Financing the Proud Boys: Limited Budget but an Outsized Impact
Group financing profile
Earlier this month, we were honoured to be invited by the United States House of Representatives Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol to submit a written statement on the issue of right-wing extremist financing. This statement, presented in the form a research report, investigated the financing profiles of the three main groups involved in the January 6th Insurrection: the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, and the Three Percenters.
Drawing from the research used for the Committee statement, the following group financial profile provides an overview of the Proud Boys. Presently, the group is only listed as a terrorist entity in Canada and New Zealand. Their violent targeting of right-wing counter-protestors, along with their involvement in the insurrection, forms the foundation of the justification for listing them as a terrorist entity. Below we examine the groups’ financial activities to understand how they have the capabilities to engage in violence.
Ideology and Origins
The Proud Boys, one of the three main groups involved in the January 6th Capitol insurrection, can be broadly conceived as a right-wing group with a violent agenda. Members have been involved with various crimes, such as assault and weapons charges,1 and are “…misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic and anti-immigration. Some members espouse white supremacist and antisemitic ideologies and/or engage with white supremacist groups”. Leaders of the Proud Boys have further encouraged members getting arrested or committing a violent act in support of the group.2
Gavin McInnes, a co-founder of Vice Media, established the Proud Boys in 2016. The organization is headquartered in New York City. There are 119 operational chapters across 46 states recognized by the national Proud Boys organization. The most active chapters are in the Pacific Northwest, Texas, Florida, and New York where they have forged alliances with members of the Republican party. Internationally, Proud Boys has chapters in Canada, Britain, Ireland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Australia and the Philippines. They also coordinate with other right-wing groups, such as Patriot Prayer, and neo-Nazi groups, such as 211 Boot Boys, to target left-wing activists. However, following the events of January 6th, several chapters have disaffiliated from the group and the Canadian chapter has allegedly ‘dissolved’.
The Proud Boys members and individual chapters are mostly self-financed, meaning that individuals fund their activities, such as attendance at protests, themselves. Proud Boys members come from a variety of financial backgrounds, from wealthy businessmen to those requiring financial assistance to participate in the movement. Some group members pool funds to cover expenses for those individuals unable to fund their own attendance. For example, in advance of the events of January 6th, the Proud Boys engaged in several informal crowdfunding campaigns, mostly soliciting donations directly. As one participant noted during his livestream, “if you couldn’t make the trip, give five to 10 bucks.” The Proud Boys also helped to raise at least $181,700 on the Wild Protest website to fund travel to Washington D.C. on January 6th. The chapters and members further use crowdfunding campaigns to fund large events, such as Trump caravans, and to pay the legal fees for their various arrests, such as those incurred by the leader, Enrique Tarrio, relating to his arrest for burning a Black Lives Matter flag.