- A follower of the Proud Boys — a far-right extremist group — posted in an encrypted chat that he was staging a coup to remove the organization’s current leader.
- Kyle Chapman, who gained notoriety for striking anti-fascists with weapons at political demonstrations, wrote that he had overthrown Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, and intended on making the group even more racist.
- Tarrio, a Cuban-American, told Insider on Thursday that Chapman was kicked out of the Proud Boys years ago and that his comments about a coup were a “bad joke,” as he has no power.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A member of far-right extremist group the Proud Boys attempted to stage a coup for leadership, writing a racist screed about the “White Race” being dominant in a chat room.
Kyle Chapman, who’s known among the Proud Boys as “Based Stickman,” wrote on the encrypted messaging platform Telegram that he would assume the role of president, according to messages obtained by Insider, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, and The Daily Beast. Though Proud Boys leadership claims that the group has roughly 22,000 members worldwide, research from an independent think tank published in May found that number was inflated, estimating a total of 3,000 members.
Chapman used a racial slur to refer to the group’s current chairman, Enrique Tarrio, who is Cuban-American, and said the group will now be called the “Proud Goys” (“Goy” is a Yiddish term to connote a non-Jewish person).
Chapman said in a Telegram group with 1,131 members that the Proud Boys will now be focused on “the issues of White Genocide, the failures of multiculturalism, and the right for White men and women to have their own countries where White interests are written into law and part of the body politic.”
—Berkeley Antifa (@berkeleyantifa) November 10, 2020
But the group’s actual leader says he’s full of it. “He has no power in our organization,” Tarrio, 37, told Insider in a phone interview on Thursday.
The chaos comes amid an already disconcerting moment for the largely pro-Trump group, as members refuse to accept President Donald Trump’s defeat. It also demonstrates how, despite the group’s leadership claiming that the Proud Boys accepts members of all races, a huge swath of its membership feels differently.
The group is marked by its unique and often incendiary sense of humor — Chapman’s words were intended to be taken in jest, Tarrio said, who spoke to Insider before heading from his Florida home to Washington, DC, to run security at a MAGA protest. “I guess as a bad joke, he said he established a successful coup,” Tarrio told Insider. “When we saw it, we put it on our channel, and said ‘Oh, Kyle is on a drunken rant.”
Tarrio said Chapman was kicked out of the Proud Boys more than two years ago when he was having “legal problems.” At the time, the group tried to give him a different organization to run, but it was “unsuccessful,” Tarrio said, referring to the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, a fringe arm of the Proud Boys. The New York Times reported in 2017 that Gavin McInnes, the founder of the organization, had wanted to make Chapman the president of the Proud Boys.
Tarrio said Chapman was recently denied membership when he attempted to join a Proud Boys chapter in the state he moved to.
Last year, Chapman took a felony plea deal related to charges that he brought a weapon to a 2017 political rally in California. Photos and videos from the rally showed Chapman wielding a large stick and hitting antifascist demonstrators with it, Berkeleyside reported.
Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio rallies in Portland, Ore., during the group’s “End Domestic Terrorism” gathering on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019.
AP Photo/Noah Berger
McInnes, who is no longer in an official leadership position with the group, said on the right-wing social-media platform Parler on Wednesday evening that Chapman often makes jokes about “taking over the club” and that he “might as well say he’s taking over McDonald’s and it’s now an all vegetarian franchise.”
Leaders have said the Proud Boys isn’t a white-supremacist group, but many of its members hold those views
Proud Boys leaders have long maintained that the group is not associated with white supremacy. Tarrio, the group’s actual leader, said in a September interview with Insider that while the group is “a little rough around the edges,” it’s not a white-supremacist organization. “I denounce white supremacy, and I denounce fascism and communism,” he said.
On Thursday, he did admit that Proud Boys had attracted some members who held white supremacist views, but said that these days, real white supremacists hate their group because they let people of color and LGBTQ people join.
The group undeniably hosts members who do have racist, white supremacist, anti-Islam, and anti-Semitic views. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that tracks extremism, categorizes the Proud Boys as a hate group. “Their disavowals of bigotry are belied by their actions: rank-and-file Proud Boys and leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists,” the SPLC said.
The group often uses “misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic, and anti-immigration” rhetoric, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Kris McGuffie, the deputy director of the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told Insider in a previous interview that the group “purports to be against white supremacy, while overtly promoting the precise theories and narratives that white supremacists are known for.”
Gavin McInnes pumps his fist during a rally at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park on April 27, 2017 in Berkeley, California.
Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images
Samantha Kutner, a Proud Boys researcher whose work has been published by the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism at The Hague, told Insider that the group has members of different beliefs, with many often spreading anti-Semitism and other forms of hate “veiled in coded terms.”
During a September presidential debate with President-elect Joe Biden, Trump was asked to denounce white supremacist groups. Biden suggested the Proud Boys as one such organization. “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” Trump said. The comment emboldened and invigorated the group, Kutner told Insider, which perfectly situated them to support his baseless claims of voter fraud in the wake of Biden’s win. “They have the added benefit of Trump giving them that nod and also kind of tapping them by spreading narratives about voter suppression,” Kutner said.
The extremist organization, which was founded in 2016 by McInnes (who previously founded Vice Media), is a fraternity of self-proclaimed “western chauvinists.” In an op-ed announcing the formation of the group, McInnes wrote that the Proud Boys was for men who “long for the days when ‘girls were girls and men were men.'”
In 2017, Tarrio marched at the now-infamous “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that a former Proud Boys member helped organize, according to the SPLC. The rally ended with three deaths and dozens of injuries. Tarrio later said he did not support certain aspects of the rally.
The group is known for its violence, as its original bylaws required those pledged to the Proud Boys to engage in violence on the group’s behalf in order to become members.
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