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The far-right men’s organization “Proud Boys” violently beat two or three apparent protesters Friday night following a Republican event in Manhattan.
About 30 members of the group — who describe themselves as “Western chauvinists” and have frequently aligned themselves with avowed neo-Nazis — participated in the beating, some screaming threats and slurs at the individuals, according to video and an eyewitness account.
Although New York Police Department officers were present at the time of the attack, none of the Proud Boys were arrested for the beatdown.
However, separately, three other protesters were arrested for attacking a person leaving the event.
Police have not yet explained why there were no arrests made in the assault on the protesters, despite multiple inquiries by BuzzFeed News on Saturday. The NYPD later released a statement saying that it was reviewing video and evidence to determine if additional crimes were committed.
“There is no tolerance for violence anywhere in New York City, and the NYPD will do everything in its power to ensure public safety,” the statement said.
The beating followed a speech at the Metropolitan Republican Club by Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, in which he reenacted the samurai sword assassination of Japanese socialist leader Inejiro Asanuma, calling it an “inspiring moment.” The club advertised the event on its Facebook page saying, “Banned from Twitter — this Godfather of the Hipster Movement has taken on and exposed the Deep State Socialists and stood up for Western Values.”
McInnes, who was also a cofounder of Vice Media, was suspended from Twitter in August, along with the group’s main account, @ProudBoysUSA, for violating its policy on “violent extremist groups.”
Ahead of Friday’s event, the Metropolitan Republican Club’s headquarters had been vandalized with anarchist symbols and broken windows and doors, according to the New York Times. There was a note left that said that the vandalism was related to McInnes’s upcoming appearance.
“Last night the Metropolitan Republican Club was vandalized by the leftist hate group Antifa, who also left a note promising ‘this is just the beginning’ and threatening more violence,” the group posted to Facebook.
Shay Horse, a 25-year-old photojournalist from Brooklyn who was at the scene, told BuzzFeed News that the incident started after police escorted the event attendees — which included the Proud Boys — out of the building at the conclusion of the event.
McInnes was not present for the melee and had been escorted out earlier, carrying the samurai sword, and driven away by a car waiting outside the venue.
“There was a big group of like 30 of them, and they came out grunting … trying to hype each other up,” Horse said. The photojournalist said that police walked them only as far as the corner and did not make them disperse.
The NYPD said that police officers had been assigned to monitor the protest outside of the Metropolitan Republican Club on East 83rd Street and that there were no incidents at that location.
The beating occurred about two blocks away.
Horse said he saw “two or three bodies on the ground” and the Proud Boys all beating them in a group.
Members of the Proud Boys told Horse the brawl began when the protesters knocked a “Make America Great Again” hat off a member’s head.
“I heard them screaming and swearing at some guy on the ground,” Horse said. “They were beating the shit out of him and kicking him in the head. One guy had his foot on the guy’s neck.”
The Proud Boys also screamed slurs and threats at the people on the ground, Horse said. “One dude started screaming, ‘Do you feel brave now, faggot?’”
Horse said he saw one of the victims’ faces was swollen and “was totally on the ground, couldn’t even talk. … They just had their limbs up in a half guard.”
“It was just a pummeling — it wasn’t really a fight, because the three people never really got a chance to even stand up,” he said.
Then, a police officer rolled up on a scooter and “just went totally slack-jawed and stared at the fight,” Horse said.
Horse said he yelled “Do something!” at the cop, who then “ran into the crowd flailing his arms saying, ‘That’s enough, that’s enough.’”
Freelance reporter Sandi Bachom captured video of the police response.
The Proud Boys then peeled off — without being arrested or questioned by police — and made their way to a bar downtown. The people who were beaten hobbled off with their arms around each other for support, Horse said.
Three people were arrested nearby, in what appears to have been a separate clash following the Proud Boys event. In a tweet, Rebecca Kavanagh, a senior staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society, suggested that the subjects arrested had been “anti-racist protestors” demonstrating the McInnes event.
NYPD told BuzzFeed News that at around 8:40 p.m. Friday, the officers saw the three people assaulting someone a few blocks from the event at East 84th Street and Third Avenue.
