Massive Anti-Fascist Coalition Rebuffs Far-Right White Nationalist Proud Boys

Rose City Antifa prepares to march in opposition to members of HimToo and Proud Boys on June 29, 2019, in Portland, Oregon.Moriah Ratner / Getty Images

Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys have experienced a dramatic decline due to anti-fascist organizing

Truthout - July 3, 2019

... The group Pop Mob (short for Popular Mobilization) organized a “milkshake” dance party theme for the demonstration and later after-party; participants were encouraged to dress up, dance and drink milkshakes while blocking the Proud Boys from moving through the city.

“At Stop the Hate last August, some of the best moments were the spontaneous dance parties that broke out,” Effie Baum, an organizer with Pop Mob, told Truthout. “We decided we wanted to capture that kind of fun energy, but instead of having it be isolated moments or affinity groups, to build the entire event around it.”

The dance party protest was just one of many different tactics employed by the coalition that had formed to stop the Proud Boys and their ilk from roaming Portland — others included street marches, street theater and more confrontational protests.

A Fractured Far Right Fighting for Relevance

The Proud Boys have seen one of the bumpiest rise-and-fall cycles of any group that has gained prominence after Donald Trump’s election. The Proud Boys used the white nationalist “alt-right” as a recruiting ground while firmly cementing their rhetoric in the hard-right world of internet shock jocks. Created by Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, the Proud Boys use neo-Nazi skinhead-style gang formations, complete with joining rituals and Fred Perry uniforms to act as street enforcers for the “independent Trumpist” movement. While much of the alt-right took a hit after Charlottesville, the Proud Boys continued on, building up a huge national base with chapters across the U.S., supporters in the GOP, and even their own magazine.

However, Proud Boy leadership proved unable or unwilling to halt the brutal violence of the rank-and-file, which usually amounted to unprovoked street attacks against counter-demonstrators or community members, which led to the growth of an anti-fascist counter-movement that refused to let them organize publicly. Arrests followed the Proud Boys’ gang-style beatings in front of the Metropolitan Republican Club in New York, and eventually McInnes quit the group in disgrace, replaced by a series of increasingly incompetent foot soldiers desperately trying to hold their disparate clique of angry men together.

Members from around the U.S. often flew into Portland, Oregon, to stand with Patriot Prayer in rallies intended to, more than anything, create a venue to attack leftist Portland residents. Throughout 2017 and 2018, there were high-profile skirmishes in which Proud Boys led attacks on counter-demonstrators, sometimes in such brutal fashion that they left blood flowing in streams down the streets.

Over the last year, both Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys have experienced a dramatic decline due to anti-fascist organizing and internal organizational combustion, and when the Proud Boys announced their return to Portland, it was hard to tell who would show up and why. As with most far-right movements, moments of retreat also become explosions of impulsive barbarity, which is why community organizations created such a large counter-mobilization.

Dousing the Far Right With Milkshakes

Protests are intended to create a counter force to objectionable political actors, but they are also moments of energizing community-building. There is joy in people coming together in common cause, a small snapshot into what the world could be instead. A dance party theme for the weekend’s counter-protest seemed perfectly matched with the newest meme on the block: the use of milkshakes against the far right. After English Defence League founder and far-right Islamophobe Tommy Robinson was doused with a milkshake by an angry passerby, the tossing of milkshakes became a nonviolent protest tactic to annoy and disrupt far-right political leaders. ...
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