In private messages, revealed Thursday by prosecutors at a seditious conspiracy trial stemming from the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, members of the group discussed Trump’s Sept. 29 debate-stage exhortation to the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” ahead of the November election.
Some Proud Boy leaders, like Joe Biggs — one of five seditious conspiracy defendants — saw Trump’s comment as a command to prepare to violently confront antifa.
“Trump basically said to go [redacted] them up,” Biggs said on Parler, the social media platform popular with conservatives. “This makes me so happy.”
His public comments ignited a furor among Proud Boys’ self-described “elders” — its national leadership — who worried that Biggs’ embrace of violent rhetoric could undercut the group’s reputation.
“Mainstream republican support hinges on what the president says about us,” said Proud Boy Nicholas Ochs. “Right now it’s good.”
Trump has been a central aspect of the Proud Boys trial, a specter looming in the background as the group put itself on a path to descend on Washington and, ultimately, take a central role in the breach of the Capitol. Dozens of private chats and text chains revealed by prosecutors show how Proud Boys leaders keyed off Trump’s comments and used them to both drive recruitment but also attempt to manage their growing but unruly rank-and-file.
Biggs, Enrique Tarrio — the group’s national chair at the time — Seattle-based Proud Boy Ethan Nordean, and Philadelphia Proud Boy leader Zachary Rehl are now facing seditious conspiracy charges for their central roles in organizing hundreds of Proud Boys to descend on Washington for Jan. 6, and lead them in a march to the Capitol. A fifth defendant, New York’s Dominic Pezzola, ignited the breach of the Capitol itself when he shattered a Senate-wing window with a stolen police riot shield.
Prosecutors say the group played a crucial role in driving waves of the pro-Trump mob toward the Capitol and then egging it on to surge past barricades and across police lines before entering the Capitol. Prosecutors intend to describe to jurors how several cells of Proud Boys, who marched with the group to the Capitol, dispersed around the Capitol and were prominent in multiple breaches that day. . . .
. . . . The internal grousing became even more urgent just two days later, when at 1:42 a.m. Trump issued a call to his supporters to make a stand in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, the day Congress was set to certify Biden’s victory. “Be there, will be wild,” Trump tweeted.
“Trumps calling the troops in on the 6th,” Biggs said to the group a few hours later.
Amid their talks, Tarrio created a new encrypted chat channel to prepare the group’s Jan. 6 plans, calling it the “Ministry of Self-Defense.” That channel has become a focal point of the government’s investigation.
Prosecutors particularly focused on the group’s use of the channel to discuss tactics for Jan. 6. Members of the group discussed a strategy to break into small teams to avoid being choked off by police blockades. They also discussed avoiding wearing the group’s traditional black-and-yellow attire and a potential plan to wear all-black — a tactic known as black bloc — to mimic far-left protestors who have frequently clashed with Proud Boys.
The decision not to wear Proud Boys colors was an extensive subject of the group’s conversation in the days before Jan. 6. Tarrio repeatedly urged different sets of Proud Boys leaders to refuse to bring any identifying gear. When some in the group pushed back, worried that the decision could result in Proud Boys getting blamed for the destruction of others, Tarrio dismissed the concern.
“Misinformation is a good tool,” Tarrio said in one chat with Proud Boys about the group’s plan not to wear identifying black-and-yellow attire on Jan. 6. Then, after a pause, he said, “[redacted] … Did I just goebbels this thing?”