In the months before the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, researchers at the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project noticed that the extremist group the Proud Boys had become more heavily intertwined with Donald Trump’s reelection bid. Members of the group had increasingly appeared at rallies explicitly focused on Trump’s reelection and, after the election, at rejecting his election loss. Then, of course, members of the groups were prominently involved in the riot itself, leading to seditious conspiracy charges.
Since that point, the group has not been entirely quiet. On Monday, ACLED shared data about one new nexus of Proud Boys activity: protests and events focused on LGBTQ issues.
The Proud Boys have shown up to protest drag shows in various states, for example, and have served as protesters at events focused on showing support for the gay community. At times, those appearances have devolved into violence.
ACLED shares its data publicly, including robust documentation of when and how events are included in its database. That allows us to see the progression of the Proud Boys’ involvement in LGBTQ-related activity since Joe Biden was inaugurated — and the national scope of the activity.
In the first quarter of 2021, after Jan. 20, ACLED tracked Proud Boys involvement in 20 events or protests. Only three were related to LGBTQ issues. As LGBTQ-related issues became a talking point in right-wing political circles (as with the passage of a law restricting discussion of same-sex relationships in Florida schools earlier this year), Proud Boys involvement in events with that focus increased. In the second quarter of this year, a third of the group’s 40 appearances were focused on or involved LGBTQ issues. In the third quarter, with the midterms looming, more than half did.
Every American has a right to peacefully protest, of course, though the Proud Boys’ appearances do not always fall into that category. If anything, the group’s engagement in anti-LGBTQ activity serves as a thermometer for where the political right is putting pressure.
In worst-case situations, the presence of the extremist group foreshadows the risk or threat of violence. That’s particularly concerning, given the deadly shooting this past weekend at an LGBTQ club in Colorado.