Op-ed | Proud Boys shouldn’t get a free ride from the NYPD

Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio
Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio wears a hat that says The War Boys and smokes a cigarette at a rally in Delta Park on Sept. 26, 2020, in Portland, Ore. Tarrio, the former top leader of the far-right Proud Boys extremist group, and other members were indicted Monday, June 6, 2022, on seditious conspiracy charges for what federal prosecutors say was a coordinated attack on the U.S. Capitol to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral victory.
(AP Photo/Allison Dinner, File)

On the websites of the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League you will find terms such as right-wing extremist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, Neo-Nazis, and White Supremacist used describe the Proud Boys and their affiliates. The group is known for hate based violence. Members have been convicted of being leaders and co-conspirators in the deadly insurrection that took place on Jan. 6, 2021.

This begs the question of Why the NYPD would escort this hate group onto the subway for free, as shown after a recent anti-drag queen hour rally in Queens during which the Proud Boys participated. What truly offends the targets of the Proud Boys hate is that the mayor defended the police and didn’t condemn the group.

It is apparent that Mayor Eric Adams backs the NYPD under all circumstances. Where does he draw the line? He was a critic of the police in 2020, but ran a pro-police mayoral campaign a year later.

It is nothing short of appalling that the NYPD allowed the Proud Boys on the train for free. Let’s put this in perspective. In 2020, a study conducted by the Community Service Society concluded that there was racial disparities in fare evasion enforcement disproportionately impacting high-poverty communities of color. In addition, there is no shortage of video showing police brutally arresting Black and Brown people for fair evasion. 

What message does it send to Black New Yorkers when the police allow an extremist group whose members spread racist hate online and were convicted of desecrating a historical Black church in Washington, DC to ride the train for free?

LGBTQ New Yorkers should pay close attention to how the city handled this matter as well. In 2018, several Proud Boys jumped a counter-protester in Greenwich Village and could be heard using anti-gay slurs as they pummeled the person. Witnesses stated that the police stood by and watched.

Personally, I felt the same way in 2017 when I watched police stand two blocks away from a racial powder keg in Charlottesville, VA. We were outnumbered by Proud Boys and their white supremacist counterparts. We felt like the police wanted something bad to happen to us. Shortly after, a member of their collective plowed his car into a crowd of protesters murdering Heather Heyer.

It is hard for people to fathom that some members of law enforcement hold white supremacist ideals. According to PBS, the FBI warned of white supremacist infiltrating local law enforcement agencies in 2006. As recently as November 2022, a Senate committee scolded federal law enforcement agencies for their “woefully inadequate” response to white supremacist violence.

It is incomprehensible to members of the communities that the hate group targets that the mayor and the NYPD don’t feel the need to condemn a white supremacist group — especially when the mayor talks tough on almost every topic.

The NYPD has stated that escorting the Proud Boys on the train was a de-escalation tactic used during protests. As someone who has led over 100 protests in NYC, I assure you that Black and Brown activist are not afforded the grace extended to the Proud Boys. The complaints of NYPD’s brutality against protesters were validated by the CCRB and New York’s Attorney General.

In conclusion, the de-escalation excuse is insensitive, nonsensical, and misleading.

Hawk Newsome is the co-founder of Black Lives Matter New York/Black Opportunities.