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After a series of physical altercations and brawls in Manhattan on Friday night, the founder of the far-right “Western chauvinist” group Proud Boys tried to justify the violence in a series of social media posts.
“When you set up this climate of fear, you have people that are going to be aggressive, you know?” Gavin McInnes, the founder of Proud Boys, said on a podcast he posted. He later praised the police presence at the event, saying, “I have a lot of support in the NYPD, and I very much appreciate that, the boys in blue.”
He provided no evidence that anyone in the New York Police Department is supportive of his group. The deputy commissioner of public information for the NYPD called McInnes' claims "false" in a tweet Monday and said he "does not speak for" the NYPD.
Police arrested three people after violence broke out following an event that featured a speech by McInnes at the Metropolitan Republican Club on Manhattan’s Upper East Side on Friday night.
At a news conference on Monday afternoon, Dermot Shea, the chief of detectives for the NYPD, said the department was trying to identify nine Proud Boys members and three black-clad counter-protesters, whom he identified as members of the anti-fascist group Antifa, for their part in physical altercations that took place outside the event.
No members of the Proud Boys were arrested on Friday, leading to criticism of the NYPD for not taking action against the group from two journalists and a legal observer who witnessed the violence.
At the press conference, Shea deflected the criticism, noting that the responding officers were focused on breaking up the fight and attending to the injured, and promised that the NYPD would aggressively pursue those involved in the beatings.
Videos of the violence circulated widely on social media over the weekend, with one showing what appeared to be a group of Proud Boys rushing to join several others who were beating three men, one being kicked relentlessly as he laid curled up on the sidewalk.
McInnes, a former co-founder of Vice Media and a host on far-right media networks including Infowars and Canada’s Rebel Media, created Proud Boys as part of what he calls a “fraternal organization” for young men in 2016. As part of their initiation, members must declare they are a “Western chauvinist who refuses to apologize for creating the modern world,” and also abstain from masturbation. To complete the initiation, members must also get a Proud Boys tattoo, and undergo a beating by fellow members while naming five breakfast cereals, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has also designated them as a hate group.
Finbarr Slonim, 20, Kai Russo, 20, and Caleb Perkins, 35, were arrested and charged in connection with the alleged assault of Paul Miller, a man who was shooting videos of the event outside the club that night according to New York Criminal Court records.
A man who identified himself as Miller and called himself an “independent journalist” posted numerous videos from outside of the event before violence erupted. In the videos, he is turned away from the entrance because he did not have a ticket.
Miller, whose social media posts suggest that he is sympathetic to the right-wing group, posted videos to his YouTube account in which he claimed to want to "instigate" an altercation with counter-protestors outside of the Manhattan Republican club before alleging later he had been beaten and had his backpack stolen. The police are still seeking the person who allegedly stole Miller’s backpack. Miller and that person had engaged in a physical altercation earlier in the evening when Miller ran into him while filming and taunting counter-protestors. The short fight was captured on one of Miller’s videos.
On Instagram, Miller commented on a McInnes post, saying he was “jumped by 10 members of Antifa they robbed and and tried to kill me.”
He added, “I wasn’t looking for trouble at all.”
Miller’s own videos of the night suggest otherwise.
As some 20 Antifa protesters shout, “No Nazis, no KKK, no fascists USA,” Miller said in a YouTube video taken before the event, “I wanna go over there and instigate it but the cops are here so we’ll be nice.”
“I wanna f--- them up real bad, but the cops are here, so.”
Another video captured the Proud Boys leaving the attack, yelling “I like beer,” a nod to a remark made by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing, as well as posing for photos.
In response to the videos, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and the state attorney general have all called for the arrest of those involved in the assault. The NYPD said that the three injured men declined to press charges or cooperate with any investigations.
In addition to the podcast, McInnes also posted to his Instagram account on Monday to promote an upcoming stream of his speech from Friday’s event.
At the Proud Boys’ event, McInnes re-enacted the 1960 beheading of Japanese socialist leader Inejiro Asanuma, before wielding a sword on an Upper East Side street. The NYPD escorted McInnes out of the building. Shea later said the sword was plastic and that officers told McInnes to resheathe it.
McInnes posted a picture of Asanuma being killed on Instagram, along with the Nike slogan, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” He said he’d play his entire speech from Friday on his Monday show on CRTV, a right-wing online video network.
Both McInnes and CRTV are verified on Facebook, and McInnes’ CRTV videos sometimes receive millions of views on the platform.
Facebook, which also owns Instagram, did not respond to a request for comment on McInnes’ status on the platforms.
McInnes has used slurs against African-Americans and the LGBT community on his shows, to which NBC News is not providing a link. After a 2017 Proud Boys event that also ended in violence, McInnes told a right-wing news host, "I cannot recommend violence enough. It is a really effective way to solve problems.”
CRTV is currently running several ads on Facebook featuring McInnes. In one ad, a shirtless McInnes talks about thousands of black Americans who are murdered, saying “it’s not by cops — it’s by other black people.”
McInnes and the Proud Boys were banned by Twitter, but previously had verified accounts. Efforts to get around the ban, including creating a new Twitter account and pointing users to a surrogate on the platform, were quickly closed down by Twitter on Monday.