The New York Police Department is looking for three “persons of interest” who were caught on camera beating people and shouting homophobic slurs following an appearance by Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes at the Metropolitan Republican Club Friday evening.
“The NYPD is fully investigating last night’s attack involving the Proud Boys. If you know anything, the NYPD wants your help,” New York Mayor Bill De Blasio said in a statement. “Hate is never welcome in NYC, and we will punish those responsible — whether they threw punches or incited violence — to the fullest extent of the law.”
McInnes’ appearance was met by crowds of anti-fascist protesters, who clashed with Proud Boys on the Upper East Side of Manhattan after the event. A couple dozen Proud Boys – many clad in their trademark black Fred Perry shirts and red MAGA hats —– roamed the streets after McInnes’ speech, picking fights with protesters, and at points chanting “I like beer” in an apparent reference to Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s defense against charges of binge-drinking and sexual assault.
The Proud Boys were also seen pummeling one man while he was on the ground, calling him a “faggot.” In another video, they were heard bragging about kicking a “foreigner” in the head.
The NYPD was initially criticized for its handling of the incident, because only three people were arrested – all of whom were anti-fascist protesters.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement on Sunday that he’d asked the State Police hate crimes unit and the FBI to look into the brawl, which resulted in the arrest of three anti-racist protesters.
“Hate cannot and will not be tolerated in New York. Here's a message from a Queens boy to the so-called 'proud boys' – NY has zero tolerance for your bs,” Cuomo also said in a tweet.
New York wasn’t the only place where violence erupted this weekend —a far-right flash rally involving Proud Boys in Portland, Oregon on Saturday devolved into a violent street brawl, which police broke up by firing pepper spray. There were no arrests.
Cuomo, speaking to reporters Sunday evening, questioned why the Metropolitan Republican Club had invited McInnes to speak in the first place, given his proclivity for making racially charged, homophobic and wildly sexist statements — and given the fact that the Proud Boys have been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Some prominent Proud Boys are also known to fraternize with white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
Proud Boy Jovi Val, for example, arrived at the one year anniversary rally of Charlottesville – held this year in Washington, D.C. – with Jason Kessler, a white supremacist who spearheaded the original rally and is himself a former Proud Boy. This is significant because McInnes has insisted that Proud Boys are not a white supremacist, “alt-right” organization.
And one of the people who attended McInnes’ event on Friday is a known member of B49, a violent neo-Nazi skinhead group, and has visible neo-Nazi tattoos.
The incident has drawn starkly partisan responses. Ahead of McInnes’ speaking appearance, the Metropolitan Republican Club was vandalized with anarchy signs, windows were broken, and glue was put in the locks. Vandals also left behind a note, asserting: "Tonight, we put the Republican Party on notice, in defiance to the policy of mass misery they championed.”
Fox News responded to the violence with the chyron “Antifa Attacks Again: swords and vandalism at New York GOP Office,” though the featured footage showed McInnes — not antifa — brandishing the sword. Deborah Coughlin, leader of the Metropolitan Republican Club, told the New York Times, “We’re the victims here.”
“We do invite speakers to the Club with differing political points of view — some we agree with and some which we do not,” the Metropolitan Republican Club said in a statement. “Gavin’s talk on Friday night, while at times politically incorrect and a bit edgy, was certainly not inciting violence.”
A spokesperson said that in the days before McInnes’ speech, there were “increasingly contentious phone calls at the Club, coordinated by activist groups on social media,” and blamed members of the left for the violence that resulted.
“We in no way encouraged any violent behavior,” they stated. “We cannot say the same about the folks who left threatening messages, vandalized our property or showed up in ski masks and threw glass bottles.”
Cuomo, on the other hand, linked the violence to President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, and suggested McInnes’ appearance at the Republican Club was a "political tactic because what they're trying to do is fire up their base.”
"The bottom line is that I hold the president responsible for demonizing differences, fanning the flames of racism and division, and creating a fire of hatred and violence," Cuomo said. "Why did this club invite the Proud Boys, a hate group with a history of inciting violence? Do you believe they have a positive contribution to the political dialogue at this time?"
On Saturday night in Portland, Oregon, a far-right rally held by Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys led to violent street fights with anti-fascist protesters, which resulted in police intervention. Previous skirmishes between anti-fascist protesters and Patriot Prayer or Proud Boys in Portland have resulted in hospitalizations.
Disclosure: The Proud Boys organization was founded by Gavin McInnes, a co-founder of VICE Media. McInnes left VICE in 2008 and has not been involved in the company since.
Cover image: Andrew Cuomo speaks onstage during the 2018 Global Citizen Concert at Central Park, Great Lawn on September 29, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/WireImage)