Concerns that Bohemia Mining Days (BMD) would include the Proud Boys in its main parade this year were put to rest Thursday (July 8) when a self-identified leader of the far-right group told a member of the BMD board he would not be submitting an application.
His decision to not participate was made after the board received backlash from the community.
Early last week, rumors of the Proud Boys’ interest in participating in the parade made their way through the community and BMD organizers confirmed as much on July 6 with a Facebook post which said the board would meet Thursday to “make a decision on whether or not to allow [a] controversial organization to participate in our parade.”
On July 4, an unauthorized Independence Day parade was held in Creswell after organizers were denied a permit. Organizers and participants in the parade included those affiliated with the Proud Boys. It was understood that the same organizers expressed interest in the BMD parade.
Following the BMD post, dozens of emails and social media messages flooded board members’ inboxes. Letters from sponsors as well as community members expressed deep concern that the group would even be considered, with many claiming they would sever ties with the BMD organization should the Proud Boys be allowed in the parade.
One concerned community member, who preferred to remain anonymous, said they were worried that the group would “highjack” the parade in a fashion similar to the unpermitted parade in Creswell.
In a letter to the BMD board, one person wrote: “If allowed, that [Proud Boys] participation would cause dissension, promotion of the wrong kind of values, possibly endanger public safety and order, and draw focus away from BMD’s goal of community building and celebration.”
In statements to the press, President Don Williams and Vice-President Cindy Weeldreyer of the BMD board said that “misinformation” and “rumors” had spread online during the community reaction.
One point of confusion seemed to be whether or not the group had actually applied and were being considered, a point which even board members needed clarifying during their Thursday (July 8) meeting.
At the meeting, it was revealed that although the Proud Boys representative, who was identified as a “vice president,” had asked for an application, no application had actually been submitted.
When told of the community’s response, the Proud Boys leader, who goes by the names “Chris Himwho” and “Chris Tough” online, was said to have voluntarily rescinded interest in participating as he was a local and did not want to create a disruption during the town’s iconic festival.
Members of the parade committee reported that he had intended on displaying a 50-foot American flag at the event.
Though no vote was needed in regards to the Proud Boys presence in the parade, the board deliberated for nearly two hours on the topic before drafting a statement for the community.
By this Monday, however, it was made clear no press release would be issued after the board had difficulty agreeing on language.
The Proud Boys are a self-described “Western chauvinist” fraternal organization for men founded in late 2016 by Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes.
McInnes left Vice in 2008.
The Proud Boys organization has attracted controversy and condemnation over its five-year existence with accusations of the group promoting white supremacy and political violence.
Washington state law enforcement documents revealed in 2018 that the FBI classified the Proud Boys as an “extremist group with ties to white nationalism.”
These accusations have been challenged and rejected by Proud Boys spokesmen, however, with members insisting the group focuses on patriotism and pride in Western culture.
Ideologically, members subscribe to a range libertarian and nationalist ideas and the group’s loose structure has in part played into the ambiguity about an overt centralized message beyond its pro-Western stance.
Still, the group has gained notoriety for its presence at far-right rallies including the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., in which a counter-protester was murdered with a car by a self-identified white supremacist.
A prominent Proud Boy member involved in organizing during that event was subsequently kicked out of the group.
Several Proud Boys members were also arrested for their role in the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the United States Capitol.
One consistent feature of the group has been its opposition to leftist ideology and willingness to take to the streets, putting the Proud Boys in sometimes violent clashes with groups such as Black Lives Matter and Antifa.
Though the BMD festival is moving forward with some assurance that the group will not make an appearance, several in the community have continued to voice their disappointment that the group would be considered at all.
For more information about Bohemia Mining Days, visit bohemiaminingdays.org.
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