As more members get arrested for Capitol riot, will the Proud Boys group crumble?

By Alma Fabiani

Published Feb 12, 2021 at 11:53 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

Five people that prosecutors say are linked to the Proud Boys extremist group were arrested on Thursday, and now face charges for their alleged role in the riot at the US Capitol last month. William Chrestman, Christopher Kuehne, Louis Enrique Colon, Felicia Konold and Cory Konold face numerous charges—conspiracy, civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, and disorderly conduct on Capitol Grounds.

CNN has described it as the “largest move against the far-right group’s coordinated role in the insurrection last month.” In a criminal complaint, an FBI agent described how the group “moved closely to each other” inside the Capitol on 6 January and wore tactical-style gear, including helmets and gloves. One even had a wooden club or axe handle that was initially disguised as a flag.

As more members get arrested for Capitol riot, will the Proud Boys group crumble?

The group has also been accused of leading crowds of rioters as they pushed through multiple police lines and made their way through the Capitol. US authorities arrested the men and women in an early morning sweep on Thursday 11 February. Chrestman, Colon and Kuehne were taken into custody near Kansas City, Missouri, and brother and sister Cory and Felicia Konold were arrested in Arizona, according to the Justice Department.

In a video that authorities believe was posted to Felicia Konold’s Snapchat account, a female speaker celebrates that she had just been “recruited into a fucking chapter from Kansas City” and shows off a challenge coin with apparent Proud Boys markings.

The FBI agent also noted that Kuehne carried rolls of the orange tape that was “strategically worn by each of the subjects as well as others in the crowd.” Orange tape could have been used by rioters as a way to identify persons for a particular purpose.

All but Chrestman have been charged in a joint conspiracy filing—the greatest charge of organised activity by number to come out of the massive federal investigation—underscoring authorities’ focus on the Proud Boys, several of whom have already been charged in recent weeks.

Chrestman’s charges were filed separately but the affidavit says he was connected to the group as well. He is also charged with threatening to assault a federal law enforcement officer.

The Justice Department also announced on Thursday that two other men associated with the Boogaloo Bois, an extremist group that seeks to start a civil war in the US, had been arrested in Kentucky. According to NPR, John Subleski, 32, allegedly incited a riot in downtown Louisville at the same time as the riot at the Capitol. Adam Turner, 35, allegedly threatened police in Twitter and Facebook posts after he was arrested during a traffic stop of a protest caravan he was in.

In light of this, the conspiracy charges are likely to grow. In a footnote in the affidavit, the FBI agent said they believe more people may be involved in the conspiracy and that an investigation is ongoing. Meanwhile on the dating app Bumble, women are ‘luring in’ unsuspecting rioters before turning them over to the FBI.

The Proud Boys, known for their aggressive men’s-rights philosophy, have become a central target for prosecutors in Washington as they piece together the extent of coordinated activity at the Capitol. Some high-profile members of the group have already been arrested over the past month and investigators have built out charges related to their fundraising efforts ahead of the insurrection.

On Wednesday, the same group featured prominently in the Democratic impeachment managers’ case to convict former President Donald Trump. Throughout their presentation in the Senate, the managers cited the role of the far-right group in the violence and tried to connect them to Trump, who had refused to condemn them during the 2020 campaign.

It’s safe to say that the Proud Boys are having a ‘rough time’. The self-described “Western chauvinist” drinking club has long been a refuge for white supremacists, anti-semites and assorted extremists seeking a veneer of legitimacy. But now, things are falling apart for them.

Proud Boys chairman Henry Tarrio (who apparently goes by Enrique) was arrested days before the Capitol riot and charged with two federal weapons charges. Three weeks later, Tarrio was outed as a longtime FBI informant, a role he has now admitted to. The news about the Proud Boys leader came as other members of the group were arrested for their involvement in the US Capitol riots. Then, on 3 February, Canada designated the Proud Boys as a domestic terrorist group.

That raises questions about the future of the group, and also has experts concerned about more radical factions of the Proud Boys or the emergence of a newly-branded gang. Experts who monitor the Proud Boys agreed the group is undergoing the sort of transition that happens to most hate groups at some point. The question now is where members of the Proud Boys will go.

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