Anyone hoping the Proud Boys might shrivel up and crawl away after Jan. 6—when leading members ended up in jail for their roles in the Capitol insurrection in Washington—will be dismayed by the reality that asserted itself this weekend in Los Angeles: The far-right street-thug organization is alive and well and brutalizing people.
Once again following their post-insurrection strategy of attaching themselves to local right-wing causes—ranging from “critical race theory” to abortion to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions—a group of Proud Boys showed up at an anti-masking/anti-vaccination protest in downtown Los Angeles and assaulted counterprotesters and journalists at the scene. One man was hospitalized after being stabbed by a masked Proud Boy multiple times.
Not that you would have known any of this from local news coverage of the violence or from the Los Angeles Police Department. The Los Angeles Times report describes the anti-vaccination protest and the mayhem surrounding it, but there is no mention of Proud Boys’ presence in it. Likewise, an LAPD statement about the violence mentions “Antifa” while only describing the thugs who attacked them as people “gathered for the permitted event.”
Videos and photos posted on social media by activists and journalists left no doubt, however. The men who are seen attacking journalists covering the rally, and then engaging in random mass brawling with antifa counterprotesters, were well-known Proud Boys who have engaged in violence at previous far-right events.
Among these characters is far-right activist Tony Moon, who was seen both attacking journalist Tina Berg and coordinating attacks on other journalists at the scene, and then later screaming at journalists: “Unmask them!” Moon is a veteran of Proud Boys violence; he was present at the insurrection on Jan. 6 and filmed himself on the Capitol steps, and also participated in far-right protests at WiSpa in Los Angeles two weeks ago, attacking a woman with a metal water bottle, which appears to be his weapon of choice.
Another was L.A.-based Proud Boy Benjamin Patino, who appears to have played a central role in the day’s violence. Patino has been arrested for violence at previous pro-Donald Trump events, and was arrested by the FBI one day after the November election for posting a video in which he threatened to “do a school shooter” if Trump lost, and “take out” Biden supporters.
He may have been among several Proud Boys who were involved in the assault on KPCC-TV reporter Frank Stoltze that occurred midway through the event. Stoltze was apparently trying to interview participants when a masked Proud Boy came up from behind him, flipped off his hat, and was joined by cohorts who began chasing Stoltze out of the park, calling him a “faggot” and a “bitch.” One of them kicked him as he departed.
Stoltze himself later commented: “Something happened to me today that’s never happened in 30 yrs of reporting. … I was shoved, kicked and my eyeglasses were ripped off of my face by a group of guys at a protest.”
One of the Proud Boys was caught on video stabbing a counterprotester multiple times about the back, neck, and head during the melee. While the victim was hospitalized and released with nonthreatening injuries, the attacker has not yet been identified.
Yet when Los Angeles police finally inserted themselves into the melee to break it up, they did so by ignoring the far-right thugs involved in the violence, and faced outward toward the counterprotesters. They made no attempt to arrest anyone for the stabbing.
LAPD’s statement afterwards read: “We are on scene to maintain order after a fight broke out between Antifa and people gathered for the permitted event.” That statement was later revised to delete the reference to “Antifa.”
Speakers at the anti-mask rally reveled in it all. One of them urged more violence: “It’s time to have our not just voices heard, but our fists heard,” he told the audience, to cheers.
Certainly, the Proud Boys were acutely aware that they were responsible for instigating the day’s violence. In one video, men in Proud Boys shirts and masks could be seen fighting among themselves, blaming one of their cohort for having started the fights.
The whole ugly scenario follows the recipe adopted widely by the Proud Boys in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection: Focus on local right-wing political events, attach Proud Boys supporters to them by providing “security,” and use the opportunities both for creating more street violence (their specialty), and for recruiting new members while broadening their support among mainstream conservatives.
They’ve followed this recipe to create threatening and sometimes violent scenes in places across the nation ranging from Miami, Florida, to Nashua, New Hampshire, to Los Angeles. Just a week ago, they followed that formula to create disturbances in Portland, and then Salem, Oregon—latching onto protests against pandemic masking and abortion rights, respectively, as opportunities for violence.
The identical formula was in play last month, as the Chicago Sun-Times recently reported, during protests defending a Christopher Columbus statue that was removed by Chicago’s mayor last year. “Billed as Italian Unity Day, the July 25 event included many with deep ties to the neighborhood,” it reported. “But it was also filled with members of a controversial western chauvinist group with a long track record of sowing division: the Proud Boys.”
Proud Boys on the scene confronted counterprotesters, the Sun-Times reported, and then proceeded to march down “a quiet residential street waving flags, flashing far-right hand-gestures and screaming obscenities at ‘antifa’.”
Some are seen hoisting American flags, one of which appears to be emblazoned with a Gadsden rattlesnake, a symbol that dates back to the American Revolution but has been co-opted by the far-right. Many flash an “okay” hand gesture the Anti-Defamation has listed as a symbol of hate, along with the Nazi salute and Ku Klux Klan robes. And one of the marchers is seen wearing a shirt that appears to be associated with the Three Percenters, an anti-government militia movement that also played a role in the riot at the U.S. Capitol.
“F--- antifa,” they’re heard chanting over and over again.
Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez denounced the violence; “Not wearing a mask and being anti-vax isn’t patriotism — it’s stupidity,” Martinez tweeted late Saturday night. “We have to be able to have differences of opinions without resorting to violence. Attacking counter-protesters and journalists has no place in a democracy and certainly no place in Los Angeles.”