The far-right Proud Boys were viewed as 'bar-fight types' and their terrorist intent was ignored, a former Trump administration official said
- The growing threat from the Proud Boys was shrugged off by law enforcement, a Trump admin official said.
- Elizabeth Neumann said the group evaded legal scrutiny despite committing terrorist acts.
- Proud Boys members were on the front line during the Capitol riot.
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Elizabeth Neumann, a former assistant secretary for threat prevention in the Department of Homeland Security, told The New York Times that US officials had not seriously taken the growing threat from the far-right Proud Boys street gang.
In the wake of the Capitol riot, the group has come under pressure from law enforcement agencies, with several members arrested for alleged involvement in the violence.
Neumann told the Times that though the group had committed terrorist violence ahead of the riots, it wasn’t deemed a threat to national security.
“There was a sense that, yes, their ideology is of concern, and, yes, they are known to have committed acts of violence that would be by definition terrorism, but we don’t worry about them,” Neumann told the publication.
“The Proud Boys are just the guys-that-drink-too much-after-the-football-game-and-tend-to-get-into-bar-fights type of people — people that never looked organized enough to cause serious national security threats,” she said.
Neumann left the DHS in April 2020, and in an interview with NPR, September warned that the Trump administration had poured “fuel on the fire” of domestic extremism.
She said that the Trump administration largely ignored her warnings about the dangers of rising far-right extremism.
The White House at the time denied her claims, describing her as a “disgruntled employee.”
In November, Trump was challenged in a debate by Joe Biden about his record on white nationalist extremism by Joe Biden and reacted by calling on the Proud Boys to “stand by,” which was seized on by the group as an expression of support and used to lure recruits online.
The Proud Boys were founded in 2016 and came to attention for their bizarre initiation rituals and involvement in street violence with anti-Trump and anti-racism protestors, including those from antifa and the Black Lives Matter movement.
They describe themselves as a “male chauvinist” fraternity dedicated to upholding Western culture values, but counter-extremism experts say members have long promoted violent white nationalist ideology.
There have long been accusations that street and city level police forces turned a blind eye to Proud Boys members’ violence. They attacked anti-racism protestors in cities including Portland last summer.
In the US, political groups can only be prosecuted if they are suspected of committing crimes.
In Canada, the group has been designated a terrorist organization by the government, meaning that authorities can seize financial and other assets belonging to the group.
Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was exposed as a former FBI informant in January, as paranoia spread through the movement and some “chapters” or local groups announced they were quitting the group’s umbrella organization.
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