It is safe to say that the year 2020 has been full of surprises. This month, another major surprise in Utah was added to the list. Last week, leaders of Black Lives Matter Northern Utah, a group unaffiliated with Black Lives Matter Utah, stood side-by-side with members of the Salt Lake City Chapter of the Proud Boys.
During their joint press conference, Jacarri Kelly of Black Lives Matter Northern Utah spoke about her developing relationship with the Proud Boys organization. Kelly explained that she first learned of the Proud Boys' public image during the first Presidential Debate between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump.
“When I’d seen it and I heard the word Proud Boy, that scared me to death because I am a Black Lives Matter leader and I have been working with these Proud Boys to know who they truly are," she said.
She then went on to explain that she had been on to explain that she first made contact with the organization in regards to a protest that took place in Cottonwood Heights, Utah last month. When she asked members of the Proud Boys why they attended, they told her that they just wanted to "make sure nothing happened."
“We came to realize we had more in common than not,” Kelly said.
“In order to combat evil and racism and hatred in this country, we do need to be able to reach across the aisle and have these tough conversations that everybody [is] scared to have.”
It is often difficult to have some of those conversations because of the threats posed by those affiliated with the Proud Boys organization. Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes is one of the group's most prominent members. Often times, he can be found online using racial slurs or doing Nazi salutes.
“You have to be a western chauvinist,” McInnes when asked about what classifies someone as a Proud Boys member.
“We beat the crap out of them ... We’re not going to pick fights, but if they pick fights with us, we’re going to finish them.”
Despite his involvement in the group's origination, Proud Boys members in Salt Lake City say that he is no longer a part of the organization and describe him as a "provocateur."
“He’s gone, he’s not part of the organization anymore,” Proud Boys members Seth and Thad said.
Despite distancing themselves from the labels of "white supremacy" and "racist," the two men still use similar language when describing themselves. Seth and Thad both call themselves "western chauvinists."
“It means that the west is the best — western civilization is the best. That’s our opinion,” the two men said.
Actions from affiliates such as McInnes, anonymous threats made on social media and their "western chauvinist" ideology have led the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League to classify the Proud Boys as a hate group. Still, the two groups have pledged to work together to promote police reform policy in the area.
“Meeting and talking and having that understanding allowed us to move forward with working together on police reform,” Seth said.