The Federal Bureau of Investigation "categorizes the Proud Boys as an extremist group with ties to white nationalism," according to a report by the Clark County Sheriff's Office.
Founded in 2016, the Proud Boys have been regular fixtures at Patriot Prayer–organized protests in downtown Portland, with many erupting in violence over the last two years. A prominent member of both the Proud Boys and the Vancouver-based group allegedly assaulted an African-American teenager outside the Vancouver Mall earlier this year.
The FBI's designation was made public in an internal affairs report by the Clark County Sheriff's Office in Vancouver, Washington.
"The FBI has warned local law enforcement agencies that the Proud Boys are actively recruiting in the Pacific Northwest and that some Proud Boys members have contributed to the recent escalation of violence at political rallies held on college campuses, and in cities like Charlottesville, Virginia, Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington," the report said.
The internal affairs report was obtained by The Sparrow Project, a nonprofit, and first reported on by The Guardian. Clark County Prosecuting Attorney Tony Golik attended the meeting and confirmed to OPB that local law enforcement and deputy prosecutors were briefed by the FBI on Aug. 2 in Clark County.
When reached for comment, the FBI did not provide details about the meeting. But an FBI spokesperson said the agency regularly assesses “possible threats and works closely to share that information with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners.”
Golik said the intelligence briefing included discussion of the Proud Boys, Antifa and militia groups. He said the oral presentation lasted about an hour and a half and touched on “where these different groups are geographically, the belief systems of these groups and evidence of criminal conduct that had been gathered by the FBI.”
The intelligence briefing was conducted by agents from the FBI’s Washington field office in Seattle. Golik said the FBI was invited to hold the briefing by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. He said the briefing was also attended by the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office, Vancouver Police Department and Clark County deputy prosecutors. Members of the Portland Police Bureau did not attend the briefing.
“At this time, I am not aware of any Portland Police Bureau members who have attended briefings with the FBI on this matter,” Sgt. Chris Burley said in a statement to OPB.
The briefing was held just days before a highly publicized protest on Aug. 4. Proud Boys and members of Patriot Prayer violently clashed with Antifa along Portland's waterfront. Portland police came under heavy criticism for their response to the Aug. 4 protest after several people opposing the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer were injured.
The Clark County report covers an incident in which the Sheriff's Office found Deputy Erin Willey violated several department policies. She was fired in July for her involvement with the Proud Boys and the Proud Boys Girls after The Columbian published a photo of Willey wearing a sweatshirt with a Proud Boys logo.
“Erin’s participation with Proud Boys and Proud Boys Girls is a violation of at least two policies and her oath of office,” the Clark County report states. “The Sheriff’s Office concluded that Erin Willey either knew or should have known that any affiliation with or promotion of a group which openly discriminates and is openly anti-government may undermine or erode the public’s confidence and trust in the Sheriff’s Office.”
Investigators wrote that Willey videotaped her then-boyfriend, who was a member of the Proud Boys, as he engaged in a “beating ritual,” the report states.
The report notes the Proud Boys require “a physical assault” to obtain full membership, demanding members fight with members of Antifa or get arrested.
In August, following the completion of the internal investigation — but before it was released publicly — the Clark County Sheriff's Office and the prosecuting attorney released a joint statement against hate and bigotry.
“Our employees need to hear it, the community needs to hear it, and those who might bring violence or intimidation to our community need to hear it,” said Sheriff Chuck Atkins.