-wing media in its focus on the LGBTQ+ community.
The data from the ACLED found that overall, anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment was the largest driver behind the increase in far-right protests in 2022. The report found that 14% of far-right demonstrations were fueled by anti-LGBTQ+ ideology, a massive jump compared to the 3% of far-right anti-LGBTQ+ protests in 2021.
Anti-LGBTQ+ political violence was also a large factor in the increased violence against civilians. Of the 150 violent incidents targeting civilians in 2022, there were over 20 that targeted LGBTQ+ people. Comparatively, in 2021, there were 100 incidents of reported violence targeting civilians with only seven directed at the LGBTQ+ community.
“What happened last year, it was probably just a whiff of what we might see this year, after 12 months of organizing,” Bierich told Insider. “It’s a dangerous thing, because the Proud Boys are all about violence, and so are the Patriot Front. Not necessarily firearms, but with bats, shields, and — most usually — with their fists.”
Through its investigation of Proud Boys Telegram channels, the publication discovered the group discussing “taking back June,” “gaslighting the libs,” and protecting children from “mutilation” and “sexualization.”
One person mocked that LGBTQ stands for “Let’s Go Bully The Queers.”
“By mid-May we should be getting blow back from the F*g community or we aren’t doing enough,” another wrote. “If they aren’t flipping s**t, we are only tooting our own horns, ya know.”
The point, here, is that the Proud Boys are working on reaching more of the mainstream population, who they refer to as “normies.”
They are also reportedly planning to appropriate Juneteenth by observing “Proud Day” on June 17th.
Emily Kaufman, a researcher with the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Center on Extremism said, We don’t know specifically what folks are planning to do on that day, but we’re likely to see some activity from potentially multiple chapters.”
Kaufman said people should not approach any Proud Boys members due to the group’s violent history, adding that the ADL is “not trying to scare people” but just wants to provide guidance and “make sure folks are safe.”