“Nationalists”? Or White-Hoodwinkers?

Twitter“White supremacists” came to recruit members on New Haven’s Green. Or did they?

New Haven is wrestling with that question as officials reexamine why a visit by six members of a new national alt-right — or “alt lite” — group called the Proud Boys ended up in four arrests, minor brief violence and a massive police presence last Saturday after 150 mostly local anti-racism counterdemonstrators showed up.

New Haven’s not alone. Nationwide, law-enforcement officials and left-of-center activists are researching and debating how to characterize a new crop of violence-prone far-right groups looking to boost their numbers and create mayhem in the Age of Trump — while some bandana-clad “antifascist” or “antifa” activists join in the battle.

Mayor Toni Harp huddled with the police chief and two assistant chiefs late Wednesday as they sought to get in front of public outcry over the handling of last Saturday’s incident and prepare a public review, with a planned public release on Friday.

That review may touch on several questions, including:
• Why, even though organizers took pains to urge counterdemonstrators to keep their distance from the Proud Boys and refrain from violence, a pair of out-of-town “antifa” activists concealing their faces were able to hijack the event by kicking the Proud Boys, setting off smoke grenades, and tossing paint-filled balloons.
• Why city cops, despite their best planning efforts, were caught somewhat unaware of how the event unfolded.
• Why two nonviolent New Haven activists were arrested as well. (Police said they disobeyed orders to keep a distance at key chaotic moments; they deny it.)
• Whether the police under- or overreacted to a highly challenging, fast-developing situation.

Also prominent in the review mix is the question of how to characterize the Proud Boys. Police officials agree with the Proud Boys leaders that the group is not “white supremacist” — and argue that a misunderstanding about that label led to the problems Saturday. Others look at the group’s words and actions to draw an opposite conclusion, and argue that splitting hairs about an allegedly obviously racist movement distracts law enforcement from more germane questions about how to handle similar events in the future. Because, people on all sides agree, more such events are probably on the horizon.

Rumbling “Alt Knights”

David Sepulveda Photo

Police knew in advance of Saturday’s event that some sort of right-wing activists planned to hit town to recruit members. They saw social-media postings by local antiracist groups calling on supporters to mount a counterdemonstration against “white supremacist” “KKK” groups.

But the cop didn’t immediately know which right-wing recruiters planned to show. Because the group in question doesn’t appear on “KKK” or “white supremacist” lists. And they couldn’t confirm the time or actual location of the event.

They knew finally a few hours before the event that the recruiters were members of a group called the Proud Boys, some of them based in East Haven. Cops got to work, trying to dissuade the Proud Boys from showing up — and learning what they’re about.

In their own words, the all-male group is about promoting “western chauvinism” and a renewed male model that eschews masturbation (except within a few feet of a woman). Here’s a more extended self-description of the group’s agenda on its Facebook page: “minimal government, maximum freedom, anti-political correctness, anti-racial guilt, pro-gun rights, anti-Drug War, closed borders, anti-masturbation, venerating entrepreneurs, venerating housewives, and reinstating a spirit of Western chauvinism during an age of globalism and multiculturalism.”

Through a paramilitary wing called the the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights, Proud Boys have been crashing left-wing anti-Trump protests throughout the U.S. and Canada with the intention— often fulfilled — of getting into physical fights. Leaders regularly declare the the group includes some Latino members, as well as gays, and that Nazis and Ku Klux Klanners oppose them. The cops did see firsthand last week that the East Haven group included at least one Latino.

In New Haven, the six Proud Boys who arrived on the Green last Saturday did not provoke violence. They planned to hear a recruitment speech by one of the group’s national leaders, Augustus Invictus. Invictus never showed. The 150 counterprotesters did, and while many engaged in peaceful debate with the Proud Boys, the two out-of-town face-concealed “antifa” activists provoked the violence. Cops ended up shooing the Proud Boys away to safety.

In the aftermath, the police department issued a statement urging the press not to refer to the Proud Boys as “white supremacist.”

“The group is NOT affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan or a white-supremacist movement, as was reported by some news outlets and those who represented themselves as members of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement and other protest groups,” read a department press release, rightly urging the press to exercise caution in labeling the group. “Rumors that a white-supremacist group were scheduled to rally at the NH Green prompted a rallying of counter-protesters including Black Lives Matter.”

