Chief’s “Proud Boys” Post-Mortem: Blame Social Media

David Sepulveda PhotoAllan Appel Photo“We told them there was no KKK. Social media fueled itself.”

That was, in part, the explanation of how on Saturday a half-dozen out-of-town white nationalists assembling to hear a speaker on the Green (who never showed up) attracted 150 protesters who were expecting much worse. And how a violent fracas ensued, with four arrests and the injury to an officer. Despite intelligence work done in advance by the police.

Police Chief Anthony Campbell offered that brief analysis as one item of his regular report to Board of Police Commissioners at 1 Union Avenue.

Campbell told the commissioners that in the run-up to the event, there was backing and forthing between the department and the folks he termed “the opposition” on just who was coming to the Green. The group, called the Proud Boys, are “nationalists,” but claim not to be Nazis or Ku Klux Klan members.

“We told them there was no KKK,” Campbell said.

Without going into detail, he described a series of communications between the police and the opposition in which there were different assessments of what would occur. “We had no valid intelligence confirming a KKK,” Campbell said, but he indicated that the local antiracism activists who organized a counterprotest on social media thought otherwise.

Who showed up, the Proud Boys, were “no KKK, no white supremacist group,” he claimed. “These were a white nationalist group, six people [who ended up being] assaulted on the Green” by protesters using paint balloons, smoke grenades, and old-fashioned kicks.

The group is headquartered in East Haven, the department knows who they are individually, and their speaker ended up being stuck in traffic on the way to New Haven and never showed up, he said.

Still, “they [counterprotesters] got 150 people there looking for the KKK.”

Commissioners asked Campbell for clarification if either side had a permit. Campbell said no permits had been issued for the event. Therefore, unlawful assembly was the basis for dispersal of the parties on both sides after about 30 minutes, he said. Cops escorted the Proud Boys to safety.

In addition to the four opposition members arrested, Campbell said, one officer was injured, not on the Green but on her way to it. The officer’s cruiser door was hit by a passing car when she opened it. She sustained minor injuries, went to the hospital, and was released, the chief reported.

The department is conducting an after-action assessment, which is including looking at more video of the event, and will report findings at a press conference on Friday, he said.

For now the apparent true culprit here in the chief’s analysis is an over-active and inaccurate social media environment. In the future, “we’re going to work more closely [in this regard] with the community,” he said.

The after-action assessment, particularly the video tape, might result in more arrests, he added.

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posted by: JohnTulin on July 12, 2017  7:52am

“Proud Boys” are overgrown doofuses whose ‘rally’ on the green would have gone completely unnoticed if these petulant, reactionary, tantrum-throwers didn’t make it into a big deal.  You may have screamed at them, from behind your bandanas (for some reason - because it looks cool?), but you also got them so much more attention than they would have gotten otherwise. They have no base in New Haven, no support, never will.  If your goal was to get them lots of press, and look like idiots doing it, you succeeded in your mission!  Yay!  If you ignored them, like the rest of us, they would have gone away quietly.  But you did get to play radical on the green in front of the cameras and then boast on social media of how righteous you are (probably in caps, using words like SMASH), which is what you are really all about anyway.

posted by: citikop on July 12, 2017  8:09am

Watch the videos. They totally support the action taken by the NHPD!

posted by: wendy1 on July 12, 2017  8:25am

Thank you ,  Chief Campbell, for the analysis and the willingness to work with the community.

posted by: Permatemp on July 12, 2017  8:34am

It is a very comforting thought that problems will go away if you just ignore them. Unfortunately, it only makes them disappear to the people ignoring them, until they can no longer be ignored.

Also, are we supposed to be relieved that these guys were white nationalists and not white supremacists? That’s a distinction that only means anything to white nationalists and white supremacists.

posted by: SparkJames on July 12, 2017  8:46am

The Mayor did a Facebook live with the the heading, “Regarding the KKK on the New Haven Green”.

There were biker groups and fraternal organizations spreading the rumor on social media as well.

It was intentional misuse of social media by individuals and fraternal organizations.

posted by: Real talk on July 12, 2017  8:57am

“Campbell told the commissioners that in the run-up to the event, there was backing and forthing between the department and the folks he termed “the opposition” on just who was coming to the Green”.

If Chief Campbell knew the “proud boys” were going to show up why wan’t he better prepared for this situtation? Sounds familiar, i.e. (Trump protest).

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on July 12, 2017  8:58am

I think NHI is doing us a dis-service by referring to what took place as a “violent fracas”. That type of hyperbole is also helping to justify the gross over-reaction by the New Haven PD.

Honestly, the level of “violence” was the equivalent of a playground shoving match. One Proud Boy was kicked/shoved repeatedly in the butt by a woman who was definitely taking things too far, and deserved it when the police arrested her. Another Proud Boy was nailed by a paint-filled water balloon. (Likely by the same woman.)

