The FBI now classifies the far-right Proud Boys as an “extremist group with ties to white nationalism”, according to a document produced by Washington state law enforcement.
The FBI’s 2018 designation of the self-confessed “western chauvinist group” as extremist has not been previously made public.
The Proud Boys was founded by the Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes. McInnes has insisted that his group is not white nationalist or “alt-right” but the Proud Boys have a history of misogyny and glorifying violence. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) lists them as a hate group.
The document also says: “The FBI has warned local law enforcement agencies that the Proud Boys are actively recruiting in the Pacific north-west”, and: “Proud Boys members have contributed to the recent escalation of violence at political rallies held on college campuses, and in cities like Charlottesville, Virginia, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.”
The report, and the FBI’s warning to south-west Washington police agencies about the Proud Boys’ role in escalating violence at these events came in August, two months before the group was involved in an infamous weekend of street violence in New York City and Portland, and not long after they participated in street violence in downtown Portland on 30 June.
The document, provided to the Guardian by the government transparency non-profit Property of the People, was part of an internal affairs investigation into a probationary deputy in the Clark county sheriff’s department.
The former clark county deputy, Erin Willey, was fired last July after a photo of her wearing a “Proud Boys Girls” sweatshirt was published by the Vancouver, Washington newspaper the Columbian. The Proud Boys Girls is the female auxiliary of the men-only group founded by McInnes in 2016.
The author of the document, headquarters commander Michael McCabe, is in charge of internal affairs, training, background investigation and courthouse security in the Clark county sheriff’s department.
After confirming the authenticity of the document, he told the Guardian in a telephone interview that the FBI’s classification of the Proud Boys as an extremist group was revealed to him in “a briefing we were given by the FBI” on 2 August, at Clark county’s west precinct.
The briefing included agency heads from local law enforcement, and in it the FBI said that they “have been warning [local law enforcement] for a while” about the Proud Boys, “not just in Washington but around the nation”.
The briefing including the Proud Boys was delivered by an FBI analyst, according to information forwarded to the Guardian by McCabe.