Police said they would not “confirm any known group association or whether or not they attended the event you reference or attack on anyone who did attend.”
The individuals — identified as Caleb Perkins, 35; Kai Russo, 20; and Finbarr Slonim, 20 — were arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on Saturday.
All three face two counts of assault and one count each of larceny, aggravated harassment, attempted assault, and harassment, according to court documents. Perkins also faces one count of resisting arrest.
According to court documents, Perkins, Russo, and Slonim struck the victim in the face and that another person who was not arrested took the victim’s backpack. The victim refused medical attention and is cooperating with police, the complaint states.
Gavin Wax, the publisher of the online news site the Schpiel, attended the Proud Boys event and witnessed the alleged assault by the protesters. Wax told BuzzFeed News that he and a friend were walking toward the subway when they saw two masked individuals approach a person “who was backpedalling with his fists up” on Third Avenue.
“He was sweating. He had bruises on his face and he was calling for help,” Wax said.
Wax said he and his friend then ran over and “split them up.” At that point, Wax said, the victim yelled out that another man who was nearby with several others had his backpack and ran toward the group.
“He ran and they chased and we chased,” Wax said.
Wax said they ended up at the corner of 84th and Third, where the assailants started chanting, “He’s a Nazi. He’s a Nazi; don’t defend him.”
Police arrived and arrested three individuals, while others ran off, Wax said.
Wax’s friend Jake Freijo corroborated his account and told BuzzFeed News the victim was visibly “distraught” and had “a few contact marks on his face” that were purplish in color “turning to black and blue.”
“He was very overwhelmed and he asked us to help him,” Freijo said.
Moira Meltzer-Cohen, an attorney for Perkins, Russo, and Slonim, told BuzzFeed News Saturday that she does not “believe that the allegations are going to hold water” after an investigation into Friday’s incidents. Though NYPD statements identified Slonim as a man, Meltzer-Cohen said Slonim identifies as a woman. She declined to comment further.
NYPD ignored multiple emails from BuzzFeed News asking why the Proud Boys members were not arrested for the violent assault, while protesters were. In a phone call following up on BuzzFeed News’ emails, police said they are “researching a response.”
Several New York elected officials — all Democrats — expressed outrage over the violence, and called on the NYPD and the New York City District Attorney’s Office to take action against the Proud Boys, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on the FBI to investigate the incidents involving the Proud Boys. He also directed the State Police Hate Crimes Unit to coordinate with the FBI and NYPD on their investigations “and any additional acts of violence or discrimination” by the group across the state.
“Authorities must review these videos immediately and make arrests and prosecute as appropriate,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Hate cannot and will not be tolerated in New York.”
Cuomo questioned why the club invited a “hate group with a history of inciting violence.” He also blamed President Trump for “demonizing differences, fanning the flames of racism and division and creating a fire of hatred and violence.”
The governor said, “These vile acts of racism, division and discrimination are repugnant to American values, and have no place in our state.”New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson also called on the police department to thoroughly investigate the incident.
“NYC needs to send a message that violence and bigotry are not welcome anywhere in America and certainly not in the five boroughs,” Johnson said in a statement. He urged the NYPD to find the attackers. “New York is the most proudly diverse city in the world, and the ‘Proud Boys” and their loathsome brand of intolerance represent the opposite of everything we stand for,” he said.
And New York Public Advocate Letitia James called on the NYPD to arrest all the Proud Boys involved in the beating.
“I am disturbed and disgusted by the videos I’ve seen of members of the neo-fascist, white supremacist Proud Boys group engaging in hate-fueled mob violence on the streets of New York City,” James said. “New York will not become the next Charlottesville, and we refuse to let the actions of a hateful few define our City.”
James said she would also urge the district attorney to pursue hate crime charges due to “the clear homophobic and anti-immigrant sentiments expressed in the videos.”
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood echoed the sentiments, saying on Twitter that “hate has no place in New York.”
“This warrants immediate and thorough investigation by the NYPD to bring the perpetrators to justice,” Underwood said. Her office declined to comment further.