While the aftermath of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection made clear to everyone what reporters and other observers had long been saying—namely, that American law enforcement had treated the Proud Boys and other far-right street-brawling cohorts with kid gloves—the details of the relationship between those groups and authorities are still murky. But the attorney for Joe Biggs, one of the Proud Boys currently facing conspiracy charges in the Jan. 6 siege, helped shed some light on that matter this week.
The FBI and other police agencies routinely sought Biggs’ advice, according to a Monday court filing by John Hull, Biggs’ attorney. The revelation raises questions not just for federal authorities now investigating some of these men, but for law enforcement agencies in Oregon and elsewhere who, according to Hull, had similar arrangements with Biggs.
After an FBI agent contacted Biggs in late July 2020 and he met with two agents at a restaurant, the filing claims, Biggs agreed to feed the agency information about antifascist activists, both in Florida and elsewhere. Hull, who is petitioning a judge to keep Biggs out of jail pending trial, said the agents wanted to know what he was “seeing on the ground.” Afterward, an agent asked follow-up questions in a series of phone calls, and Biggs answered them.
“They spoke often,” added Hull.
Biggs enjoyed similar arrangements with law enforcement officials in Oregon, Hull claimed. He routinely spoke with local and federal law enforcement officials in Portland about rallies he was organizing there in 2019 and 2020, and sometimes received “cautionary” phone calls from FBI agents.
“The FBI has known about his political commentary and role in planning events and counter-protests in Portland and other cities since at least July 2020 and arguably benefitted from that knowledge in efforts to gather intelligence about Antifa in Florida and Antifa networks operating across the United States,” Hull’s filing reads.
In August 2019, Biggs organized a large demonstration at Portland’s waterfront attracting hundreds of Proud Boys from around the nation, vowing violence beforehand and urging his Twitter followers: “Get a gun. Get ammo. Get your gun license. Get training. Practice as much as you can and be ready because the left isn’t playing anymore and neither should we.”
Yet on the day of the march, Portland police coordinated with Proud Boys organizers to keep counterprotesters from interfering and provided escorts for separate marching contingents. At the time, Biggs was observed shaking hands and joking with Portland police officers who helped escort the group across the Hawthorne Bridge after the demonstration ended. Afterward, police began arresting leftist counterprotesters in large numbers.
A year later, according to Hull, police had a similar arrangement with the Proud Boys when Biggs organized another march in Portland—one where attendance was markedly down. Nonetheless, predictably, police reserved their aggressive tactics for leftist protesters in downtown Portland later that evening.
"As part of the planning, Biggs would regularly speak with by phone and in person to both local and federal law enforcement personnel stationed in Portland, including the FBI’s Portland Field Office,” Hull’s filing reads. “These talks were intended both to inform law enforcement about Proud Boy activities in Portland on a courtesy basis but also to ask for advice on planned marches or demonstrations, i.e., what march routes to take on Portland streets, where to go, where not to go.”
Eric Ward, executive director of the Portland-based Western States Center, told Oregon Public Broadcasting that it was “deeply concerning” to learn that Biggs had worked with the FBI, noting that police authorities have “frequently maintained inappropriately close relations with far-right groups."
“Law enforcement has no credible reason for working with someone like Biggs,” Ward said. “It’s long past time for a clear accounting of institutional and professional law enforcement relationships with groups espousing political violence at home and abroad.”