On Tuesday night, Police Chief Anthony Campbell sounded a similar theme in reporting to the Board of Police Commissioners about Saturday’s event. He blamed the chaos of the day on the fact that counterdemonstrators labeled the Proud Boys as “white supremacist” and “KKK” in social-media calls to supporters.

The Proud Boys are “no KKK, no white supremacist group,” Campbell told the commissioners Tuesday night. He also blamed the outbreak of violence on misinformation about the group spread by counterdemonstrators in advance of the event. He said his department tried to convince the counterdemonstrators that they misunderstood the Proud Boys. One lesson he drew: the police need to communicate more with local counterdemonstrators not to exaggerate their targets’ views.

Pepe The Frog

TwitterA search through the Internet can also produce another narrative for what the Proud Boys represent: that it and similar groups are cleverly parsing words to seek to conceal (to opponents, not to their supporters) an old-fashioned violent white-supremacist agenda.

So while some of the group’s videos and social-media postings deny any connection to racism, other postings and public comments communicate the opposite.

For instance, consider Augustus Invictus’ own tweets of recent days. One, posted at the top of this article, uses the flag of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans group (pictured at the top of this story).

Others use the image of Pepe the Frog — which the “alt right” has appropriated as calls to mass attacks on Jews and African-Americans and women over the past year — as a wink to followers, like the posting above ...

... and the retweet below:

Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes has (on TV) referred to Jada Pinkett as a “monkey actress.”

Invictus also slips at times from his denials of racism and anti-Semitism and homophobia. For instance, at the 1:27 mark in the above video,  he puts air quotes around “Holocaust” when referring to the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

At the 4:44 mark in the same video, he can be heard referring to transsexuals as “gender niggers.”

He has been quoted calling Asians “slopes” and “riceballs.”

Some of Invictus’ web followers interpret his statements as out-and-out white supremacy.  “Commies/Muds want to kill Whites who don’t want to be near them. Sociopathic Leeches. Embrace Your Ethno-States!” wrote a follower calling himself Angry Ice Wolf2 in a comment posted to an Invictus YouTube video. “Diversity is our death. Non whites don’t think like us.”

Activists and journalists on both the left and the right brand the Proud Boys as white supremacists.

For instance, the Daily Caller, a conservative web daily, acknowledged in an article otherwise devoted to bashing New Haven’s counterdemonstrators last Saturday that the event itself was “organized by local white nationalist groups with ties to ‘Proud Boys,’ a new political movement helmed in the U.S. by the Canadian Vice Media-cofounder Gavin McInnes.” Even the Daily Caller acknowledged in that article that Invictus “has openly advocated for eugenics and a civil war while attracting a following of mostly neo-Nazis and white nationalists.” It didn’t see a need to sugarcoat the conservative demonstrators in order to take aim at the violent actions on this particular day taken by some left-wing counterdemonstrators.

From the left, ““antifa” groups have devoted time to documenting the Proud Boys’ neo-Nazi and otherwise white supremacist affiliations, and the group’s participation in “the DIY Division, or ... Rise Above Movement,” “a loose collective of violent neo-Nazis and fascists from Southern California that’s organized and trains primarily to engage in fighting and violence at political rallies.”

One researcher of U.S. hate groups, New Haven’s Henry Fernandez, noted a danger in efforts to portray the Proud Boys as non-white supremacist.

“In the racists’ world and in the world of some people who research these groups there are distinctions between being ‘white nationalist’ and ‘white supremacist.’ However in reality, I have found that there is no distinction,” Fernandez, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, stated in an email message. “This is along the lines of your simple Google searches. White nationalists invariably believe things that involve protecting their race from other races and want to do so because they denigrate other races. Some have shortened their term from white nationalist to just ‘nationalist,” but this is a game. 

“There have long been fights (physical and online) between different factions of white supremacists. So the fact that these groups fight is not particularly informative. For instance some Klan members hated neo-Nazis because their fathers fought the Nazis. Some skinheads fight other racists because they are basically thugs who like to fight. But in the real world racists tend to move between these groups based on geography and which group has the most members or the best club house or whatever.  There are different ideologies among white supremacists but these are distinctions that would matter little to you or me.”

Fernandez argued that “getting wrapped up in the distinctions that white supremacists make among themselves is ridiculous. They are all white supremacists. The Proud Boys are not racist because they say they are not racist? This particular group appears to exist to get in street fights, apparently including provoking them. “

That doesn’t mean the half-dozen young white Proud Boys attacked anyone last Saturday on the Green. They didn’t. They were attacked.

