Warning: Violent and Offensive Language
On Sunday, June 25th, a fight broke out between about a dozen members of the white nationalist and misogynistic Proud Boys and a masked group of neo-Nazis, the “Rose City Nationalists.” The groups showed up in Oregon City, just as other Proud Boys chapters, far-right demonstrators, and neo-Nazis have been doing across the country, to protest a Pride event, along with around 20 MAGA flag-wavers in Oregon City. However, this time was different.
Caught on video, Proud Boys beat up several of the neo-Nazis, hit one with an American flag pole, and tore away their balaclavas to reveal their faces. Formed in late 2021 in response to Rose City Antifa, the Rose City Nationalist Club is a neo-Nazi street movement founded by a Patriot Front member based in the Portland area that holds racist and anti-Semitic beliefs and reverence for the Third Reich. Since their founding, they have primarily been responsible for banner droppings at overpasses in the Portland area, and have protested a number of drag show events, including the violent demonstration at Old Nick’s Pub in Eugene, Oregon in early October 2022.
While the fight was brief, the confrontation sent ripples across the extreme-right movement causing hate groups to turn on each other and infighting among the Proud Boys.
The fallout has led to the creation of different camps amongst the Proud Boys. First, there are loyalist groups who stand by the Proud Boys in Oregon for picking a fight with neo-Nazis. On the other hand, Proud Boys chapters consisting of neo-Nazis and sympathizers are either denouncing the attack or parting ways with the national chapter. As a result, pro-Nazi Proud Boys chapters and neo-Nazi groups across the United States are now attempting to capitalize on the situation by absorbing former and disgruntled Proud Boys members into their ranks.
The Split Amongst the Proud Boys
Following the fight, a number of Proud Boys groups took to their social media channels to have a go at the neo-Nazis, while others expressed their frustration with their group’s actions. Messages from chapters emphasizing the ideological separation from the Proud Boys and neo-Nazis were simple: “smash the trash,” “fuck nazis!,” and “FAFO” [“Fuck Around and Find Out”]. This is consistent with the group’s previous attempts to separate their ideology from neo-Nazism by designating themselves as “alt-lite,” which may embrace misogyny and xenophobia, but supposedly not white supremacy. The “more traditional” Cape Fear Proud Boys disparagingly referred to the neo-Nazi group Rose City Nationalists as “groomers” due to their leaders cultivating a white supremacist ideology that targets people according to their race.
“After ripping off their masks our brothers found out that they were just kids. Late teens or early 20’s … There is a word for this. It’s called grooming. Groomers don’t just confuse youth about their gender or sexuality, some groomers prey on them to become Nazis. Nazis are groomers. We call them groomers because they’re groomers.”
In the comment sections of anti-Nazi Proud Boy Telegram groups, a large number of unhappy white supremacists and neo-Nazis threatened and made calls to join other neo-Nazi organizations around the country. In response to a now-deleted post from the Sacramento Proud Boys calling the moderator of the neo-Nazi “Western Chauvinist” channel a “n***** f*****”, upset neo-Nazi members of the Proud Boys like “卐Mr.Robotᛋᛋ” and “Grand Master Fash” complained that “old proud boys is gone,” “any based guys have already left,” and that only “queers and degenerates” and “antifa agents” remain. Some called to join their local Active Club groups while others threatened the remaining members with physical violence with one former member called “länge leve sverige. ära till sverige” (“Long live Sweden. Honor to Sweden”) writing that they would “be slaughtered sooner or [later].”
Other Proud Boy groups were quick to distance themselves from the actions of ‘their boys.’ The Mid-Missouri chapter called the actions “cringe and embarrassing” and “a personal beef between a couple f*****s.” A message from an alleged Proud Boy leader referred to the fight as “antifa-like tactics.”
The division signifies a potential ideological turn of many Proud Boys chapters to overt neo-Nazism. Shortly after issuing a statement calling for Proud Boys with “racial consciousness” to “join a Nationalist Club or start [their] own,” Proud Boys: Uncensored, a national Proud Boys channel, seemed to confirm the departure of 10 chapters from the organization and endorsed their potentially new neo-Nazi ideological positioning, as they lamented the departure of “NS” (National Socialist) members and “normie PBs” who were disillusioned with the Proud Boys’ supposedly newfound “Anti-White aggressively pro-homosexual tone.” Despite criticizing local white nationalist groups for not engaging in “meaningful conversation” with them, they pointed to Australian neo-Nazi and leader of the National Socialist Network Thomas Sewell as a “great representation of intellectual National Socialism.”
