A cellphone video of a brawl in Westport between hecklers and an alleged member of a new white supremacist group is going viral on social media.
At the same time, the incident is shining a spotlight on the growth of such groups around the nation — and in Kansas City.
The video, posted Tuesday, Sept. 18, on Facebook and Twitter, shows an altercation between a small group of hecklers and a man wearing khaki shorts and a black Fred Perry-brand polo shirt with yellow trim and laurel insignia — the unofficial uniform of the Proud Boys movement, considered by experts to be a right-wing hate group.
“You’re a Proud Boy, be proud about your s---. Be proud about your Aryan race!” one person shouts at the man.
“While he’s rocking that Proud Boy bull----, get this up,” another person says while looking directly into the camera and holding up a skateboard adorned with a large “End Racism” sticker.
After the first heckler calls the man a Nazi, a woman who is with him says, “He’s not a Nazi.”
“Do you know what his shirt is?” the heckler responds. “You don’t know what his shirt is, otherwise you wouldn’t be doing what you’re doing.”
The man in the polo shirt flicks his lit cigarette into the face of the heckler. The two exchange blows, and the man ends up flat on the concrete, his polo shirt ripped from his body.
The video was posted by a man who goes by @BoyBoiiAT on social media. In the video, he can be heard repeatedly saying, “Bust his ass.” In an interview with The Star, he asked that his real name not be used because he is black and fears reprisals from hate groups.
By Saturday, his post had been viewed more than 160,000 times on Twitter and, before being taken down, shared more than 1,000 times on Facebook.
The Star left phone messages to the man in the polo shirt and wrote messages to the Proud Boys Kansas City chapter seeking comment, but neither responded.
The Proud Boys organization was created in 2016 by Gavin McInnes, the departed co-founder of the media company Vice. It was McInnes who instructed members to wear the Fred Perry shirts, to the chagrin of the clothing label.
On the website for its Kansas City chapter, the group describes itself as an all-male “western chauvinist” fraternal organization. The Proud Boys describe their ideology as anti-politically correct and anti-white guilt, refusing to be shamed into accepting blame for “slavery, the wage gap, ableism, and some gay-bashing that went on two generations ago.”
They claim to reject racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of hate. When Jason Kessler, himself a former Proud Boy member, organized the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., McInnes encouraged the Proud Boys to not attend.
Yet the group was prominent at a far-right rally that turned violent this summer in Oregon. And ahead of this year’s Unite the Right rally in Washington, D.C., Twitter suspended several of the group’s accounts, citing a “policy prohibiting violent extremist groups.”
Because of the Proud Boys’ ideologies, close relationships with prominent racist provocateurs and misogynistic and anti-Muslim rhetoric, experts are sounding alarms.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Proud Boys as one of the latest entries in a growing list of hypermasculine, hostile, conservative white nationalist groups, including the Alt-Knights and Oath Keepers, that appear to have been emboldened by the election of President Donald Trump.
“The Proud Boys are a cover for white supremacists,” says Leonard Zeskind, president of the Kansas City-based Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights.
“They aren’t white nationalists; they haven’t declared a white nationalist state. But they want to get supremacy — political, economic, cultural — every form of supremacy, to white people or ‘people of the West.’”
Zeskind, a MacArthur Fellow and author of “Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream,” has spent decades studying extremist movements and hate groups. He says the institute estimates the Proud Boys to have as many as 3,000 members in America since its founding two years ago.
“It’s a growing movement,” he says. ”People need to be educated about them. People need to understand that in the last couple of years, different white supremacist organizations have been growing rapidly. And we have a new dawn of problems we’re facing and we should get ready for those real problems.”