'More violence' if Biden doesn't listen, says Proud Boys leader

·4-min read

The Biden administration has just launched a review into domestic terrorism in the wake of the siege on the Capitol.

A number of groups are being looked at, including the Proud Boys. Canada recently designated it as a terrorist entity, in part for its alleged role in the 6 January riot.

Online, there's also been a crackdown, with apps closed and groups like the Proud Boys denied access.

But the group's leader, Enrique Tarrio, told Sky News the clampdown will backfire if Mr Biden doesn't find a way to listen to people's grievances.

"I think that, yes, there will be more violence," he said.

"You keep silencing people. You keep de-platforming them, de-financing them, dehumanising them, and they're going to react. It's an expected reaction."

Seven members of the group are facing charges in connection to the riot, three on conspiracy charges, which Mr Tarrio thinks are overblown and will ultimately not stick.

But many argue tougher action is exactly what's needed. And it's not just the actions of those who went to the Capitol on the 6th that are under the microscope, but the political rhetoric in Washington too.

Republican ties to conspiracy theories and militia groups are under scrutiny, with rising concern about politicians giving a mainstream platform for extreme ideas.

One congressional freshman from Colorado has sparked a lot of controversy.

Congresswoman Lauren Boebert has been accused of embracing the far right. On the day of the Capitol riot she tweeted "Today is 1776", and last year declared "I am the militia".

A Democrat colleague claimed she may have led a reconnaissance tour of the Capitol days before the siege.

Ms Boebert vehemently denied that accusation, stating that she only showed a small group of family members. She has also condemned the violence.

But in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, Mayor Jonathan Godes is one of group of local politicians who've called for an investigation into Ms Boebert's links to militia groups.

Forty minutes away in Rifle, Colorado, where Ms Boebert runs an open-carry restaurant called Shooters Grill, support is easy to find for the pro-gun congresswoman.

One customer, Charles, tells me: "I think she's a champion… Good looking little old gal with a pistol gets elected to Congress out of this town, are you kidding me? That's like rock star."

Ms Boebert's business is a bit of a local mecca for pro-gun enthusiasts.

One of the men charged in connection with the riot, Robert Gieswein, was pictured outside the restaurant with a rifle.

He's allegedly affiliated with the 3 Percenters Movement that says it aims to protect Americans against government tyranny.

But Mike Morris, a co-founder of 3 Percent United Patriots, said wearing 3 Percenters insignia doesn't mean you're a true member.

"It's just like saying, you know, how did you feel when the Unabomber bombed somebody when he was wearing Nikes?

He says he condemns the violence at the Capitol, but believes - like Enrique Tarrio - that an online crackdown is forcing people underground and making them more extreme.

Back in Rifle, gun shop owner Edward Wilkes - who says he's provided security for Lauren Boebert at events - says longstanding, pro-second amendment militia are being unfairly conflated with violent extremists and that the real threat comes from the radical left.

"Republicans, conservatives, gun owners, stereotypically speaking, tend to be more level-headed and calm," he insists. Antifa, he believes, are far more of an issue.

What struck me the most in investigating those charged in connection with the Capitol is how broad they were.

The images of combat fatigues in the Capitol painted an extreme portrait of the rioters. A lot of attention has focused on extreme groups.

But early investigations suggest there were many more individuals, middle aged and middle class and often unaffiliated to any organisation.

Driving round some of the neighbourhoods of those charged and speaking to some of their friends, you get a sense that there is something much deeper and complex that America needs to confront.

People without criminal pasts felt compelled to risk breaking the law on January 6th.

After years of deepening resentment they were convinced the election was stolen, enraged by the idea of a freedom sucking pandemic.

Rachel Nielsen, a domestic extremism analyst in Colorado, told me it created a "breeding ground for extremism".

It didn't take long for America to get to the point it did at the start of this year, but it could take much longer to repair the damage. Listening and understanding people's rage may be the key to that.