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A Proud Boy Takeover in Vegas

LAKE MEAD NATIONAL RECREATION AREA, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 12: Mike Houlihan (L) and Fight for Nevada President Rudy Clai, both of Nevada, react at Boulder Beach as they watch boaters participate in a boat parade on Lak... LAKE MEAD NATIONAL RECREATION AREA, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 12: Mike Houlihan (L) and Fight for Nevada President Rudy Clai, both of Nevada, react at Boulder Beach as they watch boaters participate in a boat parade on Lake Mead in support of U.S. President Donald Trump on September 12, 2020 in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada. Trump is scheduled to hold two campaign events in Nevada on Sunday. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) MORE LESS
May 25, 2021 3:57 p.m.

Here’s yet another chapter in the unfolding story of extremist groups and threats of violence seeping into political life in communities across the U.S. in the aftermath of Trump and January 6th. In this case it’s an attempted Proud Boy takeover of the county Republican party in Clark County, Nevada, which is basically the Greater Las Vegas metropolitan area. (About three-quarters of the state’s population lives in Clark County.) As in the other cases we’ve discussed in recent days, the situation includes a confluence or amalgam of ordinary, if contentious, factional political battles with organized threats of violence and efforts to use force to take control of party committees.

An overview of the situation is: what counts at this point as ‘mainstream’ Republicans are battling for control of the Clark County party with members of the local Proud Boys or at least extremist leaders associated with the Proud Boys. Three key leaders of the latter group are Rudy Clai, Matt Anthony and Paul Laramie. (Clai is the guy waving the flag in the picture above at a September 2020 pro-Trump ‘boat parade’.)

According to local GOP officials and seemingly confirmed by reputable news accounts, these three and the faction they lead have issued a number of threats against party officials, particularly female party officials. Two Republican women who hold public office in the state have told The Las Vegas Review-Journal that they’ve been threatened by the pro-Trump extremist leaders, as has the current board of the Clark County GOP.

Yesterday, the Clark County GOP canceled a scheduled meeting that was supposed to be held today. According to current county party leaders, the Proud Boys group had planned to mobilize gangs of their supporters to prevent supporters of the current party leadership from entering the meeting. With only the Proud Boys types able to get in, they would then elect a new party leadership and take over the party organization. At the press conference announcing the cancelation the Clark County GOP leaders also showed social media posts and Telegram channel content from these extremist leaders containing violent, anti-Semitic and neo-nazi material.

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The press conference where they announced all this is covered here. There is a related controversy over whether party leaders recruited various Proud Boys to swell the party rolls to make possible a successful censure vote against Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, who has resisted the Big Lie.

I don’t think we can rule out the possibility that the party’s rank and file actually support the Proud Boys group. They’re the local leaders most associated with Trump and most aggressive in pushing the Big Lie. They’re suing the party, basically claiming their being barred from participating because they’d win. It’s quite possible that this is at least partly true. Who knows? I don’t think we need to settle that question to see the larger picture. What does seem clear is that threats of violence and what amounts to paramilitary violence are becoming part of the effort to control the GOP in the county that includes the great majority of the population of the state.

I’m still trying to get a handle on what precisely is going on in this case. If you’re from the area and know more, please get in touch. For now it simply seems clear that we have another case where violence and threats of violence are becoming integrated, normalized within conventional civic and political life.

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