Current and former leaders have ties to international far-right extremist groups
By Samuel Rubenfeld, Zach Caldwell and James Disalvatore
Friday, February 5, 2021
Canada on Wednesday added more than a dozen new entries to its list of terrorist entities, including the Proud Boys, a far-right group with several leading members facing criminal charges for their roles in the insurrection last month in the U.S. Capitol.
The Proud Boys is a neo-fascist organization formed in 2016 that engages in political violence against its ideological enemies, the Canadian government said in a summary statement explaining the listing. The group regularly attends Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests to pick fights with BLM supporters, according to the Canadian government.
“The threat of ideologically motivated extremism has been identified as the most significant threat to domestic security in Canada,” Bill Blair, Canada’s public safety minister, said Wednesday during a virtual media briefing.
The Proud Boys describes itself as a “Western Chauvinist” fraternal organization “for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world,” U.S. prosecutors say. Members of the group espouse misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant and white supremacist ideologies, and they associate with white supremacist groups, according to the Canadian government. Its website as of this writing bore only a GIF of former President Donald Trump dancing from a 2015 appearance on “Saturday Night Live.”
The group consists of semi-autonomous chapters located in the U.S., Canada and internationally, the Canadian government said; it has reported having branches throughout Western Europe and Australia, though their size was unclear, according to an archived version of the website.
In addition to the Proud Boys, the Canadian government listed three other white supremacist groups, including the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), a Russian nationalist group seeking a monarchic ethnostate, and U.S.-based neo-Nazi groups Atomwaffen Division and the Base. Current and former leaders of the white supremacist groups listed by Canada have ties to international far-right extremist groups, Kharon found.
Enrique Tarrio, the current chair of the Proud Boys, held an online discussion in November for more than an hour over YouTube with Tommy Robinson, co-founder of the anti-immigrant English Defence League, during which they discussed their common struggles against various adversaries, including large tech firms.
The Proud Boys have been banned from multiple social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook. It and other far-right extremist groups have turned to new platforms, including encrypted chat apps, amid the crackdowns.
Tarrio was arrested days before the Capitol riot for burning a Black Lives Matter banner torn from a historic Black church during protests in Washington, D.C. in December that had led to violent clashes. Tarrio, who pleaded not guilty after the arrest and was barred from the city while his case is pending, has failed to check in with local authorities as required, The Washington Post reported Thursday. He was a “prolific” informant for law enforcement, Reuters reported last month though Tario denied working undercover or cooperating in cases against others.
Tarrio is listed as chief executive officer of Fund the West, LLC, a Miami-based entity that owned the website for the 1776 Shop, records reviewed by Kharon show. The company was administratively dissolved in September 2019, however, after failing to file an annual report, according to corporate records. The shop, which accepts payments through Square and BTCPay, markets Proud Boys apparel and merchandise alongside donation appeals; apparel sales are one of the ways far-right extremist groups raise funds, Kharon reported in July.
Gavin McInnes, who had founded the Proud Boys but disassociated himself from the group in November 2018 over its involvement in street violence, had participated in a march months earlier in London in support of Robinson after his permanent ban from Twitter. McInnes was interviewed during the march by the U.K. bureau of RT, the Russian state-run TV network, discussing the ills of censoring far-right voices.
Despite the disavowal, McInnes continued defending the Proud Boys in 2019, complaining that two Proud Boys members had been sentenced to four years in prison “for defending themselves too much after an Antifa ambush.”
McInnes wrote an article in 2014 for American Renaissance, an outlet identified by RIM as one of its “international connections.” The outlet is published by a U.S.-based nonprofit called the New Century Foundation and run by longtime white supremacist Jared Taylor, among others. RIM was sanctioned by the U.S. in April 2020 and has friends and supporters across the globe.
Members of the Proud Boys were “easy to spot” at protests throughout 2020, and Tarrio promoted the group’s plans for the Jan. 6 riot on social media, according to a ProPublica report. The group “played a pivotal role” in the storming of the Capitol, with leaders planning their participation by “setting out objectives, issuing instructions and directing members during the insurrection,” Canada’s government said.
