The Proud Boys Went Incognito During the Insurrection to Inspire ‘Normies’ to ‘Smash Some Pigs to Dust,’ Prosecutors Say

New filings from federal prosecutors offer compelling evidence that members of the far-right street-fighting gang played an instrumental role in fueling the deadly insurrection. 
March 2, 2021, 3:51pm
Ethan Nordean, center, marches with pro-Trump protesters in front of the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Pro-Trump protesters, including Ethan Nordean (center), march in front of the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

The Proud Boys’ decision to wear regular clothes instead of their trademark black-and-gold uniform to the Capitol on January 6 created some logistical issues for them early that day: They were having a hard time finding each other amid the tens of thousands of red-hatted Trump supporters who’d heeded the president’s call by traveling to DC in protest of the planned certification of the 2020 election results. 

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But it was part of a broader plan.

That plan was to blend into the crowd so they could incite the “normies” to “smash some pigs to dust” and “burn that city to ash,” according to new court filings from federal prosecutors that offer compelling evidence that members of the far-right street-fighting gang played an instrumental role in plotting and fueling the deadly insurrection. 

The latest details in the case were revealed in a memo filed Monday seeking the continued detention of Proud Boy Ethan Nordean, aka Rufio Panman. The Proud Boys’ Seattle-based ‘Sergeant of Arms” was acting as the de facto leader on January 6, say prosecutors: After the group’s “Chairman” Enrique Tarrio was arrested on his way into D.C. on charges linked to an earlier protest, Nordean was enshrined with “war powers” for the duration of events surrounding January 6. 

Live streams from that day show Nordean, flanked by Joe Biggs and other prominent organizers, leading a large group of Proud Boys in the vicinity of the Capitol at least an hour before former President Donald Trump had even started talking at the main rally point at the Ellipse. 

Prosecutors said Nordean led Proud Boys “through the use of encrypted communications and military-style equipment” and gave them specific instructions “split up into groups, attempt to break into the Capitol building from as many different points as possible, and prevent the Joint Session of Congress from Certifying the Electoral College results.”

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“Defendant’s position with the Proud Boys is that of giving instructions,” prosecutors wrote, “Not receiving them.”

Prosecutors also include snippets from Nordean’s social media and finances to suggest that he was preparing for January 6 weeks in advance.  

“We tried playing nice and by the rules, now you will deal with the monster you created,” Nordean wrote on November 27, according to court filings. “The spirit of 1776 has resurfaced and has created groups like the Proudboys and we will not be extinguished. We will grow like the flame that fuels us and spread like love that guides us. We are unstoppable, unrelenting and now....unforgiving.”

After Nordean returned to Seattle following another Proud Boy rally in December, he put a call out for militia groups in the Pacific Northwest area to get in touch with him via an encrypted social media app. Prosecutors don’t reveal much more about this call-out, but it’s worth noting that the only other non-Proud Boy individuals facing serious conspiracy charges in relation to the Capitol attack are members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia. Prosecutors also note that Nordean was seen having a brief conversation with Robert Gieswein, a member of the Three Percenters who was dressed in tactical gear, and later filmed clambering through a Capitol window that Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola had just allegedly smashed using a police riot shield. 

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And on January 4, the day that Tarrio was arrested, Nordean posted an ominous message to social media. “It is apparent now more than ever, that if you are a patriot, you will be targeted, and they will come after you,” Nordean wrote. “Funny thing is that they don’t realize is, is we are coming for them.”

Between December 19 and December 31, Nordean urged his followers online to donate money, tactical vests and other military-style equipment for the Proud Boys to use on January 6, say prosecutors. One individual offered to contribute $1,000 to help fund his travel to DC, according to court filings. Nordean also solicited donations through a Christian fundraising site called GiveSendGo for “protective gear and communications.” By December 27, he’d raised nearly $13,000. (Associates of Nordean had since set up another GiveSendGo page to collect donations for his defense. The page is currently inactive after it appeared to have been hacked in recent weeks). 

“All of this mayhem plainly envisioned that those carrying out Defendant’s stated vision— the reawakening of 1776—would at least attempt to destroy federal government property and force their way inside the building,” prosecutors wrote. 

Nordean is currently facing charges for “depredation” (attacking or plundering) of government property, obstructing official proceeding, knowingly entering a restricted building, and violent and disorderly conduct on Capitol Grounds. 

He’s among 16 Proud Boys currently facing charges for their actions at the Capitol on January 6. Despite the heavy emphasis on planning in the detention memo released Monday, he is not among those facing conspiracy charges. Prosecutors have so far identified three alleged conspiracies among Proud Boy defendants and filed relevant charges. 

Tarrio, who previously served as a government informant, took to Parler to weigh in on some of the allegations facing Rufio. “The prosecutors are becoming conspiracy theorists at an alarming rate,” wrote Tarrio. “They have not brought a single shred of fucking evidence that any of this was planned or premeditated. They’re entire argument is based on what these guys were wearing and the fact that they had radios.”