Four leaders of the Proud Boys were convicted today of seditious conspiracy in connection to their role in the January 6 nationalist insurrection aimed at overturning the 2020 presidential election. The verdict represents a dramatic victory for federal prosecutors and comes on the heels of the recent conviction of six members of the Oath Keepers on the same charge.
A federal jury found former national chair Enrique Tarrio, Ethan Nordean, Zachary Rehl and Joseph Biggs guilty of the charge. They face up to 20 years in prison. All five defendants were also found guilty of obstructing an official proceeding, including Dominic Pezzola, who was not convicted of seditious conspiracy.
The convictions appeared rooted in federal agents having gained access to more than a half million text messages and group chats from various Proud Boys chapters and the Ministry of Self-Defense, a group of “real men” formed by Tarrio and other leaders in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s call for a “wild” protest in Washington D.C. on January 6.
The Proud Boys and Oath Keepers’ convictions also add a new chapter to the previous failures by the federal government to convict far rightists of seditious conspiracy. Appeals are likely.
While details of the jury’s as-of-yet partial verdict will emerge in coming weeks, the immediate response of Proud Boys chapters’ online was relatively muted for an organization so proud of its obnoxious rhetoric and actions. It was, however, illuminating.
As per the group’s usual mode of operation, several chapters folded the conviction of leaders of this violent, racist and misogynist organization into their general ideology of national dispossession. The Villain City Proud Boys, a group claiming itself “The ONLY chapter in Miami that is nationally recognized,” declared that the “This country is lost!”
The 17, 296 subscriber Proud Boys Telegram channel wrote that, “DC is a communist sh— hole,” and “These people hate you and will not stop until you’re all behind bars or dead.” Proud Boys New Jersey declared the verdict “a sad day not just for our Fraternity but for America as well.” A Telegram page claiming to represent one of eight Ohio-based chapters, circulated a post declaring that “Thought crimes are now real.”
The Official Southeast Texas Proud Boys circulated a post from the virulently racist and antisemitic Natives Telegram channel stating, “This is how liberty dies! I’m in disbelief how the DOJ is weaponized, the judges too. Jury was probably hand picked by liberals.”
Other Proud Boys were less-full-throated in their support for Tarrio, reflecting ongoing rifts between some Proud Boys chapters. The VICE CITY PROUD BOYS, which calls itself the “Official Miami Chapter,” wrote, “The DC jurors found Enrique tarrio (sic) in (sic) many others guilty of sedition. Although he’s somewhat of an (sic) retard (sic) we don’t feel that this type of punishment is warranted for what he did.”
The Sacramento Proud Boys went further, recirculating a video lashing out at Tarrio and those in the organization that followed him. The video, which emphasized that Tarrio had been named in press accounts as a onetime informant for local and federal law enforcement, repeated images of prison scenes interspersed with the following:
“YOU WERE DUPED INTO INFORMING. YOU LET A PROLIFIC INFORMANT IN LEADERSHIP. YOU MADE EXCUSES FOR IT…YOU DESERVE IT…‘THESE ARE GOOD FEDS’ YOU SAID…WE TOLD YOU TELEGRAM WAS NOT SECURE…NOW YOUR INDICTMENTS ARE TELEGRAM LOGS. YOUR FBI HANDLERS MADE YOU FEEL SAFE…ENRIQUE ENCOURAGED YOU TO ‘HEAR THE FEDS OUT.’ DID YOU KNOW HE SET YOU UP? HE CALLED DC COPS ON HIMSELF JAN 5 THINKING YOU WOULD ALL GO DOWN. AND HE COULD KEEP GRIFTING. THE FEDS LET HIM GO SO HE COULD KEEP A NATIONAL STRUCTURE TO KEEP NATIONAL JURISDICTION…SO WHEN THEY BETRAYED THEIR BEST RAT THEY COULD GET RICO OR OTHER CASES ON PB [Proud Boys]. YOU PUT HIM BACK IN CHATS AND FU—- YOUR CLUB BECAUSE SOME OF YOU STILL GET PAID TO HELP THE FBI AND OTHERS ARE FOOLS. IN PRISON YOUR EXCUSES WILL FAIL. NEVER TALK TO A LEO [Law Enforcement Officer]. NEVER INFORM OR COOPERATE.”
