In case there was any question about the character of the right-wing thugs attracted to street-brawling outfits like the Proud Boys, this week’s news provides only the latest example of the criminally pathological qualities that imbue organizations like this, a product of their sociopathic agendas and ideologies.
It now emerges that a man who had a brief moment of national notoriety in the turmoil surrounding the Proud Boys in the late autumn of 2018 as the organization’s ostensible attorney in fact actually used his street-brawling compatriots to conduct surveillance on a man he intended to kill, according to police.
Jason Lee Van Dyke, a 39-year-old Texas man, allegedly used members of the Arizona chapter of Proud Boys to conduct surveillance on a Phoenix man, Thomas Retzlaff, with whom Van Dyke had been engaged in a running legal dispute. The plan was revealed in court documents, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported this week, which featured an audio recording in which Van Dyke not only told an FBI informant of the surveillance, but said he intended to kill Retzlaff.
He and Retzlaff had previously worked together on a revenge-porn operation. Retzlaff’s attorneys say the FBI never informed their client of the threats against him.
Van Dyke denies the allegations. However, he has a lengthy record of making death threats. In a Dec. 12, 2018, email to Retzlaff, he wrote: “Go fuck yourself and what’s left of your miserable life .... You have destroyed my life, and for that offense, you will pay with your own. That’s not a threat. That’s a PROMISE motherfucker.”
In 2017, Van Dyke admitted to HuffPost his threats to kill both a “fucking n****r” and an entire family of antifascist activists when he was a member of the Proud Boys. That period, however, came to an abrupt end amid the upheaval that wracked the group in the fall of 2018, during which time founder Gavin McInnes abruptly resigned and filed a lawsuit against the SPLC for naming the Proud Boys a hate group.
With McInnes out of the picture, numerous other would-be leaders subsequently claimed they were each the new leader of the street-brawling club. First up was a Texas man named Jason Van Dyke, who held all the organization’s legal paperwork and announced himself as the new chairman of the Proud Boys. Van Dyke was notorious for threatening journalists who wrote about the Proud Boys as a designated hate group or labeled them white nationalists, sending them cease-and-desist letters insisting they “do not now, nor have they ever, espoused white nationalist, white supremacist, anti-Semitic, or alt-right views.”
Not that Van Dyke had a great deal of credibility in this area: As a college student at Michigan State, he had been affiliated with the leader of a notorious white nationalist campus group there; according to the SPLC, when campus police searched his dorm, they found neo-Nazi literature, including The Turner Diaries and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He was also arrested in 2000 for domestic violence.
The nasty streak continued well into his adulthood in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. On his Twitter page in 2014, he threatened another user, a black man, with a photo of a noose and text reading, “Look good and hard at this picture you fucking nigger. It’s where I am going to put your neck.”
Van Dyke’s tenure, however, was short-lived. In November 2018, the Proud Boys announced that Van Dyke “is no longer a member of the Proud Boys fraternity, and will no longer be representing the fraternity in any legal capacity.” (A few weeks later, he was arrested after failing to show up for a bond hearing on a threat he had made.)