Today's Paper Latest Coronavirus The Article Core Values Story ideas iPad Weather Newsletters Obits Puzzles Archive

Proud Boys branch says it's dissolved

by The Washington Post | May 4, 2021 at 2:00 a.m.

TORONTO -- Nearly three months after Canada declared the Proud Boys a terrorist entity, the Canadian chapter of the militant far-right group claims it has "officially dissolved." But analysts warned that the organization could still rebrand, and its radicalized members could find new homes.

Members of the Proud Boys, founded in the United States by a Canadian, joined the violent mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol in January.

In a statement posted on social media on Sunday, the group said "there is officially no longer any Proud Boys in Canada." It cited the financial difficulties of mounting a legal challenge to overturn the government's terrorist entity designation.

The designation in February did not make it illegal to belong to the group, but it did carry financial and legal consequences. Authorities can add members to the no-fly list. Banks can freeze their assets and police can seize their property. It's a crime to knowingly provide assistance to the group, including by purchasing merchandise.

"The truth is we were never terrorists or a white supremacy group," the Canadian chapter said in its statement, posted to the main Proud Boys channel on the Telegram messaging app. "As a fraternity of men we had thought of pursuing the case legally but we have no financial support, given we are not funded by the rich."

Jessica Davis, a former analyst at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said being on the same list as al-Qaida and the Islamic State might have served as a "wake-up call" for some members, but that doesn't mean all have disavowed their views.

"Their disbanding really just means they're probably not going to be using the name Proud Boys anymore," said Davis, president of the consulting group Insight Threat Intelligence. "But their hardcore members, the ones that are radicalized, the ones that are engaging in violence and protests are still radicalized.

"I really see it as just dropping the name, but not necessarily dropping the ideology."

The Proud Boys have come under increasing scrutiny since the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, which led to five deaths. Analysts say they were emboldened last fall when then-President Donald Trump, pressed during a presidential debate to condemn them, told members instead to "stand back and stand by."

Canada is believed to be the first country to have declared the Proud Boys a terrorist entity. The United States is conducting its own review.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said in February that the group posed the "most significant threat" to domestic security. He said intelligence officials, who had monitored the group since 2018, had noted an "escalation toward violence," and the Capitol attack produced evidence that helped inform the decision.

The Proud Boys, a group of self-described "Western chauvinists" formed by Canadian Gavin McInnes, have had a smaller footprint in Canada than in the United States. At least one chapter said in January that it was disbanding. Global News reported last month that Colin Browne, an Ontario lawyer who identified as a Proud Boy, was pursuing a legal challenge to the terrorist designation. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Several prominent Proud Boys have faced federal charges since the attack on the Capitol. Prosecutors allege that some were closely involved in planning much of the violence, and that they led early efforts to overwhelm police and to break into the building.

In the weeks since, analysts say, some members have sought to distance themselves from the organization. Several U.S. chapters have split from the national organization and denounced it, leading to concerns that the remaining core could develop into a more violent organization led by its more extremist members.

In a statement posted to the Telegram channel, the U.S. Proud Boys said the Canadian chapter had "become a political tool by the ruling elite of the Canadian government." It said the "livelihoods" of its Canadian members "must come first."

"The ProudBoys in Canada is no more," it said. "Anyone walking around in Fred Perry polos and ProudBoys gear are simply posers."

Canadian lawmakers voted unanimously in January to urge the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to designate the group a terrorist entity "immediately." The nonbinding move drew a backlash from national security analysts, who said that it risked the politicization of what's supposed to be a legal process.


Sponsor Content