Others outside the Proud Boys immediate networks also offered their less-than-two-cents. “Groyper” Dalton Clodfelter, who refers to white nationalist and antisemite Nick Fuentes as an “absolute king,” urged his followers to “Pray for these guys,” also responding with a racial slur to “Free my n—-s” and a posting a photo of himself in Proud Boys garb.
Anthime Gionet, aka Baked Alaska, the antisemite sentenced to two months in prison for his own role in the January 6 insurrection, wrote, “Very very sad. I’m going to do whatever I can to help these guys.” Chris Nelson, a Florida leader of Ammon Bundy’s People’s Rights network and long-time ally of Enrique Tarrio, wrote that the verdict is a “miscarriage of justice.”
More to the point, the Official Cape Fear Proud Boys [Southeastern North Carolina] wrote, “The only effect it will have is to steel our resolve. In the end we will win. By God we’ll have our home again.”
Such declarations come as, unlike the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys chapters continue a visible street presence in various places around the country. With several dozen Telegram channels, a number connected to on-the-ground efforts, Proud Boys have transitioned from pro-Trump reactionaries engaging anti-fascists in street-level conflicts, to COVID-denial fellow-travelers, to January 6 insurrectionists – and most recently, taking up the far right and neo-Nazi cause of targeting LGBTQ+ and drag queen events in numerous cities.
Never movement thinkers, they continue to provide far right muscle. And while no clear national leaders have emerged to replace Tarrio, Nordean and company, the group has shown an ongoing capacity to mobilize in relatively autonomous state and city level chapters.
Despite the convictions, anti-racists will need to continue to fight this group to protect our communities and advance democracy.
 Feuer, Alan and Zach Montague. Four Proud Boys Convicted of Sedition in Key Jan. 6 Case. May 4, 2023. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/04/us/politics/jan-6-proud-boys-sedition.html; Legare, Robert. Enrique Tarrio, three other Proud Boys found guilty of seditious conspiracy. CBS News. May 4, 2023. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/proud-boys-seditious-conspiracy-trial-verdict/
 Official Southeast Texas Proud Boys. Telegram. May 4, 2023. https://t.me/SETexasProudBoys/17515; Natives. Telegram. April 19, 2023. https://t.me/SaveLongIsland/1602; Natives. Telegram. March 2, 2023. https://t.me/SaveLongIsland/1177
 Sacramento Proud Boys. Telegram. May 4, 2023. https://t.me/sacproudboy/18315; Roston, Aram. Exclusive: Proud Boys leader was ‘prolific’ informer for law enforcement. Reuters. January 27, 2021. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-proudboys-leader-exclusive/exclusive-proud-boys-leader-was-prolific-informer-for-law-enforcement-idUSKBN29W1PE
 Baked YE24 Alaska. Telegram. May 4, 2023. https://t.me/BakedAlaska/2605; Rabinowitz, Hannah. Right-wing provocateur ‘Baked Alaska’ sentenced to 2 months in prison for involvement in Capitol riot. CNN Politics. Jaunary 10, 2023. https://edition.cnn.com/2023/01/10/politics/anthime-gionet-baked-alaska-capitol-riot-sentence/index.html; Baked YE24 Alaska. Telegram. November 14, 2022. https://t.me/BakedAlaska/2159; Baked YE24 Alaska. Telegram. January 10, 2023. https://t.me/BakedAlaska/2487
 Nelson, Chris. Telegram. May 4, 2023. https://t.me/chrisnelsonuncensored/19901
 Official Cape Fear Proud Boys. May 4, 2023. https://t.me/capefearproudboys/3004