Everything You Need to Know About the Proud Boys' Role in the January 6 Insurrection (Part I)

From descriptions of key figures to ties between the far-right, neofascist, chauvinist, white nationalist group and Trump's inner circle, this article series has you covered.

Introduction

According to a New York Times report, federal investigators have determined that the Proud Boys were “one of the chief instigators of the [January 6] riot at the Capitol that left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer.” The newspaper notes that certain “Proud Boys were among the first rioters to shatter windows and enter the [Capitol], confronting police officers inside.”

The Times calls the Proud Boys “some of former President Donald J. Trump’s most vocal and violent supporters”, noting also that they “have a history of bloody street fights.” And of course America’s paper-of-record has repeatedly noted what the whole nation couldn’t possibility have missed in the early fall of 2020: “During a presidential debate in September [2020], Mr. Trump refused to disavow the Proud Boys, telling them instead in a widely watched moment to ‘stand back and stand by.’”

{Note: Trump supporters sometimes emphasize the phrase “stand back” rather than “stand by” in discussing this remark by the former president—operating, apparently, on the false theory that Trump’s public exhortation to the Proud Boys about how they should react in the event of a dispute following the 2020 election was harmless and perhaps even noble. In fact, any Venn diagram of the dual concepts of “standing back” and “standing by” would depict a large circle entitled “stand by” with a smaller circle entitled “stand back” inside it, as the idea of “standing by” includes the concept of “standing back.” One cannot assume “stand-by” status without first standing back from the relevant forefront. So it is etymologically accurate to say that the whole of Trump’s order to the Proud Boys is contained in and encompassed by the phrase “stand by.”}

The below summary of the Proud Boys’ role in the January 6 insurrection is necessarily preliminary—for, as the New York Times has noted, “[FBI] agents have searched [the] homes [of Proud Boys] across the country, scoured [Proud Boy] social media accounts and delved into the private communications of Proud Boys leaders.” Given these ongoing investigative maneuvers, the likelihood is high that more charges against Proud Boy members nationwide are coming.

The Proud Boys’ Actions in Context

Per CNN, 65 of the 320 January 6-related charges DOJ has already brought are for assaulting police officers, “but [DOJ] is still seeking information to identify others involved in assaults during the insurrection.” According to the cable news outlet, the FBI has “faces but no names” for a minimum of ten additional January 6 assailants.

The 75 (minimum) violent insurrectionists the FBI has arrested or aims to arrest used a combination of clubs, chemical weapons, and stolen armaments to injure over 100 law enforcement officials on January 6. Three police officers died in events deemed related to the insurrection, with two men, Julian Khater and George Tanios, having just been arrested for assaulting Brian Sicknick, one of the three U.S. Capitol Police officers—along with Howard Liebengood Jr. and Jeffrey Smith—who later died.

In February 2021, Canada officially declared the Proud Boys a terrorist organization.

According to USA Today, as of early February 2021 the Proud Boys were only one of a number of far-right organizations, entities, or movements whose members comprised the Trumpist “irregulars” who staged an armed insurrection on January 6, 2021. Others included QAnon (seven defendants as of early February); the Oath Keepers militia (four defendants), the Three Percenters militia (four defendants), and a group linked to white nationalism, Super Happy Fun America (two defendants). By mid-March, the number of Oath Keepers indicted on conspiracy charges had ballooned, per CBS News, to ten—all alleged to have been part of the same criminal conspiracy, with DOJ, per CBS, “indicat[ing] that they could add even more [Oath Keepers to the conspiracy indictment] in the future.”

The Wall Street Journal previously reported that as many as 30 to 40 Oath Keepers were part of a conspiracy to “gas” members of Congress in the tunnels below the Capitol.

As to seven of the current ten Oath Keeper defendants in particular, CBS notes that they “were part of a tactical ‘stack’ of people dressed in combat gear who pushed through crowds to enter the Capitol, the government said. Prosecutors said the group donned paramilitary gear and used military-style tactics—keeping hands on each other's backs to communicate as they marched up the steps of the Capitol—and coordinated with other Oath Keepers before and during the attack, using apps like MeWe and Zello.” In addition to conspiracy, members of the group of ten Oath Keepers face charges including obstruction of an official proceeding, destruction of government property, and restricted buildings or grounds charges. CBS adds that “The [conspiracy] indictment also charges two of the men with tampering with documents or proceedings, alleging that they attempted to obstruct the investigation by unsending and deleting Facebook content.”

The group of ten Oath Keepers charged with conspiracy includes Ohio residents (Sandra Parker, 60; Bennie Parker, 70; Jessica Watkins, 38; and Donovan Crowl, 50), Florida residents (Kelly Meggs, 52; Connie Meggs, 59; Graydon Young, 54; and Kenneth Harrelson, 41), a North Carolina resident (Laura Steele, 52), and a Virginia resident (Thomas Caldwell, 65). CBS reports that a total of at least 13 Oath Keepers have been charged with January 6-related crimes, meaning that Oath Keepers and Proud Boys alone account for—at a bare minimum—nearly 10% of all insurrection arrests.

