A few days ahead of the white nationalist "Unite the Right 2" rally in D.C. — which ended up featuring more Antifa members than Alt-Righters — Twitter suspended multiple accounts linked to the Proud Boys, a right-wing group founded by Gavin McInnes. The rationale for suspending the accounts, Twitter suggested in a statement, is that McInnes and his Proud Boys are a "violent extremist group."
"We can confirm that these accounts have been suspended from Twitter and Periscope for violating our policy prohibiting violent extremist groups," a Twitter spokesperson told BuzzFeed in a statement.
In response to the suspension, McInnes, who also co-founded Vice magazine, warned that Twitter's actions against him were just part of a larger attempt to crack down on conservative voices and prevent President Trump from getting reelected.
"All this stuff is part of the conservative purge, getting the right off social media, to try to stop Trump from getting reelected," he said. "He's already won; the ship has sailed. I think it will have zero effect on my reach or on the Proud Boys. We'll always come back."
It's not entirely clear what specific statements McInnes made on Twitter that could have merited the suspension; BuzzFeed's report suggests that McInnes' association with the Proud Boys, which has demonstrated a willingness to meet violence with violence when confronted by violence-embracing Antifa members, was Twitter's general rationale. The Left has linked the group to the Alt-Right, a claim which the Proud Boys refute. Here's how BuzzFeed describes them:
Most recently, the Proud Boys were present at a rally that turned violent in Portland. Members claim to be “Western chauvinists” and often use racially charged rhetoric about “anti-white guilt.” They deny connection to the so-called alt-right but speak alongside avowed neo-Nazis at rallies, saying they are defending free speech.
CBS News reports that McInnes has disavowed the first "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, which turned tragic when a counter-protester was killed by a suspected white supremacist. In 2017, McInnes was accused by DePaul University of endorsing violence. The university student paper, the DePaulia, reported that McInnes once called on his followers to fight back against Antifa. "When they go low, go lower. Mace them back, throw bricks at their head. Let’s destroy them," the DePaulia reported he said.
The DePaul College Republicans pushed back against the allegation, however. "In arguing that he supposedly endorsed violence, DePaul fails to acknowledge the threats surrounding that situation; indeed, rather than a call for violence, they were calls for self-defense," the group said in a statement.
While Twitter appears to have suspended most of the accounts associated with the Proud Boys, many accounts associated with the violence-embracing Antifa movement do not appear to have been likewise "purged."