When hundreds of supporters of President Trump gathered for a Labor Day rally in Oregon, a man in the signature black-and-gold shirt of the Proud Boys approached the crowd with a welcoming smile.
If the Republican activists ever needed security for an event, said the man, Flip Todd, the Proud Boys were available. They had sworn loyalty to the country and the president, he said. “We’ll continue to fight for you.”
It took only a few hours to demonstrate what that might entail. As some in the rally caravanned by car to Salem, the state capital, the Proud Boys joined a group of right-wing demonstrators who rushed across a street and began attacking people who had set up a leftist counterprotest. At one point, a large man in a bulletproof vest knocked a much smaller counterprotester to the ground, an event the Proud Boys celebrated later when they posted video of the attack. “Hulk smash!” it said.
The far-right band of brothers who have turned street thuggery into political theater had not quite become a household name before President Trump was asked about the Proud Boys during Tuesday night’s presidential debate, and whether he would condemn white supremacists: “Proud Boys,” he said, “stand back and stand by.”
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