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The Feds Have Decapitated the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys; but Watchdogs Aren’t Popping the Champagne Just yet.


  • The heads of each the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys are actually remanded on Jan. 6 conspiracy expenses.
  • Specialists who monitor hate teams and militias say each teams proceed to fundraise and recruit.
  • Whereas the Oath Keepers’ numbers are dwindling, the Proud Boys are on the rise, they are saying.

It has been a tough yr already for the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, America’s two largest far-right extremist teams. 

Final month, the Oath Keepers’ eye-patch-wearing founder and chief, Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, was denied bail on January 6 seditious conspiracy expenses.

And final week, Proud Boys chief Enrique Tarrio was dragged out of his Miami home in his underwear by federal brokers on related conspiracy expenses; on Tuesday, a choose denied him bail, too.

However even with these A-listers of anti-government extremism locked up indefinitely — and with 25 members of the 2 teams arrested in complete for the reason that riot — consultants who monitor militias and hate teams should not popping the champagne.

In actual fact, they are saying, the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and extremist teams usually proceed to recruit and fundraise across the lie that former President Donald Trump gained the 2020 election, together with different hard-right speaking factors.

These embody voting “fraud” conspiracies, crucial race principle, the Black Lives Matter motion, antifa, anti-Semitism and the concept that COVID-19 rules are antithetical to particular person “freedom.”

“It is changing into extra widespread to see folks framing issues by way of imminent tyranny and rights being taken away. Seemingly abnormal People are talking this manner,” Alex Friedfeld, a researcher with the Anti-Defamation League, advised Insider.

“While you take a coverage disagreement and check with it by way of tyranny, hastily the concept of utilizing violence begins to look believable,” mentioned Friedfeld.

As for the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, “we will not rule them out but,” Friedfeld mentioned.

Two very totally different teams 

Typically lumped collectively, the 2 teams are poles aside, Friedfeld and different consultants say. Likewise, the arrests and public backlash that adopted the riot have had radically totally different impacts.

Take first the Oath Keepers, a militia-styled vigilante group that recruits present and former members of the navy and regulation enforcement and sees the present US authorities as illegitimate.

The group’s extra mainstream members discovered the riot to be lower than an excellent look, and so fled the group in droves after January 6, says Rachel Carroll Rivas, a senior analysis analyst for the Southern Poverty Legislation Middle.

Stewart Rhodes, founder of Oath Keepers

Stewart Rhodes, founding father of Oath Keepers, has been charged with seditious conspiracy in connection to the Capitol riot.

Aaron C. Davis/The Washington Publish by way of Getty Pictures


They’re elected officers, they’re sheriffs, they’re police, they’re people who find themselves interacting with the general public, standing in entrance of podiums, and who’ve energy in our communities,” Carroll Rivas mentioned of the Oath Keepers’ rank and file.

“They’re taking part in contained in the political mainstream. So this crackdown by regulation enforcement, and the general public scrutiny following January 6, has had a detrimental impact on them,” she mentioned. 

The Oath Keepers had 88 chapters on the finish of 2020, Carroll Rivas mentioned. One yr after the riot, the variety of chapters has dropped by greater than half, to 39.

The arrest of 19 of their members, together with their founder, Rhodes, 56, of Granary, Texas, has additionally been an incredible blow, consultants mentioned. Rhodes is the one chief the 13-year-old group has recognized, and he has led with a common’s demand for self-discipline and obedience. 

“Dropping him is an enormous deal,” mentioned the ADL’s Friedfeld. “He’s a dominant pressure within the group, and it creates an influence vacuum on the high,” Friedfeld mentioned, including it’s nonetheless not clear who’s now operating the Oath Keepers. 

“There will likely be some organizational chaos as they take care of this,” Friedfeld predicted. “However that does not imply they do not proceed to be a risk. They nonetheless have interaction in the identical violent rhetoric about the necessity to take motion” towards the US authorities.

Proud Boys on the rise 

In distinction to the Oath Keepers, with their top-down construction, the Proud Boys are a decentralized affiliation of native chapters, designated collectively by the FBI as an extremist group with ties to white nationalism.

And in contrast to the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys’ membership seems to be rising quickly, with a sturdy presence on social media and public chat platforms comparable to Telegram, consultants say, regardless of Tarrio’s arrest and the general public backlash towards January 6.

Tarrio, in truth, had largely stopped mattering to the group quickly after the riot, because of a Reuters story that exposed he had been a “prolific” FBI informer in Miami ten years in the past.

“I do not assume Tarrio going through these expenses can have any affect on the group” and its mission to battle “the left,” which members see as “debasing the US,” mentioned Cassie Miller, one other senior analysis analyst on the SPLC.

Within the yr for the reason that riot, the variety of Proud Boys chapters has grown considerably, from 43 to 72, she mentioned.

proud boys enrique tarrio

Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio rallies in Portland, Ore., in the course of the group’s “Finish Home Terrorism” gathering on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019.

AP Picture/Noah Berger


“It is a group that’s going to be lively over the following yr, particularly as we get towards the midterms,” Miller predicted. “I feel they’re going to proceed to behave because the foot troopers of the far proper motion, and they will proceed to attempt to intimidate the folks they consider as their political enemies.”

The Proud Boys “are far more harmful at this level than the Oath Keepers, due to their coverage of decentralization, which can permit them to raised climate this second of time,” agreed Friedfeld of the ADL. 

“We proceed to see the Proud Boys participating in avenue violence and attending faculty board occasions, and city council conferences,” Friedfeld added. “There’s much less of a deal with nationwide optics. They are often participating in additional excessive conduct as a result of they’re now not excited about what the nationwide group would assume.”

What the longer term holds

As an FBI agent within the 199os, Michael German infiltrated neo-Nazi and white supremacist teams.

He advised Insider that violent, far-right teams have been a unbroken presence in the US for the reason that Jim Crow period — however what’s diversified extra by way of the a long time is the response of regulation enforcement.

Notoriously, the Ku Klux Klan had regulation enforcement allies; by the point German was working for the FBI, essentially the most excessive teams saved their swastikas and Nazi flags hidden whereas searching for recruits, and commenced attaching themselves to extra mainstream actions.

“They might recruit among the many extra militant members of the anti-abortion, anti-immigration and anti-gun management teams, after which indoctrinate them afterwards,” German advised Insider. “Legislation enforcement would ensure that they did not cross the road into violence.” 

However by the Trump administration, “what I started to name ‘pro-government militias’ once more had the cooperation of native police, who allowed them to commit violence at protests, and really fist-bumped them on the best way out,” he mentioned.

German, now a fellow on the Brennan Middle for Justice, agrees with those that see violent anti-government teams rising. 

Other than the continued federal prosecution of January 6 insurrectionists, “the FBI nonetheless cannot inform you how many individuals white supremacists killed final yr, as a result of they do not acquire the info,” he mentioned. 

Virtually all violent anti-government incidents are labeled as hate crimes or gang-related crimes, he mentioned, and deferred to state and native regulation enforcement to deal with.

“It is not going away, and we’re nonetheless not seeing regulation enforcement specializing in it in a method that will push essentially the most violent components again underground,” he mentioned. “They’re deferred right into a black gap.” 

 



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