On Tuesday, two members of the right-wing group dubbed the “Proud Boys,” John Kinsman and Maxwell Hare, were sentenced to four years behind bars for their role in a brawl with left-wing Antifa members last October.
Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes was giving a speech at the New York City Republican Club when the brawl broke out.
Kinsman, 39, and Hare, 27 were convicted in August of attempted gang assault, attempted assault, and riot.
Shortly after the conviction, McInnes, who has since publicly disassociated himself from the group, said 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.
Hare and Maxwell claimed they fought in self-defense, as does McInnes. An 18-second clip of security footage obtained by The New York Times purports to show the Proud Boys “initiating” the fight, and includes at least one Antifa member throwing a bottle.
As noted by The Daily Wire in August, 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.
According to The Wall Street Journal, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass “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.
“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.
During a December interview with ABC News, shortly after he 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.
McInnes 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,” he said.
“At the heart of the Proud Boys is the belief the West is the best,” McInnes continued. “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.”
“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,” he added.
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.