The Proud Boys—a far-right, neo-fascist hate group that played a key role in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection—appears to be splintering into separate entities.
A handful of Proud Boys chapters have declared autonomy from the group’s leadership following recent reports that Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was a “prolific” informant for the FBI and local law enforcement following his arrest in 2012 for rebranding and reselling stolen medical devices. Tarrio reportedly worked undercover for investigators to “aid in the prosecution of those running other, separate criminal enterprises, ranging from running marijuana grow houses in Miami to operating pharmaceutical fraud schemes.”
Among those who have released “public declarations of separation” are the four chapters of the Indiana Proud Boys as well as the Tulsa Proud Boys in Oklahoma.
“We condemn the actions of Tarrio while cooperating with federal law enforcement as a confidential informant,” the Tulsa Proud Boys wrote on Telegram. “We will continue to operate as Proud Boys but recognize no centralized leader or leadership beyond chapter officers … We are not a criminal organization, militia, fight club or political movement. We are merely a men’s drinking club.”
A joint statement from the four chapters of the Indiana Proud Boys shared similar sentiments, stating that they “reject and disavow the proven federal informant, Enrique Tarrio, and any and all chapters that choose to associate with him.”
“We do not recognize the assumed authority of any national Proud Boy leadership including the Chairman, the Elders, or any subsequent governing body that is formed to replace them until such a time we may choose to consent to join those bodies of government,” read the group’s statement on Telegram. “We were created to be a men’s drinking fraternity that focuses on self-improvement and brotherhood. This is what we will continue to be.”
Several other Proud Boys chapters have also shared concerns about the group’s overall direction and mission statement. In Missouri, the St. Louis Proud Boys released a statement questioning the group’s commitment to political rallies instead of focusing on “brotherhood.”
“Enrique has always been big on the rallies—way bigger on them than most guys—and as a result, he doesn’t curtail the public perception that the Proud Boys are a rally-centric fraternity; rather, he furthers it,” the St. Louis Proud Boys wrote on Telegram. “Those of us who want the fraternity to retain its focus on brotherhood have focused only on brotherhood and neglected to counter the messaging coming from people like Enrique and [Joe] Biggs.”
The St. Louis Proud Boys went on to explain that the current perception of the Proud Boys as a violent militia “drives away the sort of guys who used to join—the sort of guys of whom we want more—and attracts a bunch of try-hards and militants and weirdos.”
While the aforementioned chapters view themselves as fraternities focused on brotherhood, it is worth noting that militancy is central to the Proud Boys brand. The group featured prominently at pro-Trump rallies over the past few years, where they clashed with counter protesters and incited violence. Several of the group’s members attended extremist gathering such as the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, while others, including Florida-based organizer Joe Biggs, were arrested on charges of taking part in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
Once an organization that chanted “back the blue” at rallies, the Proud Boys have pushed a “Fuck the Blue” propaganda campaign in recent month after clashes with police. It appears Tarrio’s cooperation with law enforcement is now subject to his group’s ire.
Beyond the ongoing infighting over Tarrio’s leadership, the Proud Boys chapters in Canada face imminent dissolution after the Canadian government designated the group as a terrorist organization. The Proud Boys faction in Manitoba reportedly disbanded due to “ever-growing differences between our autonomous chapter’s values and how the name is perceived.”
By being placed on the list of terrorist entities, the Proud Boys face even greater scrutiny within Canada. The designation also empowers financial institutions to freeze assets, police to seize property, and makes it illegal to participate in the designated groups.
The Canadian Proud Boys had already split into factions last year. Some members formed the ultra-nationalist Canada First group, which is a more extreme entity known for inciting violence and espousing white supremacist propaganda. The group reacted to their former group’s terrorist designation on their Telegram channel.
“Sheeeit,” the group wrote following the announcement.