In the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the fascist "street-fighting gang" the Proud Boys have tried to evolve their efforts to fill their ranks and repair their image problem.
Vice News noted that in Idaho the Proud Boys marched in a parade to "Celebrate the Good Old Days.
"I heard one mom tell her kiddos it was just a ‘drunk uncle drinking club,'" a reader said in response to a Times-News report about the Proud Boys. There were those who supported the group's attacks on the U.S. Capitol, however.
"I did not see these guys doing anything but supporting our country with flags and marching in a parade," another comment read.
Like the QAnon conspiracy theorists, the Proud Boys have moved toward more local participation in politics and events. In a Chicago suburb, the Proud Boys did a community Easter egg hunt. In Sacramento, they sang to a group of anti-vaccine people. Like QAnon followers, they've also called for a ban on teaching civil rights and the history of slavery in the U.S. so as to not trigger white parents.
They've also shown up in communities looking to change their policing after a community officer shot an unarmed Black man. They attacked the city for caving into Antifa. One-time Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio has encouraged the group's members to run for local offices.
Vice explained that in the year since the Jan. 6 attack, they've tracked the members of the group to understand and possibly even predict the next steps.
“Over the past year, the Proud Boys have worked to embed themselves amongst local activists who haven’t been tarnished by the Jan. 6 insurrection," Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR) director Devin Burghart told Vice. "They’ve enmeshed themselves into local efforts to push back against vaccine mandates, or critical race theory, and other local conflicts, which has allowed them to steer clear of the national discussion about the insurrection and provide them with a base of support that they didn’t have prior to Jan. 6."
The report cited Pastor Ken Peters who proclaimed "Oh my goodness, thank God for the Proud Boys," from a Salem, Oregon event.
An antifascist researcher who tracks the far-right explained to Vice that their image is a problem for them.
"They’re out to make the case for the Proud Boys, show that they’re not bad people, that they’re here to help the community," said Daryle Lamont Jenkins. "They’re on some sort of publicity tour. It's pretty much them trying to sell themselves to the American people."
The PR campaign may be working with Republican voters who believe the Proud Boys are the militant side of the GOP defending Donald Trump.
"That they, along with the Oath Keepers and other groups, were willing to step forward and fight," said Burghart. He went on to explain that the one way to tell where the far-right is going is to watch the Proud Boys.