Following the sentencing of four Proud Boys members for their actions during the Capitol riots, ISD Senior Research Manager Katherine Keneally spoke to Sky News about the evolution of the group from a “boys drinking club” to a key player at the Capitol on January 6.
“But what we saw, especially with the emergence of Trump, is this shifted from it being a drinking club to them going out on the streets, particularly at COVID-related protests, racial justice protests, and engaging in violence with protesters,” she said.
This was aggravated when Trump was asked to condemn white supremacists during a live presidential debate on September 2020. Instead he said, directing himself to the Proud Boys, “stand back and stand by.” This caused an immediate shift in the group’s behaviour, Katherine explained. “They had already been garnering public support leading up to January 6, and that helped them translate to them actually directing people unaffiliated with the Proud Boys during the insurrection. […] They viewed themselves as the president’s own military in some respects.”
However, in the years following this changed, Katherine said, pointing out how the Proud Boys have since distanced themselves from Trump for feeling “betrayed” by him: “He wasn’t helping fund their legal efforts. He just sort of abandoned them. So, there has been this distrust that’s been happening with Trump.”