The Mercury News

The Proud Boys now mock Trump

- By Sheera Frenkel

After the presidenti­al election last year, the Proud Boys, a far-right group, declared its undying loyalty to President Donald Trump.

In a Nov. 8 post in a private channel of the messaging app Telegram, the group urged its followers to attend protests against an election that it said had been fraudulent­ly stolen from Trump. “Hail Emperor Trump,” the Proud Boys wrote.

But by this week, the group’s attitude toward Trump had changed. “Trump will go down as a total failure,” the Proud Boys said in the same Telegram channel Monday.

As Trump departed the White House on Wednesday, the Proud Boys, once among his staunchest supporters, have also started leaving his side. In dozens of conversati­ons on social media sites like Gab and Telegram, members of the group have begun calling Trump a “shill” and “extraordin­arily weak,” according to messages reviewed by The New York Times. They have also urged supporters to stop attending rallies and protests held for Trump or the Republican Party.

The comments are a startling turn for the Proud Boys, which for years backed Trump and promoted political violence. Led by Enrique Tarrio, many of its thousands of members were such diehard fans of Trump that they offered to serve as his private militia and celebrated after he told them in a presidenti­al debate last year to “stand back and stand by.” On Jan. 6, some Proud Boys members stormed the U.S. Capitol.

But since then, discontent with Trump, who later condemned the violence, has boiled over. On social media, Proud Boys participan­ts have complained about his willingnes­s to leave office and said his disavowal of the Capitol rampage was an act of betrayal. And Trump, cut off on Facebook and Twitter, has been unable to talk directly to them to soothe their concerns or issue new rallying cries.

“When Trump told them that if he left office, America would fall into an abyss, they believed him,” Arieh Kovler, a political consultant and independen­t researcher in Israel who studies the far right, said of the Proud Boys. “Now that he has left office, they believe he has both surrendere­d and failed to do his patriotic duty.”

The shift raises questions about the strength of the support for Trump and suggests that pockets of his fan base are starting to fracture. Many of Trump’s fans still falsely believe he was deprived of office, but other far-right groups such as the Oath Keepers, America First and the Three Percenters have also started criticizin­g him in private Telegram channels, according to a review of messages.

Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, could not be reached for comment. A spokespers­on for Trump did not respond to a request for comment.

The Proud Boys urged their members to attend “Stop the Steal” rallies. One Nov. 23 message on a Proud Boys Telegram page read, “No Trump, no peace.” The message linked to informatio­n about a rally in front of the governor’s home in Georgia.

 ?? DIANA ZEYNEB ALHINDAWI — THE NEW YORK TIMES ?? There are signs of fraying support by members of the Proud Boys for former President Donald Trump.
DIANA ZEYNEB ALHINDAWI — THE NEW YORK TIMES There are signs of fraying support by members of the Proud Boys for former President Donald Trump.

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