Rather than attend upcoming right-wing demonstrations that have been the subject of federal law enforcement alerts in recent days, members of the right-wing street gang the Proud Boys should “walk backward through a field of dicks,” Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio said Wednesday on the group’s Telegram channel.
Referring to the planned events as a “fed honeypot” — presumably, he meant an effort to attract and catch armed right-wingers as they commit crimes — Tarrio wrote, “We suggest none of you go to these events.”
“We won’t sit on our hands for the next four years but we can pick and choose our battles moving forward,” he said.
Why is the leader of the violent, self-described “western chauvinist” group so intent on skipping the upcoming demonstrations?
It may be the buffet of criminal charges that members of the group face in light of the past couple weeks.
Tarrio himself was arrested and charged a couple days before the Capitol attack on suspicion of burning a Black Lives Matter banner during a previous pro-Trump protest in D.C., and for his alleged possession of two-high capacity magazines.
A Hawaii-based Proud Boy, Nick Ochs, was charged for his alleged participation in the Capitol riot late last week. Vice News identified another Proud Boy, who goes by “Spazzo,” as having smashed in a window at an entrance to the Capitol. Another Proud Boy — Queens, New York man Eduard Florea — was in FBI custody Wednesday over separate alleged threats to the Capitol.
Tarrio isn’t alone in worrying about the feds. In several Telegram channels and other venues for extremist talk, participants have referred to the protests as a potential “false flag” event, or otherwise an excuse to make easy arrests of violent extremists.
“Paranoia is very common during moments like this in extremist groups,” said Jared Holt, a visiting fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab focused on domestic extremism.
Certain Proud Boys may defy their leader and attend the demonstrations anyway, but Tarrio’s warning reflects an awareness of the heightened scrutiny groups like his are under.
Holt compared the come-down after the Capitol attack to the weeks following the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017, when infighting and the suspicion that fellow extremists were cooperating with law enforcement were common among far-right groups.
“Leaders will be very wary of observation, both from outside groups that are adversarial to them, and also from law enforcement,” Holt said.