OTOH, yes, the threat of violence permeated the counter-protest. But that itself was outdone, (please watch the YouTubes), by the NHPD, who arrived with way too many blaring sirens and hyped-up officers.

A true “violent fracas” would involve punches thrown, blood, trips to the ER, broken bones, stitches, etc. This wasn’t that, and if anything social media deserves credit for keeping it tame. With basically everything being videoed by a cell phone these days, (and ending up in YouTube), there is little room for anyone to get that far out of line at events like this.


posted by: CamilleS on July 12, 2017  9:26am

How exactly is the chief defining white supremacy and white nationalism that make them two distinct things, or that makes one a threat but not the other? Anything you read or watch by Gavin McInnes, the founder of the Proud Boys, or Augustus Invictus, who was supposed to speak but got scared, would blur whatever distinction you try to set up between these ideologies and the actions taken in their names.

posted by: BevHills730 on July 12, 2017  9:49am

White nationalists are racist bigots who are engaged in a political project that commits severe violence against everyone who doesn’t look or think like them.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on July 12, 2017  9:56am

The arrest of passer by Barbara Fair and her nephew DraMese Burmaye Fair had nothing to do with the PBs or the counter protesters, but demonstrate again why people don’t trust the Chief or the police. Arresting and brutalizing peaceful protesters does not engender trust or cooperation. Putting out Press Releases with false information does not invite the community to work with you.
The violent and aggressive people from out of town hijacked a counter protest and were arrested. There is NO defense for their behavior.
Neither the Mayor not the Chief is seen as principled or trustworthy when it comes to the protection of people of color. Look at the most recent list:
Holly Tucker- American of color.
Norman Clement - native American
Nathaniel Blair - American of color
Barbara Fair - American of color
DraMese Burmaye Fair - American of color
The Board of Police Commissioners should NOT accept Campbell’s word, but invite the public in to give their testimony as to their issues with the NHPD.
They should be asking why the NHPD arrested an almost 70 yr old grand mother and made up charges.
There’s a big problem in the NHPD and no one is addressing it.

posted by: smarcus on July 12, 2017  10:08am

Glad to know that NHPD knew of the social media before-hand and that they’re doing a post-review.  To repeat my comments on the other article, I hope this incident initiates additional resources for NHPD, as all cities need more now for crowd control, including for non-permitted situations.  I would like to know if NHPD is trying to secure additional resources, ie. more steel barricades, funding for trainings or a response-team for crowd control or a truck that would quickly deploy with barriers, etc…    Also, while I don’t condone assaultive behavior I am overjoyed that citizens showed up to protest and send a message to this white nationalist group, alt-right whatever you call it.

posted by: purple_gurl on July 12, 2017  10:31am

If they are based in East Haven, why didn’t they hold their protest there? I agree
with Permatemp.

posted by: challenge on July 12, 2017  11:22am

REALLY??? Is that the best the chief can come up with to explain away the unwarranted brutal attacks on 2 citizens who were not involved in any of the commotion? Social media caused his officers to get completely out of control. Wow!!! Now that is by far the most ridiculous response I’ve heard yet to explain police violence across this nation.

posted by: IraJohnson on July 12, 2017  12:59pm

I am very disappointed in the chief or the mayor one because the Chief stated that he met the counter group the days leading up to this past Saturday, but the Mayor announcement after this horrible event, in which I was present, the Mayor stated that she had no knowledge of of this event.  Now if the Proud Boys or whoever which the Chief said was from East Haven what was the point of them even coming to New Haven . If they was not part or wanted to be referred to the KKK once they heard or knew they were referred as them why nothing was said.  Now to the issue about needing a permit the Proud Boys Group was blocking the side walk and the counter group was instructed several time that if they remained on the Green that was public space and no permit was needed. The Chief is basically coming across as there should of not been a counter group. The reason why the Proud Boys were referred as one of them is because on that particular day there were KKK Rallies across America Virginia, Charlotte, Virginia and Raleigh, and all this was done at the same time.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on July 12, 2017  1:01pm

@challenge: Campbell’s “explanation” is what you call a non sequitur. One thing does not follow from the other or let’s just call them totally unrelated.
Once again, the NHPD undertakes unwarranted, violent arrests of peaceful people. This time they weren’t even protesters. But once again, they are Americans of color AND their last names are Fair.
Maybe we need the DOJ to see if there are arrest patterns in New Haven that violate Federal law.

posted by: citikop on July 12, 2017  3:39pm

The anti-protesters or what ever you wanna call them were not peaceful. Watch the videos Dwight! Their actions show their hypocrisy. Funny thing is most of the videos made were by them, lol

posted by: Noteworthy on July 12, 2017  9:23pm

It is not social media per se that is to blame. It is those who used it to promote a non-event, to promote hysteria and hate in order to draw the masses and get them riled and unruly. Of course, playing into this are the opportunistic politicians like Robyn Porter and Gary Winfield; Mayor Harp and her posse. All of them had shameful responses. The assaults and attacks on the original marchers? Beyond shameful.