It doesn’t mean that it made sense for two out-of-towners who crashed last Saturday’s counterdemonstration to kick the Proud Boys and throw paint balloons at them. People on all sides of the New Haven incident condemned those actions. (And those actions did not reflect the fact that the New Haven organizers of the counterdemonstration specifically instructed marchers not to make contact with the Proud Boys.)

And the police inevitably got hit from both sides in such circumstances — criticized for doing too little and for overreacting.

Meanwhile, the cops plan to step up communications efforts.

On Thursday, Chief Campbell said the department plans to create a more active presence on sites like Instagram and Snapchat and Twitter — “things that I don’t even know about, but my 15-year-old daughter does” — to “alleviate a lot of misinformation.” He said he hopes to have an officer staff a social media unit.

Meanwhile, how to talk about hate groups will pose just one of many tough challenges New Haven faces in figuring out ways to deal with provocative visits to New Haven. The words, all sides agree, have real-life consequences.

David Sepulveda Photo

Christopher Peak contributed reporting.

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posted by: Fern on July 13, 2017  12:33pm

I posted this in a previous article and thought it appropriate to post this comment again:

Unbelievable!  “Mayor Toni Harp released a statement on her re-election campaign Facebook page Saturday following the rally. She said the city wasn’t aware of any planned protests on Saturday”. http://www.nhregister.com/general-news/20170708/clashing-protests-on-new-haven-green-turn-chaotic-some-would-say-violent?source=most_viewed.

However, the Chief of Police new about it, supposedly didn’t tell the Mayor, but blamed social media?  Another case of lack of communication and pass the blame.

Secondly, if Police Chief Campbell was aware, why was NHPD’s finest not on the green in advance of the protest? “The counterprotest began with a march at about 12:40 p.m. on the Green”. http://www.nhregister.com/general-news/20170708/clashing-protests-on-new-haven-green-turn-chaotic-some-would-say-violent?source=most_viewed.

The proud boys were more llikely there, lets just say for arguments sake, at 12:15. Either way, they had to be there before the counterprotest at 12:40.  “New Haven police arrived on the scene in droves at about 1:11 p.m”.  http://www.nhregister.com/general-news/20170708/clashing-protests-on-new-haven-green-turn-chaotic-some-would-say-violent?source=most_viewed.

So Chief Campbell new about the protest, sent police officers at least 45 minutes to 1 hour after the Proud Boys showed up, and after 150 protestors gathered on the green!!  Mayor Harp is clueless and only interesed in her re-election campaign, and selected a Chief who never had a clue his whole career.  It will just get worse.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on July 13, 2017  1:25pm

Excellent research, Paul, and a nuanced analysis of what the PBs represent. What they say is not always what they mean. They shape-shift with the best of ‘em.
The current political administration has empowered these pathetic groups (I call them the Poor Boys) that look to establish their significance (in their own minds) by stirring up fears and emotions, then denying responsibility.
They seek a reaction and headlines and got them.
With the police insisting they are not “white” supremacists or KKK, it appears that police intelligence is just another oxymoron. Henry Fernandez’s thoughtful analysis gets it right.
Do we really have to re-invent the wheel in terms of how to monitor these public events? I thought we worked that out in the 60s and 70s. I guess a new generation has to learn.
The organizers are responsible for their groups and monitoring their behavior after setting basic rules. Marshals and legal observers must be in place and sufficient to observe the crowd and report problems. People who feel the need to act out are removed from the scene or the police are called.
Outside agitators are likewise dealt with by the marshals or police.
And I would add a new one in view of the NHPD’s predilection for arresting citizens of color over whites: people not of color must protect their fellow Americans at all times and surround them so they cannot be falsely arrested time after time. They are targets; you are not.
It’s hard for some people to grasp, but while there is a right to protest speech, there is no right to shut it down. Sing songs, chant, bang drums. But do NOT interfere with the demonstrating group or YOU will be arrested.
The police are obligated to protect speakers and demonstrators from the violence of others. Another day it will be your turn to be the ones protected.
If you think you are better than the group demonstrating, then act it.
And it’s ok to bear silent witness once in a while too.

posted by: Sohores on July 13, 2017  1:27pm

This is ridiculous.  What in the hell is going on at the New Haven Police Department? The Police Chief accuses social media outputs for this incident, but if he paid attention to the proud boys facebook page, website, etc., he would have noticed that no, they do not state they are the KKK; but there views are racist and sexist, ie., anti-political correctness, anti-racial guilt, and the leader calling transexuals “gender niggers”.  Then the Chief sinks to a new low again and accuses the counterprotestors for the violence and misinformation about the group and also states they exaggerated their views. There was no misinformation about the group.The counterdemonstrators obtained the same info about the group that the NHI was able to obtain. What more does the Chief need to know that this group is not what is needed in a diverse City such as New Haven and by showing up in New Haven and potential riot could ensue? 

