As protests over police brutality and racial justice broke out this summer, often resulting in harsh responses from law enforcement, police officers have been accused of favoring a violent extremist group that took to the streets to oppose those demonstrators. The latest example of a cozy relationship between law enforcement and the far-right Proud Boys happened in Washington, D.C., last week when police responded to a stabbing involving Proud Boys members. Provocateur Bevelyn Beatty and the chairman of the Proud Boys told police they were stabbed by people associated with Black Lives Matter in a street fight the morning after the presidential election. Police repeated their claim to media outlets, producing headlines that Black Lives Matter attacked the Proud Boys. Police walked back their initial statements.
The department’s willingness to echo accusations of the Proud Boys is an example of law enforcement’s deference to the group, said Michael German, a former FBI agent now with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program. “This group has been involved in all kinds of violent activities, and it seems that law enforcement’s response to them has been reluctant,” German said. “That sends a message to far-right groups that their violence is sanctioned by the police.” Meanwhile, law enforcement clamped down on protests organized by Black Lives Matter, he said. In September, Proud Boys protesting in Philadelphia were given a police escort. Philadelphia’s police commissioner called the claim that police are overly friendly with the Proud Boys “ridiculous.” In the Washington case, Police Chief Peter Newsham said there was no evidence the assailants were associated with Black Lives Matter. “At 2:30 in the morning, when our officers are trying to gather information on the scene, that information is preliminary in nature and oftentimes, unfortunately, it changes,” Newsham said.