Members of an all-male extremist group stepped out again on Saturday, May 21, drawing criticism from neighbors and from many local leaders.
A group of as many as 20 men dressed as Proud Boys, i.e. wearing and bearing a combination of the hate group’s signature outfits and slogans, paraded through Rockville Centre in Nassau County, possibly in response to results of school board elections in late May. The ‘Western Chauvinist’ group was accompanied by a large yellow pickup truck bearing a sign that reads “Law And Order,” a sight that witnesses of prior marches have often recalled.
Proud Boy events have previously been spotted in and around Nassau in the past six months or so, including last November during a Small Business Saturday event in Rockville Centre. In the weeks that followed that event, Mayor Francis Murray said his office would leverage its full weight against members of the all-male group if they marched in the streets again without a permit.
Last week, however, Mayor Murray was reportedly more deferential, indicating that his office will instead be following guidance from Homeland Security, the FBI, and state and local law enforcement regarding Proud Boys at this time.
Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder told the Nassau Illustrated News, “We have an intelligence unit [keeping tabs] on these hate groups that are right here, one being The Proud Boys. We knew about their protest [march] and we notified Rockville Centre.”
Ryder said he wasn’t at the march, but believed there were no incidents. “There are a lot of groups out there that are pushing their agendas and their message and that’s fine,” Ryder said, noting the constitutionally-protected rights to assembly and free speech. “They remain peaceful, we’re good.”
When asked for comment on local Proud Boys’ marches in Nassau County, Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, who is running for Congress in New York’s fourth congressional district, said in a statement: “I will always fight for a shared vision of an inclusive, safe and prosperous Long Island, and reject any group that attempts to sow the seeds of division, hate or bigotry in our society.” When asked for follow-up comment on the seeming prevalence of Proud Boys participation among members of law enforcement, a representative for Councilman D’Esposito referred Nassau Illustrated to the above statement.
In reference to a rally against Asian hate that also occurred in Nassau County on May 21, Senator Anna M. Kaplan commented, “While we were rallying against hate yesterday in Great Neck, the racist, neo-fascist ‘Proud Boys’ were marching through the streets of Nassau County once again in an effort to intimidate our community and spread their vile, hateful agenda.”
“We have to reject this hate and extremism whenever it shows itself in our community, so I’m calling this shameful display out for what it is: nothing more than a modern-day Klan march happening in our community,” Senator Kaplan said in a written statement to press. “There’s no place for this hate on Long Island, and we all need to speak with one voice in saying so.
On Sunday, May 22, Nassau County Legislator Siela A. Bynoe also issued the following statement: “Yesterday, the residents of Rockville Centre were once again subjected to the noxious presence of the so-called Proud Boys and their white nationalist, neofascist rhetoric. Now more than ever, it is crucial for people of good conscience to stand together to reject their racist, misogynistic, antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ bigotry and send a clear message that hate has no place in Rockville Centre, Nassau County or anywhere else in our nation.”
Hempstead Town Supervisor Donald X. Clavin responded to a request for comment with the following statement: “Hempstead Town is home to a plethora of peoples who proudly celebrate a variety of cultures, religions and creeds. I reject any group that seeks to disturb the harmony found here in our township, and reiterate my commitment to fostering a community welcoming to all.”
Rena Riback and Judy Rattner, co-administrators of the Antiracism Project, told Nassau Illustrated that the same kinds of behaviors displayed at local Proud Boys marches have in fact been driving the work that they do around Nassau County.
In a phone interview, Riback said that they began forming their group in 2017 in response to racist and antisemitic incidents in Rockville Centre and “trying to decide what to do about it.” Today, the Antiracism Project connects and collaborates with individuals and groups around the world, and continues to host workshops and courses that help participants actually digest topics like white privilege, internalized racism, and immigration (rather than choking on or spewing them) while also offering strategies for intervening in hateful or violent behaviors as safely as possible.
In reference to the strong reaction that so-called Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and similar extremists have elicited from community and religious groups, anti-racists, feminists, and immigration advocates, Rattner commented that when she’s seen young men of Nassau at previous Proud Boy marches wearing hats that say 6MWE, which stands for “Six million [Jews killed in the Holocaust] wasn’t enough,” she too experienced “fierce feelings” in response.
One longtime Rockville Centre resident and local parent who encountered the May 21 march (and who asked that her name be withheld) told Nassau Illustrated that many people in the village had been “horrified” when this happened back in November.
Then, in April 2022, there was an antisemitic incident, she continued. “A woman took the podium at a village zoning board meeting, basically spewed Jewish replacement theory for seven minutes [in front of city officials] and no one shut her down.”
“This is now the third [very public] incident of hate in Rockville Centre in six months … As a village, we need to say: We do not stand with you.”
The Anti-Defamation League’s website entry on Proud Boys includes the following summary of this ‘Western Chauvinist’ group, which was founded in New York less than a decade ago, and is associated with other U.S. extremist groups:
Ideology: The Proud Boys are a right-wing extremist group with a violent agenda. They are primarily misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic and anti-immigration. Some members espouse white supremacist and antisemitic ideologies and/or engage with white supremacist groups.
Membership: There are 119 active Proud Boys chapters across 46 states recognized by the national Proud Boys organization.
Notable characteristics: Members frequently wear black and yellow Fred Perry polo shirts, other black and yellow clothing and tactical vests.
Global footprint: Proud Boys have international chapters in Canada, Britain, Ireland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Australia and the Philippines.