Again, no preparation. The Police Chief was unaware of the trump protest earlier this year and blamed it on protest organizers and his own NHPD police intelligent unit, even though it was posted on social media and and on utility poles in New Haven. 

Again, the Mayor and Chief have to back track and issue another statement regarding an incident they were unaware of and failed to communucate with the residents of New Haven.  There should have been a statement the day of the incident but I guess then Mayor and Chief have to plan and get their lies straight and who they will blame again.

posted by: Inside 165 on July 13, 2017  1:35pm

I know the most would like to distract from the behavior of the counter protesters but to do so only exacerbates the problem. 

First off Paul I’m assuming you erred when you said 1,500 counter protestors. More like 100. The reality is the group SURJ is no better than the proud boys. They are equally as ignorant and by all evidence violent. Go to their website and see for yourself.

The police presence was necessary and in its absence would have led to the cowards in masks becoming more aggressive.  It amazes me how the aggressors complain about being over policed.

Anytime when people are met with threats of violence or actual violence for exorcizing their constitutional rights everyone should condemn it no matter how ignorant or offensive, in this case, speech may be. On another hand it’s amazing to watch race baiters protest race baitors.

All people affiliated with this counter protest group are to blame for the behavior.  Stop blaming outside forces.  When members of your group do something and you say nothing than your just as culpable.

[Paul: What an awful typo! Sorry. Yes, 150.]

posted by: Real talk on July 13, 2017  1:36pm

Interesting that the twitter feed of the Proud Boys “Fighting Terrorism since 1861”. 1861 was also the start of the American Civil War which was fought over slavery and votes. I wonder who the Proud Boys consider were the terrorists in 1861? Just curious.

posted by: Bill Saunders on July 13, 2017  1:42pm

I am sticking with the risk of going blind… 
It’s safer than being infected by a ‘venerated’ disease.

The only reason this group is anti-masturbation is so you can’t call them Jerk-Offs.

posted by: EPDP on July 13, 2017  3:48pm

Bill Saunders is disgusting!  He should be banned from posting to Paul Bass’ family friendly, Harp hugging, Yale Illuminati, pussy hatter website.  Lux et Falsus
-Larry Noodles

posted by: Bill Saunders on July 13, 2017  6:39pm

So Larry Noodles—

Weren’t you the provocateur wearing a mask?

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on July 13, 2017  7:27pm

That is a very informative and balanced article. As far as Mr. Fernandez’s views, however, I would caution him that while some minorities may reason that all European Americans who pledge allegiance to the traditional qualities, characteristics, and ideals of their culture are white supremacists there are many European Americans who deeply love their culture and would never think to equate that love with being superior to another race.  I will admit, however, that when one honestly thinks that his culture is the best it can easily be interpreted by others as being offensive if not racist. However, the color of someone’s skin is an accident.  Skin color is not necessary for creating high culture even if some European Americans erroneously maintain that it is. But even then one is apt to run into difficulties by suggesting that some cultures have better objective notions of greatness than other cultures. But I do not see too many people immigrating to other parts of the world.  They all seem to want to come here. Perhaps, Western Civilization has created better ideas of greatness even if it very often falls short in practice.  Maybe we could all assimilate to the ideas rather than the accidental “race” that just happens to be their progenitors. In any case, European Americans should be proud of their heritage and continue to try for excellence just as all people should.

posted by: MarkS on July 13, 2017  9:33pm

The white supremacist movement decided to a little while back to fix its public relations problem - groups like the proud boys are the result.

They dont publicly use deragatory words and they try to use somewhat intelligent language.

Instead of “we want a country for white people” its “we want a country for western culture”

Instead of “we’ll allow non-whites to exist if they are subservient” its “we welcome everyone of all colors if they reject their own culture and embrace western culture”

The fact there is even a debate about wether the proud boys are racist proves that it is working.

