The Canadian government has expelled the Proud Boys, an extreme right-wing hate group, as a terrorist organization after their involvement in the January 6 uprising in the US Capitol.
The Canadian government cited the group's commitment to violence against Black Lives Matter protesters and its “central role” in the uprising as reasons for the nomination.
The designation enables the Canadian government to turn away members of the Proud Boys at the border and remove their internet postings within Canada, as well as impose penalties on anyone involved with their property or finances. While the group was founded in 2016 in the US, where it remains the most widespread, there are semi-autonomous chapters in Canada.
"Acts of violence have no place in Canadian society or abroad," Canadian Public Security Minister Bill Blair said in a statement. "Canadians expect their government to protect them and keep up with evolving threats and global trends, such as the growing threat of ideologically motivated violent extremism."
Canada's decision to expel the Proud Boys as a terrorist organization has put pressure on US authorities to do the same. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that the Biden government's national security team is currently investigating "violence and this type of group activity across the country" and will make a decision on how to proceed once this review is completed.
The Congressional Research Service has alleged that the Capitol riot was an act of domestic terrorism within the meaning of federal regulations and laws and determined that the FBI has identified the Proud Boys' criminal activities as a threat to domestic terrorism. Currently, however, the US government does not officially designate domestic groups as terrorist organizations – this designation is reserved for foreign actors.
Former President Donald Trump had previously called for the left-wing militant group Antifa to be expelled as a domestic terrorist group. However, this would have required the creation of a new legal mechanism. It is possible that Congress could pass legislation to create this mechanism, but that would raise concerns about the government's use of the term to violate freedom of speech under the First Amendment and to target specific ideologies. Should the Biden government try to identify the Proud Boys as domestic terrorists, they would likely face the same dilemma.
Individual proud boys have begun to face legal ramifications for their roles in the Capitol Rising
Members of the Proud Boys are being prosecuted for their role in events prior to and including the Capitol uprising.
The group's leader, Henry "Enrique" Tarrio, was arrested two days before the uprising for allegedly burning a Black Lives Matter banner from a church in northwest Washington after a Stop the Steal rally in December , DC, had been stolen. When he was arrested, the police found him in possession of two high-capacity gun magazines. As a result, he was charged with destroying property and possession of a high capacity feeding device.
Two other members – Dominic Pezzola and William Pepe, both from New York – were charged last week with conspiracy to storm the Capitol. Federal prosecutors said they "were engaged in a conspiracy to obstruct, influence, obstruct and disrupt law enforcement officers who are performing their official duties to protect the U.S. Capitol and its grounds on Jan. 6, 2021."
The group has loudly supported Trump and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, and has appeared in various “stop the steal” rallies across the country. Trump infamously refused to denounce her and other white supremacist organizations during a presidential debate with current President Joe Biden in October and instructed them to "step back and stand by" instead. Trump later downplayed the statement, but many in the group took it as an order, recorded it as a rally, and placed it on their official merchandise.
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