Facebook has started removing pages linked to the Proud Boys, the fascist street gang tied to numerous instances of political violence in recent months.
Some individual pages, like that of Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, and several geographic pages, like Proud Boys UK and Utah, had been taken down as of Wednesday morning. Numerous other pages, however, are still active, like the one for McInnes’ online talk show, “Get Off My Lawn,” which has nearly 19,000 followers.
“Our team continues to study trends in organized hate and hate speech and works with partners to better understand hate organizations as they evolve,” Facebook said in a statement. “We ban these organizations and individuals from our platforms and also remove all praise and support when we become aware of it. We will continue to review content, Pages, and people that violate our policies, take action against hate speech and hate organizations to help keep our community safe.”
Facebook, which did not respond to request for further comment, also removed those pages from Instagram, which it owns.
In a video posted to the Facebook page for Proud Boy Magazine on Tuesday evening, Pawl Bazile, who runs the page, addressed the crackdown. “Have you noticed some of your friends are missing out there?” Bazile said. “Right now as it stands we’re one of the few public proud boys left standing and we might be deleted any moment.” By noon the next day, the page had been removed.
Bazile suggested the impending purge is an act of censorship, motivated by liberal jealousy over the success of right-wing messaging. “The reason you’re doing this, the reason you feel compelled to ban Proud Boys, to ban right-wingers, right-wing publications,” Bazile said, “is because you failed to change a single mind.”
The Proud Boys came under the glare of the national spotlight earlier this month, after a speaking appearance by McInnes at the Metropolitan Republican Club in New York City descended into violence. After the event, Proud Boys, many in their trademark Fred Perry shirts and MAGA hats, roamed around the Upper East Side, beating up protesters and shouting homophobic slurs. In the weeks since, the NYPD has arrested at least six men affiliated with the Proud Boys and are still looking for three others in connection with the incident.
Jovi Val, once a prominent Proud Boy, said he has distanced himself from the group in the last year, in part due to the group’s reluctance to openly embrace white nationalism. His Facebook profile was still active as of Wednesday afternoon.
“I got kicked out of those pages because my posts were too controversial,” Val told VICE News. “What are they doing that they’re getting kicked off Facebook? I don’t think it’s much. It’s probably nationalist, patriotic stuff.” Val said he also became disillusioned with the Proud Boys over the last year, in part, because he thinks it’s become a cult of personality, with McInnes at the top.
The Proud Boys, who were designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for the first time this year, occupy an uneasy place on the far-right spectrum. On one hand, they’re ardent Trump supporters and have rubbed shoulders with mainstream Republican figures. Former Trump adviser Roger Stone asked the Proud Boys to be his security detail at a rally in Oregon earlier this year. They’ve also hung out with Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson and posed for pictures with California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes.
On the other hand, some of their members have shown up at rallies alongside hardcore skinheads and white nationalists.
In recent days, payment processor Stripe has also reportedly cut ties with the Proud Boys. And earlier in the summer, Twitter started removing accounts linked to the Proud Boys. The social media company told BuzzFeed that that the Proud Boys had violated its policies prohibiting violent extremist groups.
Disclosure: Gavin McInnes was a co-founder of Vice Media. He left the company in 2008 and has had no involvement since then. He founded The Proud Boys organization in 2016.
Cover image: Proud Boys pose for photos during the Mother of All Rallies at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on September 8, 2018. (Photo by Emily Molli/NurPhoto via Getty Images)