And further more, this effort has also been coupled with an effort to get white supremacists in police departments - the fact the nhpd is so adamant that the proud boys arent racist really makes you think, doesnt it?

posted by: MarkS on July 13, 2017  9:42pm

Perhaps, Timothy O’Rourke, people immigrate here because american imperialism has destroyed their country and ruined any chance of making a living there?

Its not a coincidence we are in the midst of the largest global mass migration event in the world and the largest global inequality in the world.

Its important for everyone to realize that “Western culture” is code word for white supremacy. This is literally a planned out strategy by white supremacists who realized they need better PR.

posted by: EPDP on July 13, 2017  10:03pm

I was the one wearing the Trump mask.  I didn’t appreciate it when Bill Saunders kicked me in the head.  I expect an apology, either from Mr. Saunders, or from Mr. Bass for giving the incorrigible Saunders a platform to promote his pinko pussy platform on the pages of this pinko rag. 
Larry Noodles

posted by: Perspective on July 14, 2017  8:30am

Some comments regarding the article.
Does it really matter if the proud boys are racists or KKK are not? So if they were, would the rules around counter protests and what is appropriate to say or do change? Recognizing the inflammatory nature would warrant a greater need to prepare for conflict, it should not usurp the rights of both sides to peacefully voice their views.  It appears the very laws, privileges and freedoms we all want were denied to these proud boys.  Doesn’t this country guarantee them the freedom of expression and to assemble peacefully whatever their message may be?  I find it ironic the city that dubs itself a “sanctuary city” has issues with those that have views that differ from their own!  Also, in other articles, comments have stated if they are from East Haven why didn’t they assemble there.  Why should they have to.  Were all the counter protesters from New Haven?

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on July 14, 2017  9:02am

Hello Mark S,

I thank you for your comment. Yes, Western Culture can be a code word for the economic, cultural, military, legal, and intellectual expansion by the United States that is used as a pretext for no another reason save supremacy.  It can also be the egalitarian means by which countries are introduced to democracy and republicanism. Many of which are violently repressed by their own governments and their own religious leaders who have purposefully denied the ideas of democracy from being practiced or even known. In any case, according to the very tenants of multiculturalism, one should not deny another his right, according to this ideology, to value his own culture or one runs the risk of disproving this ideology by only allowing those who are not of Western Culture to have recourse to the truth the ideology purportedly supports.

posted by: elmcityresident on July 14, 2017  9:16am

excellent article, I can’t believe the Chief is clueless to think the proud boys aren’t racist shame on him for not protecting the city of new haven where they actually came to spill their spew amongst a melting pot of different races. I think intentionally

posted by: MarkS on July 14, 2017  10:47am

“Western culture” doesn’t exist, but especially not within the concepts of “multi-culturalism” - those would be italian culture, spainish culture, greek culture, etc…

“Western culture” was a term invented for white supremacy. The democracy of the greeks has nothing to do with the vikings, yet these are all thrown together under the umbrella of “western culture.” When people speak of “western culture,” especially in context of todays political environment, what they are really doing is attempting to create a unified white culture which has never actually existed.

posted by: Bill Saunders on July 14, 2017  11:02am

Larry Noodles,

You really need to work on your comedy…..

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on July 14, 2017  2:57pm

Hello again Mark S.,

That makes sense but I was actually comprising the *ethnicities* that you listed as holistic cultural entity as contrasted by those who came from Africa or those who became a mixture of those who were already in the New World.  I disagree with you that the ethnicities that you listed do not share a common cultural heritage as for over a thousand years we shared the same all encompassing missionary impetus brought on by and sustain through Christendom to which more often than not it deferred in all things. This is especially evidenced by the Vikings whose conversion even had them take on the language of those who they themselves conquered. In intellectual, legal, monarchal, and ecclesiastical settings we even shared the same language of Latin.  In fact, most of Western Civilization’s languages are derived from Latin or have many cognates from it as is the case in English. The monarchal families of Western Civilization always knew they were part of something greater than their own ethnicity and their peoples gave their lives for it as evidenced by the Crusades.  Even modern Europe has become a republic as evidenced by the European Union, even if its modern biases deny its own roots.  As far as the Greeks, an antecedent aspect of Western Man’s missionary spirit even sees them encouraging intermarriage as critical means by which to effect cultural homogeneity as brought on by Alexander.  This providential necessity was the precursor to what would lead to the diffusion of philosophy and Western Man’s understanding of Natural Right, even if academia no longer no longer prescribes to its tenets and has become historicists instead.