Two members of the far-right Proud Boys who clashed with left-wing protesters outside a Republican club in New York City last year, reportedly while shouting homophobic slurs, have each been sentenced to four years in prison for their part in the brawl.
About 80 protesters, many identifying with the antifascist, or Antifa, movement, had gathered outside the Metropolitan Republican Club on Manhattan’s Upper East Side the evening of October 12, 2018, when Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes was speaking at the club. The fight began about 8:15 p.m., with Proud Boys members “brutally beating and kicking several individuals while shouting ‘faggot’ and ‘cocksucker,’ reportedly because one of [the protesters] stole one of their MAGA hats,” ThinkProgress reported at the time.
Ten people connected with the Proud Boys were charged in the incident, with seven having pleaded guilty and one awaiting trial, The New York Times reports. The remaining two, Maxwell Hare and John Kinsman, were sentenced Tuesday in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan. (In New York the Supreme Court is not the highest court; that is the Court of Appeal.) Both had been convicted in August of attempted gang assault, attempted assault, and rioting.
The victims had refused to cooperate with police, so “the defendants were charged with attempted assault, which requires evidence of intent to cause injury, rather than assault, which requires evidence of injury,” according to the Times.
Lawyers for Hare and Kinsman said the protesters attacked the Proud Boys members, but surveillance video indicated the Proud Boys were very much the aggressors, the Times reports. McInnes, although not involved in the trial, had also claimed the protesters were to blame. Hare and Kinsman said they acted in self-defense; to undercut this assertion, prosecutors showed video of them celebrating after the brawl.
McInnes, who has cut ties with the Proud Boys while denying that either he or the group is racist, is known for his disparaging remarks about liberals, feminists, transgender people, and Muslims. He calls himself an advocate for Western culture. He also says he is not homophobic, but he once said journalist Michael Wolff is unreliable because he has “gay face.” Wolff is best known as author of the book Fire and Fury, an exposé of Donald Trump’s administration.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a liberal watchdog organization, has classified the Proud Boys as a hate group, noting that “rank-and-file Proud Boys and leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists” and “are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric.” McInnes has sued the SPLC over the designation.
The prosecution team invoked some of McInnes’s rhetoric at the trial, saying that despite his denials of racism, he had once referred to President Barack Obama as a “monkey.” Prosecutors described McInnes as a “hatemonger” and said he spurred his followers to violence.
Supreme Court Justice Mark Dwyer did not mention McInnes’s name when pronouncing sentence, but he did make a remark aimed at McInnes, the Times reports. “It’s a shame when some people jump up and down on a platform, and their followers, their soldiers, get in trouble,” Dwyer said.