84% of Groups Involved in Armed Demonstrations Are Right-Wing Actors Like the Proud Boys

New research shows that while no firearms are reported at the majority of protests in the United States, protests with guns present are on the rise since the beginning of 2020, and 84 percent of groups involved in armed demonstrations are right-wing extremists like the Proud Boys.

A recent, first-of-its-kind report from independent researchers Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) quantified the 560-plus armed demonstrations that have taken place across the United States since the start of 2020, averaging more than one a day—a number that is rising.

Justin Wagner, Director of Investigations at Everytown for Gun Safety, spoke about expectations for the September 18 "Justice for J6" rally planned by former Trump staffer and campaign operative Matt Braynard in an email with Newsweek Monday evening. The rally is reportedly intended to protest the prosecution of the rioters from the January 6 Capitol Riots.

Wagner said that he is hoping this Saturday's rally will be peaceful and unarmed but, given his group's research, he wasn't shocked that Braynard did not suggest participants leave guns at home, even though he did issue several other rules for attendance via the event website that had the appearance of considering safety.

Boogaloo Boys
A new report found that right-wing groups like the Proud Boys were responsible for 84 percent of armed demonstrations in the U.S. Above, armed members of the right-wing extremist group The Boogaloo Boys gather for gun rights on January 18, 2021, in Richmond, Virginia. Spencer Platt/Getty

"This isn't surprising," Wagner said. "Guns were present and part of the Jan. 6 attack and are an organizing principle of far-right groups, like the Proud Boys and Three Percenters who are also linked with this Saturday's event. Guns aren't just tools of intimidation and violence, they are often how extremist groups message and recruit."

Wagner also pointed out that his group's report "shows a proliferation in armed demonstrations on the grounds of government facilities," which might not bode well for the September 18 rally, saying, "Since the beginning of 2020, 18 [percent] of all armed demonstrations have occurred on the grounds of government facilities, with more than 100 reported at legislative buildings and vote counting centers across 25 states and Washington, DC."

Armed demonstrations are "violent or destructive" roughly five times as often as unarmed demonstrations in the U.S., according to Wagner. However, in the case of the upcoming "Justice for J6 Rally," D.C. laws prohibiting carrying firearms in public spaces, make things harder for armed citizen militias.

"Many states do not have the same restrictions," Wagner told Newsweek. "In other states, law enforcement would not be able to arrest an extremist using firearms as an intimidation tool until violence occurred."

The report found that states with open carry laws were significantly more likely to have armed demonstrations with violence than states where open carry of firearms is not allowed.

Eighty-four percent of the groups involved in U.S. armed demonstrations are right-wing actors, according to the report, with the Boogaloo Boys and their affiliates, the Three Percenters, and associated groups, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, at the top of the list.

Correction (9/14/2021, 6:15 p.m.): This article and headline originally stated that right-wing groups were responsible for 84 percent of armed demonstrations. This should have said that of all groups identified at armed demonstrations, 84 percent were right-wing.