School board meetings have become more and more contentious in recent months amidst the conservative backlash against critical race theory, mask mandates, and vaccines.
The far-right Proud Boys have capitalized on the anger by attending school board meetings and even organizing protests. The alliance between angry parents and Proud Boys, first noted last spring, appears to be on the rise. Proud Boys are increasingly showing up at schools and school board meetings across the nation. One reportedly ran for a school board seat, ultimately placing second.
This occurs against a backdrop of school staff and administrators being targeted over policies related to COVID-19 and school curriculum.
Last week, a Wisconsin school closed for the day in anticipation of a protest over claims the school mishandled an incident involving a teacher taping a mask on a special needs child. Local news outlets reported the Proud Boys planned the protest. As journalist Ford Fischer noted, a branch of the group promoted it on Telegram.
The notoriously violent Proud Boys’ involvement seems to have factored heavily into administrators’ decision to close schools that day.
“Considering the behaviors, actions, and language of certain groups who do not consider the safety and well-being of others, our buildings are closed and there is no school today,” the district said in a statement.
“The decision to close our buildings was made in collaboration with the City of Beloit Police Department.”
Video from the protest shows people wearing Proud Boys’ insignia in the crowd.
Proud Boys and people affiliated with the group have attended school board meetings across the country.
On Tuesday, a local branch of Proud Boys attended a school board meeting in North Carolina, StarNews Online reports. They were among those protesting mask mandates.
Last month, Proud Boys joined parents protesting vaccine and mask mandates at a Portland, Oregon school board meeting. The contentiousness of the meeting led officials to move to a virtual session, KOIN reports. The outlet added that the superintendent said that protesters had used “offensive racist language.”
Also last month, an InfoWars contributor with purported ties to the group was removed from a school board meeting in Florida while wearing shirt reading “Pinochet did nothing wrong!” Augusto Pinochet was the former right-wing dictator of Chile who tortured, detained, and killed tens of thousands of his political enemies.
On Telegram, Proud Boys share plans and strategies for protesting at schools.
A member of Enrique Tarrio’s Telegram channel recently forwarded a message urging people to attend school board meetings and claiming that critical race theory is now being “rebranded” as social emotional learning.
On these channels and elsewhere, Proud Boys endeavor to sow anger and discontent over school policies.
Proud Boys are reportedly planning to attend a “school board showdown” in Illinois next week.
Outrage over masks, vaccines, and critical race theory has become a uniting force among right-wing groups. The Proud Boys are clearly more than willing to capitalize on it.