Two prominent members of the far-right Proud Boys men’s group have been charged with felony assault over a 2018 attack on a critic in Portland, prosecutors announced Tuesday.
Police have already arrested one of the Proud Boys, Donovon Flippo. The other Proud Boy wanted in the case, Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, posted recently on Facebook that he’s in American Samoa, although he said he will return to Portland to face his legal charges.
The arrests mark another blow to the Proud Boys, a pro-Trump men’s group created by conservative provocateur Gavin McInnes that requires its members to abide by various rules and initiation requirements, including a restriction on masturbating. Other members of the group were arrested last year after an attack in New York, and McInnes himself quit the group shortly after that.
The charges against Flippo and Toese, two of the Proud Boys’ most visible members in their frequent clashes with left-wing activists in the Pacific Northwest region, date back to a June 8, 2018 attack on a liberal critic of the group.
According to police reports, Flippo and Toese were driving around Portland in a truck bearing a flag emblazoned with Donald Trump’s face. A man on the street, Timothy Ledwith, recognized Toese and taunted him about losing his sandals in a previous fight with left-wing anti-fascist activists, Willamette Week reported.
In response, Toese and Flippo got out of the car and pursued Ledwith. Toese, who was wearing an “Antifa Removal Service” shirt during the incident, later told police that he punched Ledwith in the face. Pictures of Ledwith taken after the attack show him with a bloody nose and lip.
Toese and Flippo were arrested a few days after the attack, but released without facing charges. The men were finally charged via a sealed indictment by a grand jury in late February, nine months after the assault.
The decision not to charge the two Proud Boys last year frustrated both liberal activists and Portland politicians, who have watched the city become a battleground as right-wing groups like the Proud Boys launch controversial demonstrations in the city to bait anti-fascist activists.
Toese in particular has become a hero to some on the far right for his role fighting demonstrators. In February, Toese joined members of an allied group called Patriot Prayer in a campaign to “demask” members of antifa, which amounted to them assaulting people on the street and ripping their masks off. Around the same time, Willamette Week questioned why the extensive evidence against Toese hadn’t resulted in any charges against him.
Portland law enforcement has been criticized for a hands-off approach to the fights, citing a “mutual combat” law. That inaction has angered Portland officials like Mayor Ted Wheeler, who questioned in a press conference Monday how it could be legal to fight in the street.
“In what city is it legal to engage in a street brawl?” Wheeler said. “C’mon folks, we’re overcomplicating this. You’re not allowed to fight on the streets of the city.”