And for the record: Barbara Fair’s tale of woe, that she just happened to be passing by? Not believable. The same politicians noted above are bellyaching about her citation and short term but familiar interaction with handcuffs.

posted by: BevHills730 on July 12, 2017  10:49pm

Why is Noteworthy always ready to criticize everyone except the racist bigots?

posted by: IraJohnson on July 13, 2017  6:15am

Good Morning let me explain something first to start off with I was there and trust me the tension was high, I was there and had a responsibility to be there because I am running for a leadership position in New Haven I had just left a Candidate Forum and while was walking to the bus stop another fellow leader mentioned to me about the pending presence of the Proud Boys Group who intent was to use it as a recruitment tool. I immediately went there and tried to keep everyone cool yes there was some that was seemingly very upset as I mentioned before I am not understand what reports are talking about at first the counter group wanted to go and approach them but always remained across the street from them, and I heard first hand several officers tell the counter group that if they stayed on the Green it would be okay because it is public space. My thoughts was that the counter group did not attend this rally to fight and attack them they were very vocal and they had to send a message that they were not welcome in our city.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on July 13, 2017  9:25am

@Noteworthy. Why don’t you believe Ms. Fair’s version of events? Why is she less credible than the NHPD that routinely distributes lies in Press Releases as to what occurred at a protest? You need to pay better attention to the facts. Don’t judge these situations so quickly that you automatically assume everyone on the scene did the same action.
Ms. Fair was changing buses when she saw some family members on the Green and went over to see what was going on. She spoke to a PB at some point and shook hands with him. Within seconds 5 cops are show in a video surrounding her and cuffing her.
I hope you’re man enough to apologize for doubting Ms. Fair when her case is dismissed.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on July 13, 2017  9:50am

@Citikop: If you lived here and knew any of the people, you’d know that the violent ones were from out of town. They were not part of the coalition that showed up and attempted to keep order. The woman shown pushing the PB 2x and kicking him was arrested, as was the guy who threw paint.
      This is NOT what a non-violent event should look like. Ever.
      SURJ ( Stand Up for Racial Justice) is a group of non-militant whites who want to support people of color in seeking social justice. They had clear rules for non-engagement, but their counter protest was hijacked by people who don’t live in New Haven and who had their own agenda.
      In the future these coalitions are going to have to handle disrupters themselves or ask the police to intervene.
      In the future the police who live out of town and don’t know an award winning 70 year old grand mother of color from a violent attacker will have to do a better job of limiting arrests to people who actually do something. Another disgraceful action by the NHPD.
      And pepper spraying her nephew AFTER he was arrested, - how do they explain that?
      If the Mayor, the Chief of Police, the Board of Police Commissioners and the public do not hold them all accountable, eventually either intervention by the Dept. of Justice or a multi-million dollar lawsuit in favor of victims of police brutality will.
      The videos were from many diverse sources, some of them mere observers and not participants.
Sometimes a situation is complicated. Even the police admit that.
        Again, it helps to know what is going on and who the people are before you let loose with an opinion.

posted by: Fern on July 13, 2017  10:44am

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”.

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”.

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”.

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 16, 2017  11:08am

@Smarcus: The NHPD already have guns and pepper spray, but will soon add tasers and drones. Pretty soon we’ll look like some place in the Mid-East or Afghanistan.
Tasers are well-documented at this point as having killed people and should be banned. Unfortunately there is big money in this technology and the people that make them pay lobbyists tons of money to persuade every one that they need the latest to be “safe”. But it really makes everyone less safe because it terrorizes unarmed civilians.
Wait til you see your first drone overhead. Big Brother is watching and he’s armed and dangerous and has a license to kill. People of color are most at risk.
So you may applaud the increasing arsenal that the Mayor and Alders put in the hands of people who already target activist leaders and people of color for violent treatment and arrest, but there will be push back.
All these armaments contradict the phony commitment to “community policing” or de-escalation of tensions as real policies. Say one thing, do another.
The average white person has NO idea what it is to try to live life as a person of color. The traffic stops, the questions about what you’re doing in a white neighborhood (segregation lives!) or being stopped for trivia (because your last name is Fair) - all add to the stress and are reflected in health issues.
Policing is out of control because the politicians cater to fear. There is no vision of what a good PD should look like; just more public relations and press releases that produce howls of laughter in New Haven.
The whole system, from arrest to prosecution to mass incarceration, to the creation of a permanent underclass is broken.
It may not touch you personally, but you’ll be paying for all these cops, their new patrol cars, their body cameras, their tasers that kill and their drones.
Ultimately you’ll be paying for the big money pay outs when the city is sued for its actions.