The Minister of Defence has condemned the actions of a group of military members, calling themselves “Proud Boys,” who disrupted an Indigenous ceremony on Canada Day in Halifax.
“These disrespectful actions do not represent the Canadian Armed Forces members I serve as Minister of National Defence,” wrote Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan in a statement on Facebook.
Rebecca Moore, who organized the Indigenous ceremony, told the Canadian Press that dozens of people were gathered around the statue of Edward Cornwallis as Chief Grizzly Mamma, who is originally from British Columbia, shaved her head in an act of mourning.
Moore said a small group of men wearing black polo shirts with yellow piping — one of them carrying a Red Ensign Flag — sang “God Save the Queen” as they walked toward the ceremony.
The men identified themselves as members of the “Proud Boys, Maritime Chapter.”
The main Proud Boys Facebook group currently has about 15,000 likes, though Will Sommer, a journalist with the Washington newspaper The Hill, estimates that the active membership is more likely a few hundred to 1,000 people.
Sommer, who writes a newsletter about the far right in America, said that they are a “very outlandish group” who began roughly a year ago and have managed to attract significant media attention by disrupting events or providing “protection” to right-wing speakers against left-wing demonstrators.
A Proud Boys march in Boulder, Colorado in June was met by a much larger group of counter-protestors and turned violent, according to a media report, which also stated that it wasn’t clear which group threw smoke bombs. Proud Boys were also present at a violent protest in Berkeley in April.
Here’s some of what the Proud Boys say about themselves online.
In a blog post on their website, the Proud Boys describe themselves as a “fraternal organization of Western Chauvinists who will no longer apologize for creating the modern world.”
They are in favour of minimal government, against political correctness and the war on drugs, pro-free speech, against “racial guilt” and wish to “glorify the entrepreneur” and “venerate the housewife.”
“It’s very reactionary, traditionalist values, essentially,” said Sommer. “Mixed in with that is almost a frat-style kind of attitude to it all.”
The same post notes that they do not discriminate based upon race or sexuality.
“The West is the Best,” says the author in the same paragraph.
“They are not explicitly racist,” said Sommer. “They do have members who are people of colour, versus some much more explicit white nationalist groups that we have in the United States.”
Another post provides more detail, saying that the organization rejects the “weak, immoral culture of feminized failure.” They are against the idea of “white privilege” – that white individuals have some societal advantages due to the colour of their skin that are denied to others – and they also believe that the last 50 years have been “a disaster for women.”
The group is also anti-masturbation.
“That’s kind of one of the zaniest parts of the Proud Boys,” said Sommer. “It’s almost sort of mystical in the sense that masturbating saps your will or your chi, what have you.”
The post states that the Proud Boys aren’t prudes.
“We merely believe that this energy is better spent going out, meeting women, getting married, and having children.”
Sommer said that the focus on masturbation is mostly about pornography. “It’s that they’re fighting against decadence, or that the modern man has become addled by pornography.”
An article linked to from the Proud Boys Facebook page explains the initiation process to become a Proud Boy.
Members must first declare themselves to be a Proud Boy and publicly espouse the group’s values. Then, to move up in the organization, they must get beaten up until they successfully name five breakfast cereals.
“If you hammer out, ‘Chex, Cheerios, Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes, and Special K’ in a matter of seconds, you’re free to go. If you get flummoxed by the punches and cannot think straight, well, sorry, you’re going to get pounded,” it reads.
“The idea is you learn to keep your head about you in a fight,” said Sommer. “So they’re a pretty eclectic, ritualistic sort of group.”
They are also not permitted to masturbate unless in the presence of a woman (with her consent, the article says), and to watch pornography only once every 30 days.
Members are also encouraged to get a “Proud Boy” tattoo.
— With files from the Canadian Press