KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Proud Boys are a fairly new group, but their values and actions have landed a lot of members on the FBI’s watch list.
Experts say the Proud Boys emerged during the 2016 election and were involved in the 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville.
Now, officials say news of a chapter here in the Kansas City area should concern residents.
Three metro men were arrested this week for their involvement in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol Documents from the FBI say William Chrestman, Christopher Kuehne and Louis Colon are affiliated with the Kansas City Proud Boys. Federal officials say the Proud Boys helped lead the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver, a member of the Homeland Security Committee, said the Proud Boys have been on their radar for a while.
“We saw what happened in the Capitol. I was right there when it was, as it was taking place. I know firsthand what they can and what they will do. I’ve spoken to police officers who were trying to hold them back,” Cleaver said. “But never, ever, ever in my wildest dreams thought that I would read about or hear about those individuals here in my own community.”
Charging documents for the three KC-area men arrested reveal there’s a Kansas City chapter of the Proud Boys. The group gives members challenge coins.
Megan Brooker, visiting professor at University of Kansas, said the Proud Boys call themselves Western Chauvinists, but their values and ideals are similar to white supremacist groups even though leaders claim they’re not.
“They’ve got these local chapters. There are said to be initiation rituals. Some folks have kind of classified it similar to gang behavior,” Brooker said. “By and large, the local chapters operate autonomously.”
Brooker said this group is concerning because of their repeated patterns of violence.
“They’ve ranked membership in essentially four tiers. To move up the tiers of membership in the group requires violence, both you enduring a beating from other members and then rising up by either engaging in physical violence or getting arrested for the cause,” Brooker said.
Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights executive director Devin Burghart told The Kansas City Star that Kansas City has a growing chapter of Proud Boys. He said his organization has documented more than 40 members of the local chapter.
Cleaver said the group poses a serious threat to national security.
“I do think that we’ve got to be vigilant in our country because I think this escalation is not over,” he said. “I don’t think that the Jan. 6 event is over.”
The three KC area men who have been charged are all scheduled to appear in court in the next few weeks.