January 6 Proud Boy Defendants and Their Charges

Thirteen Proud Boys have so far been arrested in conjunction with the FBI’s sprawling January 6 investigation, which has seen 320 persons arrested with another 100 or more arrests anticipated by DOJ. The list of arrested Proud Boys includes the following:

(1) Charles Donohoe, a Proud Boys leader from North Carolina, was charged with “conspiring to interfere with law enforcement officers at the Capitol and obstruct the certification of President Biden’s electoral victory.”

(2) Zach Rehl, 35, the president of the Philadelphia Proud Boys chapter, was, like Donohoe, charged with “conspiring to interfere with law enforcement officers at the Capitol and obstruct the certification of President Biden’s electoral victory.”

According to the New York Times, Rehl has “styled himself as one of the Proud Boys’ most prominent representatives on the East Coast, and has led the group’s Philadelphia chapter since at least 2018, according to federal law enforcement officials. This summer, he and other Proud Boys were spotted socializing with local police officers outside a Philadelphia police union lodge.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer notes that Rehl is “a Marine veteran and [the] son and grandson of Philadelphia police officers….[and] one of the organizers behind the 2018 pro-Trump ‘We the People’ rally outside Independence Hall [in Philadelphia].”

Zach Rehl (L, checking phone) inside the office of Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) during the January 6 insurrection. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Rehl and others “trash[ed]” Merkley’s Capitol office, as Merkley himself has documented.

(3) Ethan Nordean, 30, a Proud Boys member from the State of Washington, crossed onto Capitol grounds on January 6 “equipped with [a] radio and a bullhorn”, according to the New York Times, and “led a mob of about 100 members and supporters of the [Proud Boys] that marched through the streets of Washington on January 6 chanting slogans and ultimately breached security barriers at the Capitol.”

Notably, the Twitter feed associated with Proof offered one of the first attempts to track Nordean’s movements on the day of the insurrection. Less than 72 hours after the attack on the Capitol, the feed tracked a now-hidden Proud Boys video in which Nordean is seen leading Proud Boys through D.C., including a meet-up with the blaze orange-hatted Arizona Proud Boys now associated with January 6 co-conspirators and top Trump allies Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), and Stop the Steal co-organizer and convicted felon Ali Alexander. These individuals have been extensively discussed at Proof since January 9, including here and here.

{Note: Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes initially attacked me on Twitter for connecting the “orange hats” to the Proud Boys—a link thereafter confirmed throughout major media—even issuing the statement below about me on Gab on January 9. See this thread for more details.}

Here are the Proud Boys in D.C. on January 6, per Business Insider:

Joe Biggs (L, dark hat) and Zach Rehl (C, camo hat) with orange-hatted Proud Boys wearing “military-style vests” as described by the Wall Street Journal.

According to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Nordean—whose alias within the Proud Boys organization is “Rufio Panman”—was “the de facto leader of the Proud Boys’ force [on January 6]…and [per] court filings…was granted ‘war powers’ and ‘ultimate leadership’ [of the Proud Boy irregulars in D.C. on that day] after the organization’s national leader, Enrique Tarrio, was arrested two days before the insurrection.” The newspaper notes that Nordean was charged with disorderly conduct, obstruction of Congress, and entering a restricted area.

USA Today describes Nordean as the “sergeant-at-arms” for the Seattle chapter of the Proud Boys, adding that “Federal prosecutors claim Nordean was among those who entered the Capitol after rioters forcibly breached the doors. ‘It is also alleged that Nordean was near the front of the crowd of rioters, who collectively approached, confronted, and vastly outnumbered [U.S. Capitol Police during the January 6 attack].’”

Per USA Today, “Two days after the riots, Nordean posted a photo on social media showing a U.S. Capitol Police officer using pepper spray in an attempt to repel the [Trumpists’] attack. ‘If you feel bad for the police, you are part of the problem,’ Nordean wrote in a caption.” Nordean co-manages a Florida corporation called Warboys LLC with fellow Proud Boys Joe Biggs and Henry “Enrique” Tarrio.”

But it is Nordean’s actions before January 6 that are drawing the most attention.

On January 4, 2021, Nordean recorded and published a video that, according to DOJ prosecutors, sought to “organize a group that intended to engage in conflict”, specifically seeking donations for “protective gear and communications equipment.” Nordean captioned the video with these words: “Let them remember the day they decided to make war with us.” Prosecutors allege that, around the same time, Nordean posted a video in which he promised to “bring back that original spirit of 1776…[which] really established the character of what America is. And it’s not complacency, it’s not low standards.” He later adds, “No democracy, no peace”, and on January 5 allegedly issued, per prosecutors, a public warning that “we are coming for them.”

{Note: In the now-hidden video linked to above, a Proud Boy marching with Ethan Nordean’s irregulars on the morning of January 6—well before the assault on the Capitol—unwisely blurts out that the group plans to take the building later that day, and Nordean and other Proud Boys respond by collectively admonishing their over-hyped-up peer for his indiscretion.}

(4) Joe Biggs, 37, a former Army sergeant and a member of the Proud Boys from Florida, has been photographed with top Trump Senate ally Lindsey Graham inside Trump’s D.C. hotel, Trump International Hotel. Like Rehl, he faces charges of “conspiring to interfere with law enforcement officers at the Capitol and obstruct the certification of President Biden’s electoral victory.”

