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FBI informant panic is ruining friendships all over the far right

https://news.yahoo.com/fbi-informant-panic-ruining-friendships-042446613.html

As federal authorities crack down on the far right after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, the movement’s leaders have found new sources of suspicion: each other.

In the Trumpist “America First” movement and the far-right paramilitary group the Proud Boys, alliances are fracturing as extremists brand each other as potential informants. Now racist live-streamers are accusing their former comrades of attempting to turn over followers to law enforcement, while Proud Boys chapters are splintering from the national organization over similar fears.

Until the FBI started closing in, white nationalists Nick Fuentes and Patrick Casey were the two most prominent figures in the racist “America First” movement.

The pair built up shared audiences on live-streaming platforms, and cheered as their fans, nicknamed “groypers” after an obese version of the cartoon Pepe the Frog, heckled more moderate Trump allies at conservative events.

But the federal heat is on after Fuentes received roughly $250,000 in a much-scrutinized bitcoin transfer, then appeared outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot. The FBI is reportedly investigating the bitcoin transfer, though Fuentes has not faced charges over the money or the riot.

On Thursday, Casey distanced himself from Fuentes and America First in a live-streamed video, slamming Fuentes’ decision to gather his followers in Orlando later this month for a conference right as other America First supporters face charges over the riot.

“Some people who were at the Capitol are going to flip,” Casey said in his video.

Declaring the aftermath of the Capitol riot “a million times worse” for the far right than the crackdown that followed the fatal white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017, Casey claimed, without offering evidence, that Fuentes’ bank accounts have been frozen by federal authorities. He also accused Fuentes of planning to drive cross-country, rather than fly, to the Florida conference because he suspected he was on the federal no-fly list, then concealing that possibility from his followers.

Worst of all, Casey argued, Fuentes planned to gather all of his supporters in Orlando, where they could be easily recorded by federal investigators or informants. He went on to suggest America First’s members would see the conference for what he thinks it could be: an FBI trap.

“He wants you to give him your real name, to show up to his event where your face will be visible, where your cellphone data will be in close proximity to his,” Casey said.

Fuentes didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Accusations that one-time allies have become federal informants aren’t uncommon in the extreme right, which has built up an entire lexicon of terms to describe the varieties of real or suspected federal infiltrators. But that paranoia has been ratcheted up in the aftermath of the riot, with the Proud Boys—a group that has seen a slew of members indicted—splintering under accusations that leaders have become informants or otherwise been compromised by the FBI.

Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was arrested in Washington, D.C., two days before the riot, and now faces felony charges over the possession of illicit firearm magazines. But a Reuters report on Tarrio’s history as a federal informant cast members’ suspicions on their own leader, even as Proud Boys who allegedly participated in the riot face federal conspiracy charges.

Proud Boys chapters in three U.S. states—including four local chapters in Indiana—now claim to have broken with the national organization over Tarrio’s work as a federal informant. (Tarrio did not return a request for comment.)

“We reject and disavow the proven federal informant, Enrique Tarrio, and any and all chapters that choose to associate with him,” read a statement shared by the Indiana group’s state-level Telegram channel and on the Alabama group’s website, previously reported by USA Today. “We do not recognize the assumed authority of any national Proud Boy leadership including the Chairman, the Elders, or any subsequent governing body that is formed to replace them until such a time we may choose to consent to join those bodies of government.”

Proud Boys in Oklahoma also broke from Tarrio’s leadership, issuing a statement on messaging app Telegram in which they accused him and other national “elders” of “failure to take disciplinary measures [which] have jeopardized our brothers safety and the integrity of our brotherhood.”

Tarrio responded to the Oklahoma chapter’s departure with a series of memes accusing Oklahomans of being rednecks, or having sex with relatives. Anti-Tarrio Proud Boys responded with their own memes accusing their former leader of ratting out members of the group, photoshopping his face on rapper and government witness Tekashi69. Another meme played on the menacing Proud Boys motto “Fuck Around and Find Out,” claiming that Tarrio would instead “Snitch Around and Rat Out.”

But don’t expect Proud Boy splinter groups to morph into peaceful book clubs. The Indiana Proud Boys, for example, are led by Brien James, a longtime member of white supremacist groups with a history of violent brawls. Other white supremacists have previously slammed James as a law enforcement risk (someone “you want to keep away from you because you know he’s going to do something to bring the cops over,” one previously noted). Nevertheless, James took to Telegram this week to blame Tarrio and Ethan “Rufio Panman” Nordean, a prominent Proud Boy who was arrested on Feb. 3 over his own alleged role in the riot, of being untrustworthy.

“Now we have another ‘war boy’ and elder who is trying to snitch on the president? For something he knows damn well the president didn’t do? You made your own choices Rufio,” James wrote, adding that “if you are a Proud Boy I would recommend having your chapter declare full autonomy from the national structure at the very least.” (A public defender listed as representing Nordean did not respond to a request for comment.)

The Capitol riots have been followed by still more rifts internationally.

Anti-fascist activists in Manitoba, Canada, also claim their province’s Proud Boys chapter has dissolved. The CBC reported that, while the chapter had been largely inactive for the past year, the group was confirmed dead this month, when the #####government designated Proud Boys as a terrorist organization.

Inside the Alt-Right Meltdown After Failed Capitol Putsch

Meanwhile, Jason Lee Van Dyke, who registered the group’s trademark and briefly led the Proud Boys in 2018, filed this week to surrender the trademark to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, legal documents show. Van Dyke previously told The Daily Beast he revoked Tarrio’s license to use the name after a Black church in Washington, D.C., sued the Proud Boys for allegedly burning their flag in a rally weeks before the Capitol attack.

“I don’t want any recourse or anyone thinking I have any control over this group, that I have anything to do with this group, or that I am going to have anything to do with this group in the future,” Van Dyke said in a separate interview this week. He claimed he’d tried to transfer the trademark to another Proud Boy, who got spooked after Canada slapped the group with a terrorist label.

“There was one individual… who contacted me about having the trademark transferred to him,” Van Dyke told The Daily Beast. “After the #####government made a determination of the Proud Boys as a terrorist group for whatever reason they did that, that individual told me he was out and he would not be taking over the trademark. My response to that individual and those who had been working with him on acquiring the trademark was that they had seven days to get back to me regarding who was going to take it over, or I was going to surrender it.

“I did not hear back from anybody and the trademark is surrendered.”

As for the America First movement, Casey’s criticism of Fuentes has riled the “groypers,” who have been forced to choose between their two leaders. Fuentes appeared to respond to Casey on Thursday night by tweeting a video of Donald Trump talking about disloyalty.

But Fuentes’ supporters and allies have good reason to believe federal law enforcement is focusing on their group. Anthime Gionet, a Fuentes ally who goes by the alias “Baked Alaska,” was arrested in January after filming himself entering the Capitol. Riot suspect Riley June Williams, who wore an “I’m With Groyper” shirt to the Capitol, allegedly stole a laptop computer from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

Casey urged his followers to consider how they would react to Fuentes’ conference if any other far-right leader had been behind it.

“You would be like, ‘Wow, federal honeypot, federal honeypot event,’” Casey said. “You would probably accuse the guy of being a fed.”

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