FBI does not consider ‘Proud Boys’ an extremist group, agent says

Getty Images

A high-ranking member of the FBI in Oregon said that the agency does not designate the far-right Proud Boys as an extremist group, contradicting a report from a law enforcement official in Washington state last month.

Special Agent in Charge Renn Cannon said this week that there was a misinterpretation during a slide-show presentation hosted for officials at the Clark County Sheriff’s Office in Vancouver, Wash., according to the Oregonian.

{mosads}FBI agents briefed law enforcement leaders in Clark County about the Proud Boys, a far-right group which labels itself as “a pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world; aka Western Chauvinists.”

The slide-show presentation also included information on white supremacists, militia groups and anarchists, Cannon said.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office later released a report saying the Proud Boys is classified as an extremist group. 

The Hill has reached out to the FBI for comment. 

The FBI tries to characterize potential threats from members of the Proud Boys but does not designate groups, Cannon explained.

“We do not intend and did not intend to designate the group as extremist,” he said of the presentation, according to the Oregonian.

In a statement to The Hill in November, the FBI emphasized its investigations “focus solely on criminal activity of individuals — regardless of group membership—which appears to be intended to intimidate or coerce the civilian population or influence the policy of the government by intimidation or coercion.” 

The agency also told The Hill, “The FBI can never initiate an investigation based solely on an individual’s race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, or the exercise of First Amendment rights.”

“Our focus is not on membership in particular groups but on individuals who commit violence and criminal activity that constitutes a federal crime or poses a threat to national security,” the statement also said. “The FBI does not and will not police ideology.”

Gavin McInnes, the founder of Proud Boys, disassociated from the group last month.

McInnes, who also co-founded Vice Media years ago, has repeatedly denied that the Proud Boys are a white nationalist or “alt-right” organization. He was denied a visa to Australia after failing a character test. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), however, does consider the Proud Boys a hate group.

“Their disavowals of bigotry are belied by their actions: rank-and-file Proud Boys and leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists,” the SPLC’s website states. “They are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric.”

The group has been involved in several violent clashes in Portland and New York.

Amazon and PayPal have both cut ties with the group and Facebook is also banning accounts associated with the Proud Boys.

Tags Extremist groups FBI Gavin McInnes Proud Boys Southern Poverty Law Center

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video