Portland, Oregon on Saturday saw its biggest far-right rally since the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency. Organized by the Proud Boys and a host of smaller far-right groups including the Three Percenters, the event showed the shocking resurgence of far-right street protests two years after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Far-right demonstrations, while weakened by the clampdown that followed Charlottesville, haven’t disappeared. Some groups have in fact thrived in the last couple of years by leveraging the power of social media to rally supporters and adopting the ironic language of online subcultures.
The Proud Boys epitomize a brand of far-right outfit that has escaped the backlash against white supremacist groups post-Charlottesville by treading the fine line of legality and adapting their discourse to avoid prosecution. Established by former Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, a familiar figure of the so-called alt-light (a watered down version of the alt-right), the Proud Boys present themselves as a pro-Trump “Western chauvinistic” men’s fraternity club, seemingly less egregious than the white supremacist groups that took to the streets two years ago.
The group’s activities, however, have been less innocuous than its website’s landing page suggests. The Proud Boys have been involved in violent street protests since 2017, including the so-called Battle of Berkeley. Two members have been convicted of attempted gang assault, attempted assault and riot for attacking left-wing activists outside a club in Manhattan, while leaked conversations from the group’s online chat groups show discussions of premeditated violence. Along with other far-right groups such as Patriot Prayer, McInnes’ team has become a regular presence at rallies across the West Coast. […]