(Update 11/27/18): This article has been updated to include a response from Jason Lee Van Dyke, who was elected chairman of the Proud Boys Elders Chapter.
Gavin McInnes, CRTV host and the founder of the Proud Boys, publicly announced his departure from the Proud Boys last weekend, but it’s unlikely to rectify the group’s hastening into the fringes of the far-right and its impending implosion.
McInnes’ withdrawal from the Proud Boys came days after The Guardian’s Jason Wilson reported that a document produced by Washington state law enforcement stated that the FBI had classified the Proud Boys as an “extremist group with ties to white nationalism.” Alexander Reid Ross at Haaretz noted that, as far back as 2017, McInnes had expressed worries of facing charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which provides stiff penalties for leaders of criminal enterprises, including gangs.
Several Proud Boys members are facing charges for the violence they committed, captured on video, against anti-fascist protesters who demonstrated in protest of McInnes’ speech at the Metropolitan Republican Club in New York City last month, which attracted individuals affiliated with skinhead gangs. Violent encounters are common when Proud Boys gather in public; the group’s “Fourth Degree” hierarchy incentivizes engaging in violence for their cause.
McInnes announced that he was quitting the organization he started in hopes, he said, that it would assist the group’s members who are facing charges for engaging in violent brawls in the streets of New York City last month. (Some contend that it was just his way of bailing when the going got rough.)
“I am told by my legal team and law enforcement that this gesture could help alleviate their sentencing,” McInnes said in the video.
McInnes goes on to repeat his longstanding assertion that white supremacists don’t actually exist in America, in spite of the fact he has featured white supremacists and white nationalists on his web-based radio show throughout the years, not to mention that time he personally thanked the white nationalist Richard Spencer for helping him land a column at Taki’s Magazine.
Following McInnes’ lead, Milo Yiannopoulos, a far-right provocateur with prior affiliations with white nationalists, also publicly distanced himself from the group. Yiannopoulos had been cozy with members of the Proud Boys, attending many of their events. In September, Yiannapoulos was identified by the Proud Boys’ media arm as the organization’s “New Vice President.”
“I have been instructed by my lawyers today to add my voice to that of Gavin McInnes, the founder of the fraternal men’s organization, and announce that I am publicly dissociating myself with the club,” Yiannopoulos wrote on his blog. “It’s fucked up, and I wish to God I didn’t have to do it, but this is America in 2018, a country gripped by moral panic about a ‘white supremacy’ outbreak that simply doesn’t exist.”
Similarly, a statement announcing the organizational change states that the Proud Boys group “has never had any association with the alt-right or with white nationalism.” (It has.)
McInnes spent the better part of 2016 and 2017 recruiting young men to his group and filling their minds with far-right ideology and stoking a longing for committing acts of violence that could be portrayed as righteous acts of self-defense. But over the last year, McInnes has apparently struggled to control Proud Boys members, who have participated in white supremacist gatherings against his wishes and provoked semi-regular violent clashes alongside white nationalist groups on the West coast.
Now that the consequences of flirting with extremism are starting to manifest in ways that might have a consequence for McInnes, he has abandoned the group. Although, it appears the group will attempt to continue under the direction of other aggressive leaders.
The Proud Boys statement on McInnes’ departure announces that Jason Lee Van Dyke had become the “duly elected chairman of the Proud Boys Elders Chapter,” identifying him as a “fourth degree brother and current Sergeant-at-Arms of the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter.” Van Dyke told Right Wing Watch he told the Proud Boys he “would only serve as chairman to preside over proceedings for as long as it took to pass bylaws.”
“I occupied the position of chairman for a grand total of about 36 hours and that was only to pass the bylaws that are attached here. Now that they have been passed, I occupy no position with the organization,” Van Dyke said.
Van Dyke was suspended from Twitter in 2017 after sending another user a photo of a noose and calling them a racial slur. Van Dyke said the tweet came after a computer hacker he “believed to be black based on his Twitter profile picture” posted social security numbers belonging to him and his parents on Twitter.
“I regret the racially charged language that I used in that tweet but I absolutely do not regret threatening that individual under those circumstances,” Van Dyke told Right Wing Watch.
In another post, he said he was “very close to ‘coming out’ as a full blown fascist,” which he said was meant to ridicule HuffPost for allegedly referring to Trump supporters like the Proud Boys as “fascists.” He admitted to HuffPost that he once threatened to kill someone’s entire family.
Austin Gillespie, an alt-right activist who uses the moniker “Augustus Invictus,” claimed on YouTube that he had been appointed the new leader of the Proud Boys, although his remarks appear to be made sarcastically. Gillespie is the former leader of the “Alt Knights,” a paramilitary faction of the Proud Boys. Van Dyke denied that Gillespie was a Proud Boy and said the newly passed bylaws made him “ineligible for membership.”
Proud Boys Redacted Bylaws … by on Scribd
With McInnes out, bickering ideological factions of the Proud Boys appear to be jockeying for influence over the rapidly spiraling organization.