The FBI recruited Proud Boys leader to provide antifa information months before storming the Capitol
FBI agents recruited a Proud Boys leader to provide information on antifa networks months before he was charged with storming the US Capitol along with other members of the far-right extremist group, a lawyer said.
Proud boys’ thought leader and organizer Joseph Biggs agreed to provide the FBI with information about anti-fascist activists in Florida and elsewhere after an agent contacted him in late July 2020 and arranged to meet at a restaurant , Biggs’s attorney, J. Daniel Hull, wrote in a lawsuit Monday.
The two officers who met Biggs wanted to know what he “ saw on the ground, ” Hull said. Over the following weeks, Biggs answered an agent’s questions in a series of phone calls.
“They spoke often,” said Hull, requesting a judge to keep Biggs out of prison pending trial.
Biggs, 37, of Ormond Beach, Florida, and three other Proud Boys leaders were indicted on charges they planned on March 10 and carried out a coordinated attack on the Capitol on January 6 to prevent Congress from taking President’s election victory. Joe Biden would certify.
Proud boy leader Joseph Biggs, center with hat and glasses, walks to the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, in support of President Donald Trump on Jan. 6
At least 20 others in the group were charged by federal court with crimes related to the riots. About 350 people have been charged in the riot that killed five people, including a Capitol police officer.
Proud Boys members describe themselves as a politically incorrect men’s club for “Western chauvinists.” Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, who founded the group in 2016, sued the Southern Poverty Law Center for labeling it a hate group.
The law center said Proud Boys members often spread “ outright bigotry ” around the internet and have posted photos of themselves on social media featuring prominent Holocaust deniers, white nationalists, and “ well-known neo-Nazis. ”
Proud boy leaders Enrique Tarrio, and Joe Biggs at a meeting in Portland, Oregon, on August 17, 2019
Proud boy leaders Joe Biggs, in green hat, and Enrique Tarrio, holding megaphone, march across a bridge with members of the group and other right-wing protesters at an Aug. 17, 2019, rally in Portland, Oregon.
Biggs isn’t the first Proud Boys informant.
The group’s chairman and top leader, Enrique Tarrio, previously worked undercover and collaborated with detectives after he was charged with fraud in 2012, court documents show.
Justice Department prosecutors want to imprison Biggs while he and the others await his trial because he “ poses a danger not only based on his own potential violence, but also through violence by others who no doubt still support him. ” .
J. Daniel Hull, attorney for Proud Boys organizer Joe Biggs
Biggs’s attorney said the incarceration attempt depends on evidence that is speculative at best.
Importantly, the FBI has been aware of its political commentary and role in planning events and counter-protests in Portland and other cities since at least July 2020 and has arguably benefited from that knowledge in gathering information about Antifa in Florida and Antifa networks operating in the United States, ”Hull wrote.
Antifa was the Trump administration’s scapegoat for much of last year’s social unrest following George Floyd’s death. Trump and then Attorney General William Barr blamed antifa activists for violence in protests over police killings of black people in the US.
FBI agents responded to police stations in several cities to question suspects who had been arrested during protests, focusing on those who identified themselves as supporters of the movement, an agency official said.
FBI Director Christopher Wray is sworn in at a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington DC on March 2.
Wray has said there was no evidence that the Antifa was responsible for the violence in the Capitol on January 6, when rioters stormed the Capitol in a failed attempt to stop the election results from being certified, which Joe Biden confirmed as president.
But researchers struggled to do business, in part because there is no hierarchical structure for Antifa. It is not a single organization, but rather an umbrella term for far-left militant groups that confront or oppose neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations, the official said.
FBI Director Christopher Wray has said there was no evidence that the Antifa was responsible for the January 6 violence in the Capitol.
Eric Ward, executive director of the Portland-based Western States Center, which tracks hate groups, said it was “ very worrying ” to learn that Biggs was working with the FBI, especially as law enforcement officials “ have often maintained inappropriately close relationships with far-right groups. ‘
Proud Boys members describe themselves as a politically incorrect men’s club for “Western chauvinists.”
Proud guys and protesters who self-identify as antifa regularly clash at public events, including a rally in Washington, DC where police used pepper spray against activists
Antifa and conservative activists have both been accused of violence, but a center tracking hate groups says police have “ often inappropriately maintained close relationships with far-right groups. ”
The Proud Boys actively promoted violence and street fighting during the Portland demonstrations, Ward said, and Biggs “ called for street violence. ”
Law enforcement has no credible reason to work with someone like Biggs. It is long ago for a clear account of institutional and professional law enforcement relationships with groups that embrace political violence at home and abroad, ” Ward wrote in an email.