Police Shrugged Off the Proud Boys, Until They Attacked the Capitol

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Instead, he said in an interview, the agents asked for march routes and other plans in order to separate the Proud Boys from counterprotesters. Other times, he said, agents warned that they had picked up potential threats from the left against him or his associates.

But before the Jan. 6 event, no one contacted the leaders of the Proud Boys, Mr. Tarrio said, even though their gatherings at previous Trump rallies in Washington had been marred by serious violence.

“They did not reach out to us,” he said.

In summer 2017, neo-Nazis, Klansmen and other white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville, Va., to announce their resurgence at the “Unite the Right” rally. Its organizer, Jason Kessler, was a member of the Proud Boys.

The group had been founded a year earlier by Gavin McInnes, now 50, the co-creator of the media outlet Vice. (The company has long since severed all ties.) He was a Canadian turned New Yorker with a record of statements attacking feminists and Muslims, and he often expressed a half-ironic appetite for mayhem. “Can you call for violence generally?” he once asked in an online video. “’Cause I am.”

The Proud Boys had been volunteering as body guards for right-wing firebrands like Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos and frequently clashed with left-wing crowds, especially at college campuses. Proud Boys “free speech” rallies in bastions of the left like Seattle, Portland or Berkeley, Calif., routinely ended in street fights.

Yet Mr. McInnes shunned the Unite the Right gathering, saying in an online video: “Disavow, disavow, disavow.” By his account, the Proud Boys were not white supremacists but merely “Western chauvinists.” That stance helped the Proud Boys evade scrutiny from federal law enforcement.

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