The all-male, alt-right group gained notoriety after it was referenced during this week’s presidential debate
Earlier this week (September 29), during the first presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, the latter was given the chance to publicly condemn right-wing violence. Instead, he launched an attack on left-wing activists, before telling an alt-right, anti-immigrant group called the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” (not a good look).
Unsurprisingly, the Proud Boys leapt on the statement as an endorsement of their extensive history of violence against left-wing and anti-fascist protesters, such as Black Lives Matter activists, as well as a call to arms ahead of the upcoming election.
Reports also state that Trump’s comments have led to a spike in recruitments, with one member telling the Sunday Times in the wake of the televised debate: “I imagine people in Joe Biden’s camp are kicking him for bringing attention to us.”
On Twitter, however, people are reclaiming #ProudBoys with their own kind of pride, flooding the hashtag with photos of happy (and obviously proud) gay couples.
The actor and activist George Takei seems at least partly responsible for the idea, referencing the past efforts of TikTokers and K-pop stans to drown out Trump supporters in an October 1 tweet that reads: “What if gay guys took pictures of themselves making out with each other or doing very gay things, then tagged themselves with #ProudBoys. I bet it would mess them up real bad.”
Reassuringly, Twitter showed up, replacing a hashtag that’s usually dedicated to the idea that white men and Western culture are under siege – and therefore engages in misogyny, homophobia, racism, and violence in order to “protect” those values – with messages of love, positivity, and the good kind of pride.
View a selection of the posts below, and revisit Dazed’s recent explainer for a brief history of the Proud Boys.