Neo-Nazis Disavow Proud Boys and Recruit Disgruntled Members
In response to the endorsement of neo-Nazism by some Proud Boys chapters, previously-established neo-Nazi groups across the United States are also attempting to capitalize on the schism. NSC-131, an organization based in the New England region, expressed their desire for Proud Boys in their region to “make the switch” to their group because they hold beliefs in racism, anti-semitism, and the use of “coordinated brutal force.” NSC-131 also reached out to the Connecticut Proud Boys to both disparage their attempts at separating themselves from white supremacists while inviting them to “meetup sometime and talk about it.” Similarly, the Dixieland Nationalists Club (DNC-133) followed suit to their 131 allies by publicly posting an offer to Proud Boys in the southern States to join their ranks and “fight for a righteous cause.” This message was also shared by the Illinois chapter of White Lives Matter (WLM).
While some neo-Nazi groups have indicated their willingness to welcome Proud Boys into their ranks, others sought to either denounce or antagonize them, albeit with the same goal of recruiting neo-Nazi sympathizers. A widely shared post by the neo-Nazi influencer “The Western Chauvinist” called the Portland Proud Boys “Anti-White” and attempted to stoke further division within Proud Boys ranks by claiming that “all the younger talent and men with promise have abandoned the sinking ship that is Proud Boys in Portland.” The Western Chauvinist completed their post by advocating for “greater numbers” in neo-Nazi movements, possibly indicating a less-friendly approach to recruiting pro-Nazi Proud Boys members into neo-Nazi groups. The Ohio Active Club, part of a larger group of neo-Nazi “Active Clubs”, invoked similar messaging, criticizing the Proud Boys for “rejecting whiteness,” “bastardiz[ing] the White effort,” and encouraging their audience to instead join neo-Nazi groups like Active Clubs or the Patriot Front. The Aryan Freedom Network took a similar approach to encourage disgruntled Proud Boys members to “join the ranks of real White Nationalist,” but only after calling the Proud Boys “N****r Loving F*****s,” “FBI Informants,” and claiming that the Proud Boys’ actions constituted “an attack on every White Nationalist in the Nation.”
Other neo-Nazis were less focused on recruitment efforts and instead joined in the far-right infighting. The Tennessee Active Club, seemingly upset with an attack on their neo-Nazi comrades, took to their social media pages to “challenge any proud boys who want to punch a nazi to come fight us” in “honorable combat.” The National Socialist Movement distanced themselves from the Proud Boys by calling them “pro Israel shills,” and attacked the group for being “a jew op.” Similar distancing was done in the White Lives Matter Official Chat on Telegram, despite the WLM Illinois’ previously-mentioned post inviting Proud Boys members to join them, as one user attempted to claim that the Proud Boys are “unrelated to the ProWhite movement” since they “accept nonWhite and homosexual members.” While the Rose City Nationalists have yet to respond to the fight, the Southern Oregon Nationalists shared a post comparing the Proud Boys to Antifa.
News of the altercation and the ensuing fallout spread internationally, with white supremacists and Neo-Nazis outside the United States reacting to this weekend’s events. Most Proud Boys groups across the pond appeared to be more unified in their disavowing of Nazism, at least publicly. Proud Boys Scotland shared a post by the Cape Fear Proud Boys praising the attack and denouncing Nazis while the Welsh chapter shared an image of the “Proud Boys’ Core Tenets,” which included “anti-racism.” Proud Boys Wales also called themselves a “mens drinking club” who “[doesn’t] care about your skin colour or if your [sic] a Jew.” Conversely, Proud Boys Norway expressed their grievances with their American counterparts by breaking a two-year silence on Telegram to post the same image shared by the Southern Oregon Nationalists comparing the Proud Boys to Antifa, labeling the Proud Boys as “just another kind of anti white.” Following the trend of dissent against Proud Boys’ groups is Thomas Sewell, who reinforced the upcoming Proud Boys schism by claiming that “Multiple American chapters are leaving the brand and forming independent Active clubs.” However, Sewell also claimed that the Proud Boys Australia chapter was unwilling to break off from the organization, but assured him nonetheless that their groups will not consist of “non-Whites and Gays.”
Image attribution: Anthony Crider, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons; from Raleigh 2020.