After the second Million MAGA March last weekend, there was a large gathering of Proud Boys groups on the streets of Washington D.C. Their purpose: hunt Antifa.
The march itself, I estimate, was smaller than the first, but the opposite was true for the “after party.” Whereas at the first march, a few hundred Proud Boys were present, at this one, there were thousands.
That night, after attending the Million MAGA March, I decided I would link up with fellow traveler Don from Plebeian Media and his compatriots while he live streamed his own coverage of the event.
I have never witnessed an event that approximated any sort of proto-light infantry warfare scenario, which is the best and least hyperbolic way I can describe it, and I found the experience instantly invaluable. I realized that, up until that point, I possessed in my mind zero useful information about what it is actually like in situations like this. Furthermore, it was immediately obvious to me that it was simply impossible to derive a real understanding from only an intellectual point of view.
The complete situation must be felt – it can only be understood via the full breadth of human senses – the sounds, the sights, the smells, and the adrenaline. Although what we experienced was far from combat, and the danger to any one person was minimal, it is certain that anyone who has ever experienced real combat will know what I mean.
Nevertheless, I will attempt to relate the tactical observations from my experience. I made a point to actively catalogue anything I found useful while with The Proud Boys, both on my phone and in my head.
A companion and I found Don, in a column of Proud Boys, which included hundreds of people, most of them actual Proud Boys, and some of them observers like us. By analogy, our role was something akin to the “war correspondent.” We “followed” the Proud Boys from the front, by marching just ahead of their front ranks.
We rather quickly came upon the Antifa line, and a police line in front of them. I was surprised at how we were only a few meters away from Antifa’s makeshift phalanx, pictured below.
Shortly after finding myself in this position, the police determined to put some distance between The Proud Boys and Antifa. The interesting thing here was that, the crowd was not pushy with the police, and there was certainly maneuvering room at the front for cameras. And beyond this, as soon as the polices’ move order was recognized, the Proud Boys called it out to each other, and they instantly began moving back in an orderly fashion, as the police slowly advanced in their armored uniforms.
I was surprised to find the interaction so polite, to the point where, police would make their way through the Proud Boys to get in front of them, and the Proud Boys would simply part and permit them through. Likewise, the police were extremely patient, allowing the Proud Boys ample time to step back. Essentially, they were ensuring that confrontation did not occur between any parties.
It is quite common to say that the police are on the side of Antifa, but I found that in this case, at least (possibly the largest Proud Boys vs Antifa engagement ever) they were very neutral. The police prevented mass street violence, which is of course something they are tasked with doing. This de facto appears to indicate a desire to protect Antifa, which it is, but only because the Proud Boys, having Antifa outnumbered 100 to 1, would have smeared them across the pavement if allowed to reach them, which is of course something the police must prevent. I would not call what the police were doing an alliance with Antifa so much as a consequence of the reality of the situation.
Anyway, at some point during this initial encounter, I caught a whiff of pepper spray, which was… interesting. Thankfully it was just a whiff – it caused sneezing and my mouth got spicy, but I avoided serious eye irritation or otherwise.
After the new lines were drawn, with the Proud Boys pushed a street width away from Antifa, there was an additional few meters space between the new police line and the Proud Boys. The Proud Boys did not needlessly push against the police, and additionally, I tentatively realized that the police were fine with people like me, who were obviously there for some sort of journalistic purpose, coming closer to their line and filming the Proud Boys from the police perspective.
Eventually, tired of simply staring at their foe from afar, the Proud Boys decided to move out. This reversed the direction of their column, so we sprinted to the new front as they attempted to approach Antifa from another direction.
From this perspective, the first notable observation that I made was that friend/foe distinction was extremely important under the low-visibility conditions we were in (night time plus urban sprawl). On several occasions, the front of the group would see another group, and we could hear questioning verbalization about the identity of the other group. This would spread rather quickly to the back ranks of the column in a wave of communication. The front ranks quickly identified friend based on the yellow and black colors of the Proud Boys, but the key was communicating this to the now riled-up middle and rear ranks. The reason being, they were rather antsy, and there was a palpable risk of the rear overrunning their own front line in an effort to get to potential combat. This was avoided rather handily, but the risk was clearly present.
On this note, I should take a moment to explain how communication actually worked within the Proud Boys column. I am using the terms “column,” and “ranks” rather informally here, of course, but within this space, orders were communicated and carried out in a similarly informal fashion. As far as I could tell, there were no obvious leaders, no officer corps. I presume that the Proud Boy chapters have some form of leadership in their own right, although, it was clear that the organization was not yet fully configured for the type of proto-militia operations they were now participating in. Succinctly put, orders were simply shouted out in an authoritative voice by whomever seemed to have the will to express it, and it would likewise be communicated back in the same way. Perhaps there was a more formal command and control structure that I remained ignorant to, but if it existed, it certainly wasn’t obvious.
There were also several megaphones on site, which were used on occasion to give an order en-masse, or at least loud enough for a significant number of people to hear it, although it was unclear to me if the persons giving such orders were doing so in any official capacity. Regardless, one very interesting observation I made here was that, although the mechanisms for promulgating orders were flawed, the obeyance of any order that was received was very disciplined. The entire night, any time I witnessed any order being given out, the recipients would do their utmost to obey it in an orderly fashion.