In an interview with the New York Times a week after the siege, Tarrio tried to minimize the role the Proud Boys played in the attack, saying anyone who broke windows or assaulted police officers should be prosecuted. Multiple members of the Proud Boys have been criminally charged, and recent court filings suggest the group “brought some coordination to the Capitol attack,” according to a report by The Times. Trump faces an impeachment trial next week for his role in inciting the insurrection.
As of Thursday, U.S. federal prosecutors have brought 181 cases against individuals involved in the siege, according to a count by the George Washington University Program on Extremism.
Nicholas Ochs, the Honolulu chapter’s self-proclaimed founder, was indicted Wednesday on conspiracy charges, with prosecutors accusing him of seeking to obstruct Congressional certification of the 2020 election results. Ochs was charged alongside Nicholas DeCarlo; they defaced the Memorial Door of the Capitol with the words “Murder The Media,” the name of their California-based media platform, according to court records and media reports. Ochs also appeared in October 2020 on a Russia Today (RT) podcast to speak about American politics.
Ethan Nordean, a self-described “Sergeant of Arms” of the Proud Boys’ Seattle chapter also known as “Rufio Panman,” was charged Wednesday in a criminal complaint for his role in the riot. He and other Proud Boys members “were planning in advance” to organize a group that would attempt to overwhelm police and storm the Capitol, according to the complaint, citing his posts on Parler. Nordean also posted a photo of himself after the insurrection with the caption “violent extremist,” an attempt to “make light of” the public condemnation” of the riot, the complaint said.
Ochs, DeCarlo and Nordean all tried to raise funds to finance their efforts, court records show. Ochs and DeCarlo have both turned to online crowdfunding to cover legal expenses: Ochs on Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo, and DeCarlo on GoGetFunding. As of mid-January, Ochs had raised nearly USD 20,000 on GiveSendGo for his defense, but the ability to donate was disabled, The Washington Post reported at the time.
In addition to the Proud Boys,Canada listed the U.S.-based international neo-Nazi groups Atomwaffen Division and the Base, each of which advocates for violence to prompt a societal collapse, the Canadian government said.
A co-leader of Atomwaffen Division was banned from Canada in 2019 after it was determined he was a member of an organization that has or will engage in terrorism, the Canadian government said. The Base has distributed manuals to its members for lone-wolf attacks, bomb making, counter-surveillance and guerrilla warfare, according to the Canadian government.
Canada also identified the National Socialist Order as an alias of the Atomwaffen Division in its listing; a July 2020 Telegram post had announced its formation, saying the new outfit is "an organization founded and led by the remaining leadership of the Atomwaffen Division."
The Telegram announcement was carried by neo-fascist publication The American Futurist, which publishes the writings of jailed Atomwaffen Division founder Brandon Russell and appeals for readers to donate to Russell and other "POW" Atomwaffen members in prison.
The American Futurist site includes a donation page with information for a Bitcoin address; it also solicits donations for incarcerated members of the Rise Above Movement (RAM), a California-based group whose members were involved in violence at the 2017 “Unite the Right” riot in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Chris Hood, a former member of the Base, participated in the Capitol insurrection; Cameron Brandon Shea, a leader and recruiter of Atomwaffen Division, was a member of the Base.
Rinaldo Nazzaro, founder of the Base, is now based in Russia, according to media reports. From there, he’s attempting to establish a new paramilitary network in the U.S. similar to the Base, Vice News reported last month. Nazzaro is posting on the social media sites Gab and Telegram, saying the new group is a “leaderless network configuration” using “networked cells” with ambitions to provide survivalist and self-defense training. Nazzaro is also soliciting donations via Bitcoin for this new group on his Telegram account.
Canada also added three affiliates of al-Qaida and five affiliates of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) to its terrorist entity list. The country now has 73 entities listed under its Criminal Code, the government said. “Violent acts of terrorism have no place in Canadian society or abroad,” Blair said in the statement.
Analysts from the Counterterrorism/Middle East team contributed to this report.
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