Special Report

The Proud Boys Are Now the Largest Hate Group in the Country

The term “hate group” has a very specific definition. Hate groups “vilify others because of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Closely related to these are anti-government groups, which are often put into the same category. 

Of the 733 hate groups and 488 anti-government groups in the United States, the Proud Boys is the largest. It has 72 active chapters around the country, up from 43 the year before, according to the SPLC’s Hate Map. (Also see, states with the most active hate groups per person.)

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” and deny connection to racism and misogyny. Still, they often spew white nationalists, misogynists, and anti-Muslims rhetoric, according to the SPLC

Founded in 2016, the Proud Boys have several levels of “membership,” according to Vox. The group gained notoriety when President Donald Trump mentioned them in a nationally televised debate in September 2020, telling them to “stand back and stand by.” A few months later, several members played a role in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. (Here are 26 far right hate symbols and what they mean.)

Dozens of group members and several leaders have since been indicted for their roles in the attack, including on charges of seditious conspiracy.

Public violence is not the only hallmark of hate groups. Not all of these organizations have armed, mask-wearing members, but all of them promote bigotry or discrimination in one form or another. Waltham, Massachusetts-based Mass Resistance targets members of the LGBTQ community, while Washington D.C.-based ACT for America uses a backdrop of legitimacy as a 501(c)(3)-registered, i.e. a nonprofit group, to stoke fear of Muslims.

See 24/7 Wall St.’s list of the largest hate groups in America.

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