Relating to this problem of the communication of orders is the communication between “battalions.” There were several sizable groups of Proud Boys marching around, some hundreds, some tens, and it wasn’t apparent to me that they had any foreknowledge of each others’ location. Indeed, in the tight urban space we were in, packed into streets between office buildings, with rapid movement, it would have been difficult to keep tabs even with radio communication. Our position changed block by block every few minutes, and it was impossible to see anything other than your immediate surroundings, unless you happened to be in the front, and you could perhaps see a few blocks ahead, or behind, and you could see to the rear. To to the left and right, there were only solid concrete walls, and when you came to an intersection, there could be anything on either side. If you’re in the middle of the group, unless you are very tall, you basically have zero visibility. It became immediately obvious that in a situation like this, battle standards are necessary signalling tools to solve many of these problems – but The Proud Boys as of yet remain reliant of the repetition of verbal orders, shouted over the backdrop of footsteps and chants of “Fuck An-ti-fa!”
On top of this, Antifa made up for their being outnumbered by deploying motorized scouts (on local rental scooters) in addition to watching streams from the Proud Boys’ side, such as Don’s stream. This intelligence and reconnaissance gap, combined with the police’s own participation in this cat and mouse game, prevented the Proud Boys from achieving the decisive engagement that they sought.
Thwarted, the Proud Boys eventually migrated back to their “home base” en masse, The Harrington Hotel, where many of them had secured a room. On the way there, a few Proud Boys spotted some LGBT and/or BLM signage attached to a church, and I watched a few of them run off to take it down, so that it could be burned in the street near the hotel. There are a few news stories about this occurrence, and I believe Don actually filmed them burning it near the Harrington, if you are interested in watching.
On the final approach to the Harrington, I did nearly witness a stabbing that occurred. Before the crowd rushed in, I observed a panicked-looking black man, and he was involved in the incident immediately after. My assessment is that it appeared like it may have been one of the many homeless persons lying about, and he may have gotten spooked. I don’t think it was a leftist agitator from what I could see. The police rapidly arrived and formed up their line to seal off the area and do their job in response to this incident, complete with ambulance.
We spent about an hour at around the Harrington, mostly just resting and letting our guard down a bit.
Meanwhile, the Proud Boys must have come up with some sort of plan of action, as we began moving again after the rest period (where most people simply stood about, and a few of us sat on the curb). With the usual method, someone with a megaphone ordered a march, and we marched. However, we quickly reversed course after one block. I am not sure exactly how this decision occurred, but it seemed like the people leading the march realized that the strategy wasn’t working. I observed them strategizing for a bit, and they decided to go back to the Harrington for a bit of planning. Somehow, they ended up with a plan for a kettling or encircling strategy. The group was to be split into smaller squads which could be more easily controlled, and would surround Antifa from all sides, thus allowing at least one group of Proud Boys to circumvent the police. At least, that was the plan.
The next move was to establish a guard on the block adjacent to the Harrington, facing Antifa’s last known position. As before, there was some trouble with this. The man who attempted to organize it was successful in getting some nearby Proud Boys to move forward, but less successful in stopping them. They ended up a few meters beyond precisely where he intended them to stand guard, across the entire street, but eventually he succeeded in lining them up across the crosswalk, and onto the sidewalk. Once again, I saw that the Proud Boys are eager to follow a leader, but the problem is that the leaders have difficulty communicating their orders.
After this, the main body of Proud Boys began to move out again, except that it was divided into smaller units that could then engage in the encirclement strategy. I am ignorant as to who hatched this plan, but I observed that, such a simple strategy could have been devised within ten minutes rather than an hour, and even could have been planned prior to the event, if the Proud Boys had a functional officer corps.
The strategy was also flawed in execution. At least part of the plan was to achieve a manner of stealth, mainly by simply squelching all of the typical war chants. This was comically difficult, although the Proud Boys once again did an admirable job of attempting to maintain good order in their distributed way. Those who were ignorant of the plan for stealth, or perhaps too intoxicated to play along, were eventually hushed by others in the group informing them of the plan to stay quiet. Compared to the amount of noise we had been making the entire night, the moment became a bit eerie once the Proud Boys succeeded in not verbalizing any sounds, and we simply marched uphill in DC in the dead of night, with only the shuffling of feet to be heard.
It was now around 10:00pm, and to my surprise, at this late hour, as we passed a Marriott Hotel, suddenly as if out of inter-dimensional space, Alex Jones appeared. I suppose, having heard the ruckus, he endeavored to deliver one of his rousing speeches to us. I had a decent perspective on him, although I couldn’t understand a word of what he was saying, whether he had the megaphone on or no. Nevertheless, I was extremely satisfied that one of my main goals at both of the Million MAGA Marches, find Alex Jones, was suddenly fulfilled by falling into my lap. Everyone enjoyed his words, and I had to cut out a bit early, as some of the Proud Boys were moving on, and Don was going with them. I couldn’t risk being left without my group, so I went to catch up.
At this point, I realized that we were actually near my hotel. I had been monitoring our location the entire night, with the idea that at some point that I ought to bolt for my hotel under relatively safe conditions. We marched to within one block of it, such that I could see it and the open street in between, and decided it would be wise to take my leave at that moment, as I wasn’t likely to find conditions this safe again anytime soon.
So, I walked to the hotel with the Proud Boys continuing on behind me. The next day, I didn’t receive any news of serious altercations, so I assume the rest of the night was roughly as eventful as when I was there. If you’re curious, you can always check out Don’s full stream of the event:
Thus concludes my report on my findings that night. Due to the inherent danger, I cannot recommend anyone to go to events like this, but I will repeat that, the experience of actually being there has given me a new level of knowledge that was unattainable by any other means. I hope that you have enjoyed this inaugural post on NeoReactor, and expect to see more.