The New York Police Department announced that it has enough evidence to charge nine members of the right-wing group Proud Boys and three protestors with various counts of rioting, assault, and attempted assault in connection with a brawl that erupted between the two sides a few blocks from a city Republican club following a speech Friday by Proud Boys leader Gavin McInnes.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said Monday that police recovered multiple videos of the incident and have spoken to witnesses and sources as they piece together what took place in the moments after Proud Boys and associates left the the Metropolitan Republican Club in Manhattan.
“This is an active investigation that literally as we were preparing to come here we are identifying additional people involved,” Shea said. Illustrating just how fluid the investigation is, police updated the total number of people they are seeking from 11 to 12 in the middle of a briefing Monday afternoon.
The update from the NYPD came as political backlash over the savage incident continued to grow with City Council members criticizing the department for not doing more in the moment and Gov. Andrew Cuomo calling on FBI and State Police hate crimes task force to assist in the investigation.
“The video images that everybody saw from Friday night are certainly disturbing and outrageous,” police commissioner James O'Neill said. “There is certainly no place for that kind of violence or disorder anywhere in New York City. We will make arrests, but quite frankly we need the public’s help.”
In the 25-minute briefing, the NYPD gave a detailed account of what happened outside the club after McInnes’ controversial appearance.
Shea said the Proud Boys left the club around 8:20 p.m. and crossed the street. They were separated from protesters by uniformed NYPD police officers on scooters. The officers forced the Proud Boys south on Park Avenue and 84th Street as the two sides shouted vulgarities at each other.
Video shows protesters, whom police described as antifa, and Proud Boys in the middle of the block on 82nd Street brawling approximately three minutes after Proud Boys left the club. Police believe six protesters, shown on video wearing black masks, headed north, and circled the block to “intercept” the Proud Boys on 82nd Street between Park and Lexington avenues, Shea said.
The video shows at least one of the protesters hurling what police believe to be a bottle and throwing punches as the Proud Boys came into the frame punching and kicking the protestors. Shea said about 38 seconds elapsed between the time when the masked protesters threw the bottle and when uniformed officers arrived on the scene.
Police said they did not know who instigated the fight, but McInnis blamed the other side. “Turns out it was antifa who started the fight,” he told The Daily Beast in an unsolicited email.
A video by filmed by photojournalist Sandi Bachom shows Proud Boys beating people on the street while shouting homophobic slurs at several men as they kicked and punched people who laid on the ground.
O'Neill didn't rule out potential hate crimes charges, but said, “we’re still in the process of investigating. We want to talk to as many people as possible before we make that characterization.”
The assailants scattered when cops arrived leaving behind victims who did not want to talk, police said, citing body camera video from officers who responded to help the victims.
According to a transcript of the body camera audio reviewed by The Daily Beast, a responding officer asked, “Does anyone want to tell me what the people looked like?”
“Nobody wants to talk to you,” one of the witnesses said, according to the transcript, which was shared with The Daily Beast by a senior law enforcement official.
Some anti-fascists and anarchists often refuse to comply with police investigations. Later in the conversation, the person said, “We don’t call 911.”
“We are here to help you,” the officer said.
“Get the fuck away from me,” a victim replied. “I just got punched 70 times.”
Shea said the lack of cooperation from victims was an added challenge for investigators, and police for now are relying on the video evidence as a basis for arrests. “We believe we have valid arrests for those 9 individuals, to include charges of riot and attempted assault,” he said, adding that the attempted assault charges could be upgraded to assault if they receive a viable complaint from a victim.
McInnes and other Proud Boys received a police escort in and out of the building, Bachom reported. McInnes was seen carrying a large sword, likely in reference to the assassination of a Japanese socialist leader he promised to reenact at the club.
As he was leaving the club, McInnes hoisted the plastic sword which he was ordered to put away, NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan said.
About five minutes after the clash there was a separate incident involving people from the same groups on 84th Street and Third Avenue, Shea said. A member of the Proud Boys flagged officers and told them he was robbed, pointing to a group of 10 who he said played a role in assaulting him and taking his backpack, Shea said. The victim in that incident identified people who he says assaulted him and three people were arrested on charges of assault, harassment, and petit larceny.
The Proud Boys have been involved in a number of bloody brawls over the past two years, often with anti-fascists who oppose their events.
Police sent a 48-officer police detail to the Republican club on Friday night in response to reports of vandalism the night before at the club in which windows were broken and doors were marked with the anarchist symbol and leaflets were left at the scene condemning McInnes and the club’s decision to host him.
The Proud Boys are a violent, ultra-nationalist group that promotes anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and anti-woman views. Although the group officially rejects white supremacy, members have nonetheless appeared at multiple racist events, with a former Proud Boy organizing the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. The group rallies around anti-left violence, and members of Proud Boy chapters in the Pacific Northwest have participated in public marches while wearing shirts that glorify the murders of leftists by Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Previous McInnes speeches in New York have been marked by violence. In February 2017, New York University’s College Republican club invited McInnes to speak on campus, and 11 people were arrested in fights outside the event, including Proud Boy Salvatore Cipolla, who attacked a journalist covering the event.
McInnes frequently champions violence, particularly against the left.
“I want violence, I want punching in the face. I’m disappointed in Trump supporters for not punching enough,” McInnes said on his webshow.
On another occasion, he called for an attack on a woman.
“This woman—yes, I’m advocating violence against women—this woman should be punched in the face. Shouldn’t be by a man, maybe by another woman, her twin sister, should just punch her in the face. Or maybe mace her. Yeah. I’m pro-free speech, I don’t want her ever to be censored, but this woman needs to experience a little bit of violence.”
McInnes also uses his show to spout racial slurs, especially the n-word, and call for attacks on transgender people. “Choke a tranny. Get your fingers around the windpipe,” McInnes said on his show, according to Newsweek. A self-described misogynist, McInnes has argued against women in the workforce and claimed sexual harassment does not exist.