Who are the Proud Boys? What to know about the group and its leaders


Asked to denounce violent right-wing extremist groups including the Proud Boys during Tuesday’s raucous presidential debate, President Trump only told them to “stand back and stand by.”

While the group has been active since at least 2016, it has come to the fore amid clashes over racism and policing that have gripped the nation in the wake of George Floyd’s death this year.


The gang-like extremist group was founded by VICE Magazine co-founder Gavin McInnes in the lead-up to the Trump 2016 presidential victory. In a number of radio broadcasts, McInnes has advocated for Trump supporters to commit acts of violence against rivals and said members of the Proud Boys would do so.

“We will kill you, that’s the Proud Boys in a nutshell. We will kill you. We look nice. We seem soft. We have ‘boys’ in our name, but like Bill the Butcher and the Bowery Boys, we will assassinate you,” McInnes said in one of his radio appearances.

To join, recruits have to take an oath declaring they are “a proud western chauvinist” and refuse to apologize for “creating the modern world.” After its founding, new members were also barred from masturbating more than one time a month, according to the group’s bylaws.

Members of the Proud Boys in Portland, Oregon.

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Members of the Proud Boys.

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Leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio.

AFP via Getty Images

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AFP via Getty Images

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The group claims they are not a racist organization, but the Southern Poverty Law Center considers them a “general hate” extremist group that espouses misogynistic, anti-Muslim and homophobic rhetoric.


Famously, the Proud Boys sparked a street brawl with leftists on the streets of midtown Manhattan after McInnes spoke at the Metropolitan Republican Club in 2018.

McInnes brandished a sword at demonstrators who had gathered to protest his appearance outside the club before getting into a cab prior to the brawl.

Members of the gang have appeared at a number of extremist gatherings, including the 2017  “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, where a white supremacist drove into a crowd of counter protesters, killing one.

Members of the Denver chapter of the group have also marched alongside extremist and neo-Nazi groups, according to the Anti-Defamation League.


Members of the gang immediately celebrated Trump’s comment Tuesday night in encrypted messaging chats they use to communicate with one another.

“Trump basically said to go f–k them up! this makes me so happy,” one of the members wrote in a chat on the app Telegram, according to screenshots posted online.

“Standing by, sir,” another added.

The group’s Seattle chapter quickly adopted the president’s comment as part of their motto, according to one screenshot, which shows an image of the words “Stand Back” and “Stand By” surrounding the gang’s crest.