On Saturday, 26 June, 2022, Georgia saw something not seen in about four years: mobilization from a local Proud Boys chapter. That afternoon and evening, two different pro-abortion protests gathered in downtown Atlanta, at Liberty Plaza by the Georgia State Capitol and at the CNN center, respectively.
As the protests began, about 15 Proud Boys in colors and with their flags gathered on the opposite side of the Georgia State Capitol. The group was outnumbered and outgunned by armed protest security and quickly dispersed, but their appearance raises concerns about the reactivation of a Georgia chapter.
An Incomplete History of the Proud Boys
The Proud Boys are a neo-fascist street movement with some chapters that function similar to militias. The group was founded in 2016 by Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes and is named after a song from the Broadway adaptation of the Disney movie Aladdin. The group is only open to cis men joining and has four membership levels. The requirements at the different levels include taking an oath, getting punched by other members while naming breakfast cereals, agreeing not to masturbate (with silly exceptions we will not be going into), getting a Proud Boys tattoo, and getting into a street fight for the group.
The chapters of the group serve as shock troops for the Christian far-right. Members of the group have an extremely long history of getting into fights with anyone they believe is “antifa”, “BLM”, or “groomers”. This often results in the Proud Boys attacking any somewhat progressive demonstrators they see, assaulting journalists, and beating up unhoused people. The group also enjoys partaking in copious amounts of cocaine and, up to the level of their former national president, snitching to federal law enforcement. The group was present at the Charlottesville, Virginia “Unite the RIght Rally” and was heavily involved in the planning and leading on the ground of the 6 January 2021 storming of the US Capitol.
Since their inception, the Proud Boys have been especially active in California, the Pacific Northwest, New York City, DC metro, and south Florida. Outside of the Miami area, barring appearances in Richmond and Charlottesville, Virginia, the Dirty South’s chud milieu consisted more heavily of militia types. This may be changing.
The Georgia Proud Boys, a Short-Lived Group
Pitiful and limited Proud Boy organizing in Georgia occurred in Georgia following the group’s founding. A Georgia chapter of the Proud Boys appeared in early to mid-2017. However, the group did little publicly, aside from hanging out in Piedmont Park with Three Percenters for a “MARCH AGAINST SHARIA” from mistakenly trying to find “ANTIFA” in Little Five Points one day then hiding behind the police. The group’s most prominent member was Yosef (Josef) Ozia, who was featured on Milo’s blog, where he complained about being discriminated against as a Black conservative and Proud Boy by the Atlanta vegan scene. After 2017 the group essentially went silent.
Despite Georgia lacking an active local Proud Boys chapter, the Proud Boys still made appearances in Georgia. Most notably, Proud Boy leadership including Enrique “Federal Snitch” Tarrio and Jeremy “Stabbed in DC” Bertino showed up at the Georgia State Capitol along with a host of other far-right grifters in the wake of the 2020 Presidential election during the #StopTheSteal movement. The #StopeTheSteal movement reached its climax with the Storming of the US Capitol.
Which brings us to 2022. After the announced repeal of Roe v Wade on Friday, 24 June 2022, demonstrations broke out across the country, including in Atlanta.
Proud Boys Fail to Threaten Pro-Choice Demonstrations
On Saturday, 25 June 2022, two demonstrations were called, one starting at the CNN Center and another at Liberty Plaza. Just after 5pm, activists on the ground spotted a group of Proud Boys in colors and carrying Proud Boys flags at the northeast corner of the intersection of Washington and MLK. Eventually, they relocated to Central Ave across from the Georgia State Capitol, the opposite side of where the pro-abortion protest was. After standing around, the group returned to their trucks in the northwest corner lot of Washington and MLK. After loitering in the lot, the group departed in a convoy a mere two hours after they arrived.
On the ground, the group was met by armed antifascist security for the protest, who were prepared for exactly this situation. The Proud Boys kept their distance from the armed security group (a combination of the Atlanta Justice Alliance and the GA Wall of Vets) and likely because of the armed security group never made it more than a city block away from their cars and interacted minimally with pro-abortion protestors.
The police were also on the scene on the ground and in a helicopter. Based on the police radio scanner, the Atlanta Police Department was explicitly monitoring the Proud Boys via helicopter and sharing updates on them from the ground and the air.
The Proud Boys convoy consisted of three pickup trucks, at least one of which had a Georgia license and, bizarrely, a large vehicle (either a repurposed food truck or armored truck) with a Proud Boys paint job and a Proud Boys logo on the side and back. The logo consisted of a bulldog (a rip-off from one of the University of Georgia’s logos), “GPB [Georgia Proud Boys] Pipe Hitters Union, Local 59” (“Pipe Hitters” is a cringe vetbro term), and the phrase “Founded 16, Revived 21, Honesty, Loyalty, Integrity”. The design of the logo is reminiscent of a union logo.
As the Proud Boys left downtown, radio chatter from the police suggests that one of the vehicles was pulled over and cited for covering the license plate. At least two of the four convoy vehicles had their plates taped over, maybe all of them. In the radio conversation, the police mentioned that the plates were from Stockbridge, Georgia, a suburb about 20 miles southeast of Atlanta. The use of the UGA bulldogs logo could indicate members live near Athens, Georgia, where UGA sits, or are graduates of UGA.
Bad Omen for Midterms
The presence of the Proud Boys in Downtown Atlanta was, more than anything, a surprise. There have been no public indications of the group’s reformation, which (based on the paint job) reformed in 2021. While garden variety chuds and maybe even some Three Percenters were expected, the Proud Boys were not.
While the group on Saturday acted largely defanged when met with resistance, their presence raises fears. Georgia gained national and international attention in 2020 as the state’s voters turned it purple, which contributed directly to the outpouring of conspiracy theories about the election in Georgia. Midterm elections are approaching in November of 2022, when one of Georgia’s US Senate Seats and the governor and secretary of state seats are up for grabs.
Groups on the left and right both view the 2022 midterm elections as a dry run for 2024. Despite the negative attention the Proud Boys gained internationally in the aftermath of 6 January 2021 and ensuing legal action against them, the Proud Boys have remained extremely violent wherever they are active. Because of the central roles the Proud Boys played in election violence in 2020, the new Georgia chapter may be planning further action around the 2022 midterms. As such, it’s possible this outing was the group’s first test outing in public. If so, it was a resounding failure on their part.