PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Members of the far-right group Proud Boys celebrated after President Trump mentioned them by name during Tuesday night’s presidential debate, directing them to “stand back and stand by.”
The Proud Boys is considered a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League. Members of the group have been arrested for violence during protests in the Portland area.
When asked during the debate if he would condemn white supremacists, Trump asked, “What do you want to call them? Give me a name.” When the Proud Boys group was suggested by former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump did not outright rebuke them.
Many in Trump’s own party have since questioned why the president didn’t take the opportunity to do so.
“This should be the easiest thing for any president to answer: ‘White supremacy is bad, white supremacy hurts Americans, white supremacy is corrosive and has no place in my campaign, then end,'” Randy Blazak, chair of the Oregon Coalition Against Hate Crimes, told KOIN 6 News.
Watchdog groups have labeled the Proud Boys as white supremacists, antisemitic, Islamophobic, transphobic and misogynistic. Others describe the group as a man’s drinking fraternity. There are chapters all over the world.
The group’s president, Enrique Tarrio, is Cuban and claims the Proud Boys has members of all races.
“The worst things, inaccurate things that you could call my organization is white supremacist,” he told KOIN 6 News.
Dr. Blazak, who has spent his entire career studying hate groups, said the Proud Boys is not a classic white supremacist group.
“It’s more of a nationalist group,” he said. “A nationalist group that utilizes some of the tools that white supremacists use like xenophobia, or oppositions to Islam, or oppositions to liberal values in America.”
Despite Proud Boys merchandise being sold online featuring the words “stand back and stand by,” Tarrio said he doesn’t see the president’s words as an endorsement.
“No, the Proud Boys are not standing by, ready to do Trump’s bidding, that’s not the thing,” he said. “My personal interpretation of what he meant by ‘stand back’ is let the police do their job, which is something that we did also,” he said.
Meanwhile, Amazon announced it would be removing t-shirts with the words “stand back, stand by” sold on its site.
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