As school board meetings across the country erupt into tense and potentially violent showdowns, the militant right-wing Proud Boys organization has become a significant component of the anti-mask mandate protest movement, according to a new report from the Daily Beast.
In Franklin County, Tennessee this week, anti-maskers threatened a doctor who had testified in favor of a mask mandate, with video of the incident going viral on social media. The local sheriff's office is now investigating the incident.
In another viral video from North Carolina last week, anti-maskers sought to "overthrow" a local school board and install new members, during a meeting attended by right-wing Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn.
In many cases, school boards have been forced to weigh not only the concerns of parents, students and health officials — but also threats from Republican governors like Florida's Ron DeSantis and Texas' Greg Abbott, who've both attempted to ban mask mandates.
The Daily Beast notes that some of the protests appear to have been organized on Facebook, with members of one Indiana group recently sharing conspiracy theories about masks being part of a "globalist agenda" to "enslave" children.
Meanwhile, members of the Proud Boys have attended recent meetings about mask mandates in both Florida and New Hampshire.
"Last month, a group of men with Proud Boy uniforms and anti-masking signs attended a Palm Beach County, Florida school board meeting," according to the Daily Beast. "Members of the group sat inside the meeting, and stood on a street corner with a banner bedecked in the Proud Boys logo and the slogan 'unmask the children.'
"That same month, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio attended a school board meeting in Florida's Miami-Dade County. Tarrio told WPLG Local 10 News that members of his group were there to speak against masks, vaccine requirements, and 'critical race theory.'"