On Monday, two members of the right-wing group dubbed the "Proud Boys" were found guilty of multiple attempted assault charges for their role in a brawl with left-wing Antifa members outside the New York City Republican club. Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes had been giving a speech there in October, during the brawl.
John Kinsman, 39, and Maxwell Hare, 27, both face up to 15 years behind bars and are expected to face sentencing on October 11, according to The Wall Street Journal.
McInnes, who has since publicly disassociated himself from the group, said Monday that he was "stunned" by the verdict, calling it "a travesty of justice."
As noted by The New York Times, on the night of the brawl, McInnes gave a speech at the Republican club in a "tense" atmosphere. "Outside, people had gathered chanting 'No Nazis, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.' The night before, hooded figures had broken windows at the club, sprayed anarchist symbols on its doors and promised future attacks in leaflets that also denounced Mr. McInnes as a 'hipster-fascist clown,'" the report said, noting that "McInnes departed the club brandishing his plastic sword."
The brawl, which was at least partially captured on video, broke out about ten minutes after the speech. The night of the incident, according to PIX11 News, three Antifa members were arrested; days later, officers were looking for 12 others involved in the fighting — nine from the Proud Boys and three others from Antifa. The news station reported on the involvement of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, who was apparently frustrated with the lack of police action. Police officers, however, maintained they were on the scene within seconds.
Jack Goldberg and Ronald Paul Hart, lawyers representing the defendants, argued that Antifa initiated the incident. An Antifa member reportedly threw a bottle toward the Proud Boys and the left-wing activist phoned in threats to the venue days before McInnes' speech, seemingly to spark a quasi-heckler's veto or to cow the group into cancelling the speech.
As noted by the Journal, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass, however, "emphasized that Mr. Kinsman and Mr. Maxwell's actions went far beyond what could be considered self-defense."
"What these defendants did was beyond overkill. Words alone, unaccompanied by physical threats or acts does not make a person the original aggressor," Steinglass argued Wednesday in court.
"Within 10 seconds of this brawl, everyone on the Antifa side was either down, or running away. This beating was never about self-defense. It was about payback," the prosecutor added.
According to the Journal, "The Antifa members who were attacked were never identified and weren't present at the trial, despite numerous attempts from law-enforcement officials to identify them."
During a December interview with ABC News, shortly after the political figure disassociated himself with the fraternity-style group, McInnes defended the Proud Boys as a benign, inclusive brotherhood that meets at a bar for drinks once a month and helps escort conservative speakers to and from venues. The Proud Boys, he said, are in no way hateful, sexist, or racist.
Asked about the 4Chan-engineered "OK" hand gesture associated with white nationalism, McInnes said he would tell Proud Boys not to flash the sign if he were their leader. "If I was their boss, I would say, guys, this is causing too much trouble, please stop doing it in photos," he told ABC.
The founder also noted that anyone who attended the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia was banned from the group: "If anyone showed up at Unite the Right, they were instantly booted and I made that clear months before."
"At the heart of the Proud Boys is the belief the West is the best," McInnes said. "Russia sucks. China sucks. The Middle East is not my cup of tea ... I think it's inarguable that the West is superior. The West is built on liberty and meritocracy and busting your ass."
McInnes also commented on the violence associated with the Proud Boys, noting one of his regrets: "I shouldn't have said, you know, violence solves everything or something like that without making the context clear. And I regret saying things like that."
Despite tendentious reporting from The Washington Post in November, the Proud Boys are not viewed as an extremist group by the FBI. The controversial Southern Poverty Law Center has designated them as a "general hate" organization, however.
McInnes was essentially excommunicated from the modern-day public square after the October brawl, receiving a ban from Twitter and Facebook and a temporary ban from YouTube. He was also fired from BlazeTV just a week after the CRTV/Blaze merger.
In the wake of the incident, McInnes announced his separation: "I'm officially dissociating myself from the Proud Boys in all capacities forever. I quit. I'm told by my legal team and law enforcement that this gesture could help alleviate their sentencing."
On Saturday, members of Antifa and counter-protesters, some of whom were Proud Boys, faced off in Portland, Oregon — which has been viewed as a haven for far-left violence due to the lack of police interventions. Videos posted by journalists online show Antifa members physically assaulting and harassing people with differing ideological views. Last month, in fact, Antifa members assaulted journalist Andy Ngo, who suffered a brain hemorrhage from the attack.
"Attacked by antifa. Bleeding. They stole my camera equipment. No police until after. waiting for ambulance. If you have evidence Of attack please help," Ngo wrote.
Last year, the same journalist was assaulted by Antifa while covering a #HimToo rally in Portland. Ngo was verbally berated and physically accosted and had his camera equipment covered in Silly String. At the time, Ngo said the police did nothing during the assault. Video footage of the 2019 attack on Ngo similarly shows that police were nowhere to be found.