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What I Learned – Members Of A Far-Right Men’s Group Violently Beat Up Protesters And Weren’t Arrested. New York Police Won’t Say Why.
The NYPD ignored multiple emails from BuzzFeed News asking why Proud Boys members were not arrested for the violent assault.
Far-right men’s organization “Proud Boys” violently beat two or three apparent protesters Friday night following a Republican event in Manhattan.
About 30 members of the group, which is characterized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group and extremist group, participated in the beating, some screaming threats and slurs at the individuals, according to video and an eyewitness account.
Despite New York Police Department officers being present at the time of the attack, none of the Proud Boys were arrested for the beatdown.
However, separately, three other protesters were arrested for attacking a person leaving the event.
Police have not yet explained why there were no arrests made in the assault on the protesters, despite multiple inquiries by BuzzFeed News. The NYPD later released a statement saying that it was reviewing video and evidence to determine if additional crimes were committed.
“There is no tolerance for violence anywhere in New York City, and the NYPD will do everything in its power to ensure public safety,” police said in a statement.
The beating followed an event at the Metropolitan Republican Club, in which Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes reenacted the samurai sword assassination of Japanese socialist leader Inejiro Asanuma, which McInnes called an “inspiring moment.”
The club advertised the event on its Facebook page saying, “Banned from Twitter — this Godfather of the Hipster Movement has taken on and exposed the Deep State Socialists and stood up for Western Values.”
McInnes, who is also a cofounder of Vice Media, had been suspended from Twitter in August, along with the group’s main account, @ProudBoysUSA, for violating its policy on “violent extremist groups.”
Ahead of the Proud Boys event, the Metropolitan Republican Club’s headquarters had been vandalized with anarchist symbols and broken windows and doors, according to the New York Times. There was a note left that said that the vandalism was related to McInnes’s upcoming appearance.
“Last night the Metropolitan Republican Club was vandalized by the leftist hate group Antifa, who also left a note promising ‘this is just the beginning’ and threatening more violence,” the group posted to Facebook.
Shay Horse, a 25-year-old photojournalist from Brooklyn who was at the scene, told BuzzFeed News that the incident started after police escorted the event attendees — which included the Proud Boys — out of the building at the conclusion of the event.
McInnes was not present for the melee and had been escorted out earlier, carrying a samurai sword into a car outside the venue and being driven away.
“There was a big group of like 30 of them, and they came out grunting…trying to hype each other up,” said Horse.
Police walked them only as far as the corner and did not make them disperse, said Horse.
The NYPD said that it had police officers assigned to monitor the protest outside of the Metropolitan Republican Club on East 83rd Street and said that there were no incidents at that location.
The beating occurred about two blocks away.
Horse said he saw “two or three bodies on the ground” and the Proud Boys all beating them in a group.
Members of the Proud Boys told Horse the brawl began when the protesters knocked a “Make America Great Again” hat off a member’s head.
“I heard them screaming and swearing at some guy on the ground,” said Horse. “They were beating the shit out of him and kicking him in the head. One guy had his foot on the guy’s neck.”
Horse said he did not find out who the people being beaten were, but said “one of them was a person of color, and another was a blond.”
The Proud Boys also screamed slurs and threats at the people on the ground, said Horse.
“One dude started screaming, ‘Do you feel brave now, faggot?’” he said.
Horse said he saw one of the victims’ faces was swollen and “was totally on the ground, couldn’t even talk…they just had their limbs up in a half-guard.”
“It was just a pummeling — it wasn’t really a fight, because the three people never really got a chance to even stand up,” he said.
Then, a police officer rolled up on a scooter and “just went totally slack-jawed and stared at the fight,” Horse said.
Horse said he yelled “Do something!” at the cop, who then “ran into the crowd flailing his arms saying ‘that’s enough, that’s enough.’”
The Proud Boys then peeled off — without being arrested or questioned by police — and made their way to a bar downtown.
The people who were beaten hobbled off with their arms around each other for support, Horse said.
On Saturday, New York Public Advocate Letitia James called on the NYPD to arrest all the Proud Boys involved in the beating.
“I am disturbed and disgusted by the videos I’ve seen of members of the neo-fascist, white supremacist Proud Boys group engaging in hate-fueled mob violence on the streets of New York City,” James said. “New York will not become the next Charlottesville, and we refuse to let the actions of a hateful few define our City.”
James said she would also urge the District Attorney to pursue hate crime charges due to “the clear homophobic and anti-immigrant sentiments expressed in the videos.”
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood echoed that sentiment, saying on Twitter that “hate has no place in New York.”
“This warrants immediate and thorough investigation by the NYPD to bring the perpetrators to justice,” Underwood said. Her office declined to comment further.
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson also called on the police department to thoroughly investigate the incident.
“NYC needs to send a message that violence and bigotry are not welcome anywhere in America and certainly not in the five boroughs,” Johnson said on Twitter.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined the calls for an investigation into the incident in a statement Saturday and delivered this message “from a Queens boy to the so-called ‘proud boys’ — New York has zero tolerance for your BS.”
NYPD told BuzzFeed News three people were arrested and charged with assault in connection with the incident. Senior Legal Aid staff attorney Rebecca Kavanagh tweeted, “the people arrested are anti-racist protestors…”
The men, identified as Caleb Perkins, 35, Kai Russo, 20, and Finbarr Slonim, 20, were arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on Saturday.
Police said that its officers saw the three men assaulting someone a few blocks from the event at East 84th Street and Third Avenue. The victim refused medical attention and is cooperating with police.
According to court documents, Perkins, Russo, and Slonim struck the victim in the face and that another man who was not arrested took the victim’s backpack.
Gavin Wax, publisher of the online news site the Schpiel who attended the event and witnessed the assault, told BuzzFeed News he and a friend were walking toward the Second Avenue Subway when they saw two masked individuals approach a man “who was backpedaling with his fists up” on Third Avenue.
“He was sweating. He had bruises on his face and he was calling for help,” Wax said.
Wax and his friend then ran over and “split them up.” The victim then yelled out that another man who was nearby with several others had his backpack and ran toward him.
“He ran and they chased and we chased,” Wax said.
Wax said they ended up at the corner of 84th and Third where the assailants started chanting, “He’s a Nazi, he’s a Nazi. Don’t defend him.”
Police arrived and arrested three individuals, while others ran off, Wax said.
Wax said the victim later told him at the police station that he was covering the event as an independent journalist and was filming protesters before he was assaulted. Wax, his friend, and a cab driver who witnessed the attack provided statements to police.
Moira Meltzer-Cohen, an attorney for Perkins, Russo, and Slonim, told BuzzFeed News she didn’t “believe that the allegations are going to hold water after this investigation.”
She declined to comment further.
All three individuals face two counts of assault and one count each of larceny, aggravated harassment, attempted assault, and harassment, according to court documents. Perkins also faces one count of resisting arrest.
Police said they would not “confirm any known group association or whether or not they attended the event you reference or attack on anyone who did attend.”
Police ignored multiple emails from BuzzFeed News asking why Proud Boys members were not arrested for the violent assault, while protesters were.
In a phone call following up on the ignored emails, police said they are “researching a response.”