In an October 2020 report, the Department of Homeland Security singled out white supremacist violent extremism as a leading threat to national security. Only three months later, on Jan. 6, 2021, thousands of rioters, including white supremacists and other extremist groups, stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. One of those groups call themselves the “Proud Boys.” (Here is a look at the politicians who got behind the stolen election lie.)
The Proud Boys are a self-described “pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world, aka Western Chauvinists.” The group gained notoriety in September 2020, when, during a nationally-televised debate, President Donald Trump mentioned them by name, telling them to “stand back and stand by” after being asked by the moderator to condemn white supremacy and extremism.
Since their founding in 2016, the Proud Boys have regularly denied allegations of racism and misogyny leveled at them. And while the public might take issue with their ideology, their right to express it – bigoted or not – is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Constitutional rights only go so far, however, and unlike the freedom of speech, sedition is not covered in the Bill of Rights. In the two years since the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, 48 Proud Boys have been brought up on charges connected to the insurrection. Among them are five group leaders, charged by a federal grand jury with seditious conspiracy, who now face up to 20 years in prison.
As the Proud Boys have taken the national spotlight, their ranks have expanded. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights advocacy group, there were 72 active Proud Boy chapters in the U.S. in 2021, up from 43 the previous year. The increase came as the overall number of hate groups nationwide fell from 838 in 2020 to 733 in 2021. (Here is a look at America’s largest hate groups.)
Using data from the SPLC, 24/7 Wall St. identified the states where the number of Proud Boy chapters has expanded since the Jan. 6 insurrection. The 19 states that reported an increase in Proud Boy chapters are listed in alphabetical order. We also considered demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey.
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