The Proud Boys, who said they came from “all over” to act as “security,” were a controversial presence at a pro Trump rally held across the street from Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, the site of a mass shooting the day before. You can see photos and videos of the Proud Boys and other protesters at Mayfair throughout this story.
Some of the Proud Boys, who made their affiliation openly known on their shirts, masks, and hats, were open carrying large guns, which is legal in Wisconsin with some exceptions, as were other people on the pro Trump side. The Proud Boys have been characterized as an extremist group by organizations that monitor hate groups (learn more about that later in this article); they’ve disputed that descriptor, and there’s no sign that they were anything but peaceful at the Wauwatosa rally.
This video emerged that shows one man putting on a mask with a swastika on it as he stood with Proud Boys. The moment comes at the 5:30 mark.
On their website, they describe their group by saying, in part, “The basic tenet of the group is that we are ‘Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.’ Like Archie Bunker, we long for the days when ‘girls were girls and men were men.’ This wasn’t controversial even twenty years ago, but being proud of Western culture today is like being a crippled, black, lesbian communist in 1953.” It’s a men’s only group.
A contingent of Black Lives Matter protesters was also at the scene. Some of the photos show other protesters, not Proud Boys, who make their presence known with yellow-and black attire.
There was one arrest for disorderly conduct, say Wauwatosa police; they didn’t provide more details about it. We asked them if this conservative news site story was true (it alleges a car driven by a Joe Biden supporter hit Trump supporters and Proud Boys gave aid), and police spokeswoman Abby Pavlik said in an email, “There was an injury crash at Mayfair/North around 10:57a. Two pedestrians sustained minor injuries and the vehicle involved fled the scene. Our Crash Unit is investigating the incident.” We asked her for more details, including whether it was intentional or politically motivated and will add them into this story if received.
The rally featured former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. The theme was showing support for President Donald Trump’s recount efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s margin in Wisconsin, as well as concern over COVID-19 restrictions. Wisconsin is seeing exploding cases of COVID-19.
“We’re from everywhere,” one of the Proud Boys said as a woman with a pink “Women for Trump” sign gushed praise. “Wow, you guys are awesome,” she said. “We were requested to provide security make sure everyone got safe,” the man said.
Some people expressed their disgust on social media, however. This photo shows Proud Boys using the OK hand symbol, which has become associated with white supremacy.
Khalil Coleman, a Black Lives Matter activist in Milwaukee who led protests at Wauwatosa for months, wrote on Facebook, “BE ADVISED. Those are around the mayfair mall incident, please cover your face. Most of these individuals are law enforcement or connected to law enforcement and are taking pictures to retaliate later by placing your face in a database…Rest assured this will be the beginning acts of Civil War 2, WW3. Wisconsin be careful, our place is ground zero and yesterday was the first act of terrorism. Also, the shooter from Kenosha was bailed out for $2 million yesterday, same day of the shooting… WISCONSIN WAKE UP.”
Others urged caution, in all directions.
Remy del Toro, one of the Proud Boys group, said he is from Milwaukee. “We’re patriots,” he explained. “We f***ing love America, love drinking beer. We heard there were going to be a lot of patriots showing up.” He said about 200 Proud Boys came to keep the environment “safe,” and noted that Black Lives Matter was there.
People flew Trump, American and “don’t tread on me” flags from the back of trucks and cars.
Here are some other photos from the rally.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Proud Boys Have Been Characterized as Extremist, a Label They Dispute
The Southern Poverty Law Center labels the Proud Boys extremists, which is a label they disavow. “Their disavowals of bigotry are belied by their actions: rank-and-file Proud Boys and leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists,” the site says. “They are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric. Proud Boys have appeared alongside other hate groups at extremist gatherings like the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville.”
SPLC’s descriptors of the Proud Boys have been disputed by their founder Gavin McInnes, who filed a lawsuit against SPLC, according to the Anti-Defamation League. It was dismissed. “The Proud Boys represent an unconventional strain of American right-wing extremism. While the group can be described as violent, nationalistic, Islamophobic, transphobic and misogynistic, its members represent a range of ethnic backgrounds, and its leaders vehemently protest any allegations of racism,” ADL writes.
During a debate with Biden, Trump controversially told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” before claiming he didn’t know who they were.
This video shows the Proud Boys as they were about to leave following the rally’s end.
This man said they were there for security and that he was from Milwaukee.
This video shows Black Lives Matter protesters and other armed people; one of those armed men said he doesn’t identify with the Proud Boys when a Black Lives Matter protesters asked him. He said he was a “free man” when asked. One woman held a sign that read that she was a Wauwatosa homeowner.
Hundreds Attended the Pro Trump Rally
At its height, according to Wauwatosa police, as many as 600 people lined the streets across from Mayfair. The shooter remains at large and unidentified; he shot and wounded eight people. Police say an altercation sparked the shootings and that they weren’t random, but they haven’t been more specific about it. The police chief has said the shooter is a white male in his 20s or 30s. The rally was planned before the shooting, and it took place across from the mall parking lot, which was barricaded off, preventing vehicle entry.
Here’s more video from earlier in the rally.
At one point, Clarke was “escorted” by Proud Boys at the rally, according to this Twitter user. “Summary of the rally held this morning at the intersection of N Mayfair Rd/W North Ave: Law enforcement monitored the area as 500-600 people lined the sidewalks. No injuries or property damage occurred. One arrest was made for disorderly conduct,” police wrote.
“We appreciate that a majority of the group stayed on the sidewalk which allowed traffic to move through the area. The Wauwatosa Police Department continues to support the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble,” police wrote.
For months, Mayfair Mall has been the focal point of Black Lives Matter/People’s Revolution protests over a fatal shooting by a Wauwatosa police officer, Joseph Mensah, of an armed Black teen who brought a gun into the mall, fled police, and then it discharged. It was Mensah’s third fatal shooting on duty since 2015; all shootings were ruled justified by the Milwaukee County District Attorney; the officer entered into a severance agreement worth about $130,000 in exchange for his resignation shortly before the mass shooting. Mensah is also Black. There’s no evidence at this point that it’s connected, though. The tensions previously boiled over with a People’s Revolution protester discharging a gun in the direction of Mensah on his girlfriend’s private property. That protester has been charged with a felony.
Wauwatosa police on November 21 indicated that they still don’t know who the shooter is; they added, “Investigators are working tirelessly to identify and apprehend the suspect from yesterday’s shooting at Mayfair Mall. We ask that any witnesses to the incident please contact the Wauwatosa Police Department at 414-471-8430.”