The one-time leader of the Proud Boys’ most paramilitary arm is now trying to rebrand the far-right streetfighting group as a more explicitly racist entity. It’s the latest headache for an organization currently in denial about President Donald Trump’s re-election loss.
Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman was once the leader of the Fraternal Order of the Alt-Knights, essentially the frontline shock troops of the group known for taking part in brawls across the country. The Proud Boys’ founder even said in 2017 that he considered naming Chapman president of the entire organization.
But that was while Trump was ascendant. Now, with the ultranationalist group scrambling in the wake of Trump’s loss, Chapman is threatening a putsch to make the Proud Boys even more explicitly hateful, accusing the group’s current leadership of being too soft.
Chapman, who did not return a request for comment, announced his attempted takeover on Monday night.
“Due to the recent failure of Proud Boy Chairman Enrique Tarrio to conduct himself with honor and courage on the battlefield, it has been decided that I Kyle Chapman reassume my post as President of Proud Boys effective immediately,” he wrote on the encrypted messaging platform Telegram. “Our logo will forthwith be changed to reflect the core beliefs of Proud Boy members. Going forward we will now be known as PROUD GOYS. The coup is complete. The grifting leaders have been deposed.”
The announcement carried on in racist terms, claiming the organization’s new direction would be more explicitly white supremacist, and (unlike the current group) opposed to gay members. (The proposed group’s name, the Proud Goys, was a nod to anti-Semites’ embrace of the word “goy,” which is Yiddish for a non-Jewish person.)
Enrique Tarrio, the current head of the Proud Boys, told The Daily Beast the putsch wasn’t going to succeed. And indeed, Chapman’s standing in the group has fallen since its peak several years ago.
Still, his announcement hinted at recent upsets in Proud Boy circles, as well as a bigoted tendency that keeps surfacing among Proud Boys despite the group’s insistence that they’re not racist.
Chapman made his fame as “Based Stickman” after he was filmed hitting anti-fascists with a bat during a 2017 demonstration in Berkeley, California. At the time, he wasn’t a member of the Proud Boys. But his antics won him the admiration of the group, who set up a fund to pay his bail. The group’s founder, Gavin McInnes, told The New York Times that he’d considered bringing Chapman onboard as the Proud Boys’ new president, but decided instead to put him in charge of the Fraternal Order of the Alt-Knights, a subgroup intended as the Proud Boys’ paramilitary wing.
As FOAK leader, Chapman embodied some of the Proud Boys’ bloodiest and most bigoted tendencies, leading brawls, urging fans to “smash [anti-fascists] on sight,” railing against Muslims, and encouraging the lynching of politicians. Like many Proud Boys, he was convicted for violence at these far-right brawls, taking a plea deal related to the brawl that made him famous. He subsequently drifted away from a visible leadership role with the Proud Boys, but still posts the group’s propaganda on social media.
After Trump’s defeat, however, Chapman and the Proud Boys began acting more erratically online. The group’s social media pages have relentlessly argued that Trump actually won re-election (he did not) and that Democrats are involved in massive voter fraud (they are not).
Shortly after most news outlets declared Joe Biden to have won the race, Tarrio threatened to mobilize the group. “We’re rolling out,” Tarrio posted on Sunday. “Standby order has been rescinded.”
Those words apparently weren’t enough for Chapman, who mocked them on Telegram.
“Watch out leftists,” Chapman posted on Sunday. “Your pissing Enrique off. If you keep it up he might casually walk around confused, acting like he’s breaking up a fight while you stab his friends. If you really make him mad he’ll push you... hard.” (The latter was apparently a reference to a recent incident in which Proud Boys claimed to have been stabbed, although video of the incident was unclear, showing a scuffle after Proud Boys confronted someone on a sidewalk. Police said the incident happened during an altercation with the suspects, who have not yet been named.)
Chapman continued to rage into the night, accusing Tarrio of “standing there doing nothing” and “looking at his phone” during a fight. He hurled a slur at Tarrio, who is Black, and implied that Tarrio was unfit to lead the group.
Tarrio told The Daily Beast he thought Chapman was drunk or kidding.
“He hasn’t been part of the organization in probably two years,” Tarrio said. “Obviously he still probably has friends. I’ve never had an issue with Kyle. I think he went on a drunken rant that night, and he thought it was funny to put the things he did on his channel, then he said it was a joke. Which regardless of whether it was a joke or not, I think it was stupid.”
(Chapman later deleted his comment suggesting he was joking and insisted repeatedly that he was completely serious, lobbing personal attacks at Tarrio, who said he objected to them. “I’m not gonna take somebody fucking calling me a ‘token negro,’” Tarrio told The Daily Beast.)
For all the Proud Boys’ public insistence that they disavow racism, this sort of thing keeps happening to them.
On Telegram, Chapman was joined in his crusade by Jovi Val, a former Proud Boy who in recent years has abandoned all pretense and begun wearing a swastika necklace in public.
When Chapman led the FOAK, his second-in-command was Austin Gillespie, a white supremacist who legally changed his name to “Augustus Sol Invictus,” called for the lynching of his enemies, and is currently awaiting trial for alleged domestic violence. The Proud Boys have also scurried to distance themselves from Alan Swinney, a Portland man facing a mountain of charges over his alleged actions at brawls in that city, where he was photographed pointing a gun at opponents. Swinney has a large “Proud Boys” tattoo on his arm, although the group claims he is not a member.
The Proud Boys have also tried to bury their connections to Unite the Right, the fatal white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia 2017. Nevertheless, some members, including Tarrio, attended the rally on its second, fatal day.
Tarrio—who, when he spoke to The Daily Beast, was en route to Washington, D.C. for a pro-Trump event this weekend—was photographed that day wearing a patch for the FOAK, Chapman’s paramilitary group.