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Suspects sought in 'Proud Boys' melee with protesters after GOP club speech

Elected officials have called for an investigation and arrests after fight was caught on video.

Republican State Senate candidate Pete Holmberg approached City Council Speaker Corey Johnson after a news conference in Manhattan Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, where Johnson and others denounced violence allegedly perpetrated by members of the far-right hate group the Proud Boys. (Credit: amNewYork / Ivan Pereira)

Police on Monday were looking for 12 people in connection with a fight during the weekend that followed a speech at the Metropolitan Republican Club and involved members of the Proud Boys, a right-wing hate group. The investigation came as politicians continued to denounce the violence and the Proud Boys.

Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said on Monday that a group of Proud Boys was being escorted south on Park Avenue just after 8:20 p.m. on Friday night when a group of six protesters wearing masks circled the block "to try to intercept the group." He said a bottle was thrown, then a fight broke out. 

A few minutes later, a second fight ensued out a few blocks away, which, that police said, involved the apparent theft of a backpack. So far, police have arrested three people who are not part of the Proud Boys.

Shea said police are looking for 12 people considered persons of interest, who they want to question in the melee, including both Proud Boys and protesters.

“We will not tolerate any violence on the streets of New York City, and anyone, from any group, who participates in violence will be vigorously investigated," Shea said.

Police released a video Monday showing the fight between the two groups.

The fight broke out after an event at the club featuring Gavin McInnes, the leader of the males-only group, which has been designated by Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. Video footage of the attack showed men punching and kicking protesters on the ground and shouting slurs. The club was vandalized earlier in the night — with graffiti, and windows were broken — and GOP leaders claim it was done by protesters. 

Elected officials and community groups gathered outside the Metropolitan Republican Club Monday to continue their calls into an investigation and arrests of the members of the Proud Boys.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said while he did not condone the vandalism, the violence is "sickening." He added that the NYPD's investigation needs to be more transparent than it has been.

“Everywhere they go, their goal is to incite violence," Johnson said. "To equate them with the other counter-protesters is a false equivalency. ... New Yorkers demand and deserve more answers.”

Councilman Keith Powers said the event itself was "a bizarre ritual" and added, "It is still unclear to me why the event took place in the first place and why anyone is defending the Proud Boys here.”

In a separate event a block away from the club, city Comptroller Scott Stringer on Monday night also pushed back against the Proud Boys, saying that the "thugs" involved needed to be brought to justice. 

"Why weren’t arrests made?" Stringer asked. "Clearly, New Yorkers want these questions answered and need these questions answered.”

Kirsten John Foy of Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network said that "fascist violence is not going to be tolerated" and added, in a direct address to the Proud Boys, "that we as a community are watching.”

On Sunday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the NYPD and FBI will be further investigating the incident and criticized President Donald Trump and Republican leadership for allegedly inciting the Proud Boys and the violence that took place

In a statement released Sunday night, New York GOP leader Ed Cox did not mention the Proud Boys and slammed the governor for not calling for an investigation into the alleged vandalism of the Metropolitan Republican Club. 

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