Biggs can be seen in this January 6 video—at far left, in a plaid overcoat, visible in the first five seconds—consorting with the same blaze orange-hatted Arizona Proud Boys with whom Nordean’s band met up on January 6 and who, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, were among the first instigators in causing the Capitol’s defenses to be overrun.

As the Journal notes in its tick-tock of events at the Capitol, the Proud Boys arrived at the Capitol as then-president Donald Trump was still speaking at the White House Ellipse. The newspaper writes that by between 12:30PM and 12:45PM on January 6,

A milling crowd of Trump supporters [at the Capitol] had taken his invitation to march on the U.S. Capitol, but upon arriving at the steel fencing at the edge of the building’s western lawn, they seemed unsure of what to do next. Then, at 12:48 p.m., a clutch of men in blaze orange hats and military-style vests turned a nearby street corner, marching straight toward them. In a matter of moments, the two groups merged and the crowd swelled to hundreds and surged forward, toppling a metal barricade at the curbside and charging up two small flights of stone steps toward five startled officers of the Capitol Police.

The Philadelphia Inquirer notes that on January 6 Biggs was seen using hand signals, including a raised fist, “to signal to the Proud Boys to stop or start their progress” through the streets of Washington, suggesting that, like the Oath Keepers militia, the Proud Boys aimed on January 6 to at least mimic a paramilitary force of irregulars.

(5) Christopher Worrell, 49, of Florida, was arrested, according to the Naples News, for the following:

Entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds [the U.S. Capitol] without lawful authority; knowingly and with intent to impede…disrupt[ing] the orderly conduct of Government business; knowingly engag[ing] in any act of physical violence against a person or property in any restricted building or grounds; using or carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon in relation to his violations; and willfully and knowingly utter[ing] loud, threatening or abusive language, or engag[ing] in disorderly conduct at any place in the grounds or in any Capitol Buildings with the intent to impede, disrupt or disturb the session of Congress or either House of Congress.

An FBI tipster told law enforcement that Worrell has posted video on Facebook of him participating in the assault on the Capitol.

Worrell, left, giving a “white power” gesture on January 6 and wearing a canister the FBI alleges contained “pepper spray gel.” Per the Naples News, as Worrell’s home was being searched he told the FBI “the Proud Boys [are] not a racist white supremacist group like the media tries to portray.”

The FBI alleges that on January 6 Worrell was carrying pepper spray gel in a canister. Per the Naples News, Worrell is “seen in a photo spraying a substance from a canister….in other photos and videos from that time of day, law enforcement officers are positioned where he appears to direct the pepper spray.”

When Worrell was arrested, he had “a loaded handgun, handcuffs, knives, boxes of ammunition and a fake [police] badge in his possession. In May 2010, Worrell was sentenced to three years probation and two years of community control for [a] charge of impersonating a law enforcement officer.”

CNN reports that Worrell was wearing a “radio earpiece” as well as a tactical vest.

Worrell’s lawyer now says that Worrell went to the Capitol at then-President Trump’s “invitation” and “direction.”

(6) Nicholas Ochs, the leader of the Honolulu Proud Boys, was arrested for “obstructing Congress, theft of government property and three counts of unlawful entry.” {Note: There will be much more on Ochs in Part II of this articles series.}

(7) William Chrestman (see below)

(8) Louis Enrique Colon (see below)

(9) Christopher Kuehne (see below)

(10) Cory Konold (see below)

(11) Felicia Konold (see below)

In mid-February, CNN reported on the arrest of five Proud Boys who, according to the FBI, “moved closely to each other” inside the Capitol on January 6 and also, as CNN has noted, “wore pieces of fluorescent orange tape affixed to their clothing or gear.” The use of such tape to denote those Proud Boys who intended to breach the Capitol was first observed by the Twitter feed connected to Proof 72 hours after the attack on the Capitol. All of the individuals above, according to CNN, “wore tactical-style gear, including helmets and gloves”, on January 6.

Colon, Kuehne, and the Konolds (a brother and sister) currently face a joint conspiracy indictment, while Chrestman faces a separate conspiracy charge. CNN notes that “the conspiracy charges [against the Proud Boys and other pro-Trump groups at the Capitol on January 6] are likely to grow. In a footnote in the [Colon-Kuehne-Konold] affidavit, the FBI agent said they believe more people may be involved in the conspiracy and that an investigation is ongoing.”

CNN adds that “four of the five [were] seen thwarting the descent of metal barriers that police had tried to lower in an attempt to seal off areas within the Capitol [on January 6].”

This article series will shortly continue with Part II, which lists the other Proud Boys arrestees and notes their connections with Trump’s inner circle. Proof will not only expand on the story of what the Proud Boys did—both individually and as a group—on January 6, but also focus on the conduct of these individuals in the weeks preceding the January 2021 insurrection.