A brawl between anti-fascist protesters and several members of the hate group Proud Boys has lifted the veil on the so-called right-wing fraternal organization’s activities in New York City.
The NYPD is looking to question 12 people who were involved in the fight near the Metropolitan Republican Club in Manhattan on Friday night.
Video of the altercation has gone viral as Democratic city officials denounced the violence and questioned why the NYPD did not arrest any Proud Boys members at the incident.
Read on to learn more about the Proud Boys, why they were at the Metropolitan Republican Club and what led up to the brawl.
Who are the Proud Boys?
The group describes itself as a men-only “Western chauvinist” fraternal organization that bucks “politically correct culture” and extols violence as a core principle.
Launched in 2016, Proud Boys is led by Gavin McInnes (the co-founder of VICE Media) and differentiates itself from alt-right groups by claiming to accept men of all races, sexual preferences and religions – as long as they were born male.
The Proud Boys organization is known for “repeated acts of violence” across the country, according to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. In addition to the Manhattan brawl on Friday, other Proud Boys members are believed to have been involved in a similar, even larger melee with anti-fascist protesters in Portland, Oregon, on Saturday, The Washington Post reported.
The Proud Boys official Twitter account has been banned, but the group commented on the violence in New York City on Monday via the social media site Gab, where they questioned the motives of Democrats who are demanding an investigation.
Why were the Proud Boys in NYC?
The Metropolitan Republican Club (MRC), a private political group, said in a statement released on Sunday that it invited McInnes to speak at an event Friday night. The MRC said that as “staunch supporters” of the First Amendment, it occasionally invites speakers with differing views as a way to “foster civil discussion.” McInnes had spoken at the club once before, about a year and a half ago, MRC officials said. The club insists it does not condone violence.
What led up to the brawl?
MRC officials said they received “contentious” phone calls from protesters in the days leading up to the event, which prompted them to notify the NYPD and request a police presence.
The MRC’s Upper East Side clubhouse was then vandalized by at least three people Thursday night. Police on Tuesday were still looking for those responsible for breaking windows and spray-painting the building.
Friday night, anti-fascists and other protesters gathered outside of the club to denounce McInnes, the Proud Boys and the MRC for inviting them to the city.
“The attendees at the event were orderly and followed the direction of police,” MRC said in its statement. “The First Amendment rights of the protesters were protected as they were allowed to express their opinions across the street.”
The melee began after the MRC event ended, when several masked protesters went after Proud Boys members as they were being escorted by police near Park Avenue, and a bottle was thrown, NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said. A few blocks away, another skirmish between protesters and Proud Boys broke out over an alleged backpack theft.
Video from the first altercation shows several Proud Boys punching and kicking a protester lying on the ground in the fetal position as the group yelled slurs.
Police arrested three protesters in connection with the fights. No Proud Boys members were taken into custody.
What’s the latest in the police investigation?
Facing scrutiny over its response to the brawl, the NYPD said on Monday that no one had filed a police complaint about the incident and urged anyone who was victimized to come forward. The police department then released surveillance images and video in connection with a search for nine Proud Boys members and three protesters wanted for questioning.
“We continue to investigate the violent incident on the UES on Friday night, and need information regarding these persons-of-interest,” an official with the NYPD’s 19th Precinct wrote on Twitter on Monday.
Several people have come forward with more information about the brawl, according to Shea, who urged any victims or witnesses to contact Crime Stoppers.
As of Tuesday afternoon, no additional arrests have been made.
What was the MRC’s response to the violence?
MRC denied having any knowledge of the brawls, as they did not happen on clubhouse property.
“We must forcefully denounce any suggestion that the club somehow deserved the hostility and threats we have received in recent days, simply because we invited a speaker that some people might disagree with,” the MRC concluded in its statement. “We in no way encouraged any violent behavior. We cannot say the same about the folks who left threatening messages, vandalized our property or showed up in ski masks and threw glass bottles.”
Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro on Tuesday attempted to distance himself from the club's decision to invite the Proud Boys, admitting that his previous comments blaming "radical leftists" for vandalizing the building were made without his full understanding of what the group represented.
"I’m embarrassed these individuals were invited to speak,” Molinaro told the New York Daily News Editorial Board on Tuesday.
How are Democratic officials responding?
Cuomo, who called for an FBI investigation into the Proud Boys, has been joined by Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and a slew of other Democratic officials in condemning the violence.
De Blasio said the NYPD was “fully investigating” the brawl.
“Hate is never welcome in NYC and we will punish those responsible — whether they threw punches or incited violence — to the fullest extent of the law,” de Blasio wrote on Twitter.
A handful of elected officials and community activists on Monday demanded the NYPD arrest Proud Boys members involved in the fight.
“Everywhere they go, their goal is to incite violence," said Johnson, who was also critical of the vandals who targeted the MRC building.amnwboys181016A_video
Cuomo also blamed President Donald Trump and his campaign rhetoric for inciting the violence and questioned the MRC’s motives in inviting McInnes to speak.
"This was clearly a political tactic. Why would the Republican Party, at their main club, invite the Proud Boys, who are known to be a hate group, who are known to promote violence?" the governor said.
With Alison Fox, Ivan Pereira and Scott Eidler