Ethan Nordean is fond of repeating the Proud Boys’ threatening slogan: “Fuck around, find out,” and promoted a rap video titled after its acronym, “FAFO,” that directed threats at Washington, D.C. But on Jan. 6 at the Capitol insurrection, he helped lead the charge inside—and is now finding out that it has serious consequences.
Nordean, along with two other Proud Boys (one of whom in fact wore an FAFO patch that day), was arrested this week and now faces multiple felony counts for his role in the Capitol siege. Charged with being “chief organizer of a mob of about 100 other members of the group that marched through Washington,” he is scheduled to make a court appearance in Seattle today.
So far, authorities have arrested eight Proud Boys for their roles in the insurrection, seven of them on federal charges for invading the Capitol building: national board member Joe Biggs, arrested Jan. 20; Dominic "Spaz" Pezzola of Rochester, New York, and William Pepe of Beacon, New York, both arrested Friday; Nick Ochs of Honolulu, founder of the Hawaii Proud Boys chapter, arrested Wednesday, along with Nicholas De Carlo of Burleson, Texas; Daniel Goodwyn of San Francisco, arrested Friday in Texas; and now Nordean. Proud Boy Jay Robert Thaxton of Concord, North Carolina, was also arrested near the Capitol on Jan. 6 for a curfew violation.
The Proud Boys’ key role in the invasion of the Capitol—particularly in breaking past police barriers and overwhelming security—was observed and reported on first by Vice News’ Tess Owen and Mack Lamoreaux, who noted that Pezzola wore a FAFO patch during the insurrection. Pezzola was also the person who first created an opening into the building by smashing a window with a police shield.
The Wall Street Journal’s video team later compiled an overview of the Proud Boys’ key role in the attack on the Capitol. Biggs and Nordean figure prominently in the video, coordinating the planned assault and advising others not to announce their plans out loud.
You can also see Nordean and Pezzola leading the charge that led to the breach of the Capitol. Photos show that Nordean, Biggs, Pezzola, Ochs, Pepe, and Goodwyn made it inside the building.
Nordean has been a key figure in the Proud Boys for some time. A resident of Auburn, a Seattle suburb, he appears to make a living selling vitamin supplements. He was also disavowed by his father, a Des Moines chowder-house owner, for his participation in the Proud Boys.
Nordean’s family issued a statement Wednesday: “We have tried for a long while to get our son off the path which led to his arrest today—to no avail. Ethan will be held accountable for his actions.”
Mostly, he has been a fixture at Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer events in Portland and Seattle, where he is known by his nickname, “Rufio Panman.” He's particularly noteworthy for the extraordinary levels of thuggish violence he brings to these events. He's frequently been in the company of white nationalists, such as Jake Van Ott of Identity Evropa and “Germany” of the Portland-based “Stormers.”
Nordean became a celebrity in national far-right circles for his actions at the June 30, 2018, Patriot Prayer/Proud Boys march in Portland. The moment that made him infamous came when he decked an antifascist and appeared to knock him out cold. The punch was caught on video, which then went wildly viral. Gavin McInnes replayed it on a loop for his audience, and Proud Boys shared it widely as a GIF.
McInnes, in fact, considered the moment definitive in shaping the violent identity of the Proud Boys: “I honestly think that that knockout is a pivot in the movement, it marks the beginning of the end of antifa, and the beginning of being safe and proud to be Trump.”
Nordean was arrested by Portland Police that day and then released a short while later with no charges. The next week, he was named “Proud Boy of the Week” on the group’s Facebook pages and made an appearance on Alex Jones’ InfoWars broadcast, which he used to recruit new members.
As Owens and Lamoreaux observe, much of the Proud Boys’ preparations for Jan. 6 occurred out in public. It included a promotional video featuring Loza Alexander, a Proud Boy-affiliated rapper who wears a red MAGA ballcap and is heavily armed, performing a song titled “F.A.F.O.”
“Fuck Black Lives Matter and antifa, I’m a proud Boy,” rapped Alexander, performing before a large Proud Boys sign. “This ain’t about the clout boy—pop a commie in his house, boy.”
Nordean posted the video on social media two days before the insurrection. He captioned it: “Let them remember the day they decided to make war with us.”
The Justice Department also noted in its press release and in the indictment:
On or about the same day, Nordean posted a video of a discussion that Nordean had with another member of the Proud Boys. During the course of the hour long video, Nordean discussed what he described as “blatant, rampant voter fraud” in the Presidential election. Nordean went on to say that, rather than being complacent, the Proud Boys were going to “bring back that original spirit of 1776 of what really established the character of what America is. And it’s not complacency, it’s not low standards. It’s ‘this is how it’s going to be, and I don’t give a god damn.’” Later in the video, Nordean said, “Democracy is dead? Well, then no peace for you. No democracy, no peace.”
Nordean made menacing remarks on social media right up to the day before the Capitol siege and was clear that he had no sympathy for law-enforcement officers at the scene. “It is apparent now more than ever, that if you are a patriot, you will be targeted and they will come after you, funny thing is that they don’t realize is, is we are coming for them,” he wrote on Parler. “You’ve chosen your side, black and yellow teamed with red, white and blue against everyone else.”
Wednesday was a rough day all around for the Proud Boys. Canada officially designated them a “terrorist organization,” part of a crackdown on far-right extremists. It also listed the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, which was the target of an FBI crackdown last year, and the Russian Imperial Movement, which has been linked to efforts to export far-right white nationalism.
“These groups are unfortunately active in Canada and around the world,” Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said. “Their violent actions and rhetoric are fueled by white supremacy, anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia and misogyny.”