Local leaders of the right-wing group Proud Boys in Salt Lake City held a joint news conference with a local Black Lives Matter leader on Wednesday to correct the record and “denounce White supremacy” after President Trump mentioned them during Tuesday’s first presidential debate.
“I will go out and say that the Proud Boys as a whole — I will say this on behalf of the entire national organization — denounce White supremacy,” the chief of the Proud Boys Salt Lake Utah Chapter, who only gave the name Thad, told reporters, FOX13 reported.
“We are in no way, shape or form White supremacists,” Thad said. “We have a vetting system that gets those people out of our hair. We do not have anything to do with White supremacy. We do not have anything to do with the Ku Klux Klan. We denounce those organizations.”
“I don’t care what color your skin is, we’re all Americans, and we need to find a way to come together instead of divide,” the group’s president, who only gave the name Seth, told reporters during a joint news conference in Washington Square Park, KUTV reported.
Thad and Seth appeared alongside Jacarri Kelley, the leader of Black Lives Matter Northern Utah chapter, which is unaffiliated with Black Lives Matter Utah.
“We do need to be able to reach across the aisle and have these tough conversations,” Ms. Kelley said.
She said she recently met with Proud Boys leaders in Portland, Oregon, and that they had a “productive conversation,” KUTV reported.
Mr. Trump sparked a wave of backlash during Tuesday night’s first debate against Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden after he told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during a question about whether the president would condemn White supremacy.
Democrats and media personalities accused Mr. Trump of openly supporting White supremacy and encouraging violence.
Mr. Trump later said he was unaware of “who Proud Boys are” and said he had “always denounced” White supremacy.
Enrique Tarrio, international chairman of the Proud Boys and a Black Hispanic, denied Wednesday the allegations of racism, tweeting, “The question was in reference to WHITE SUPREMACY … which we are not.”
The Proud Boys, who are known for their clashes with leftist Antifa activists, particularly in Portland, claim to stand for “western chauvinism,” which they say is just another word for patriotism.
“It means that the west is the best — western civilization is the best. That’s our opinion,” Thad said Wednesday, KUTV reported.
“Don’t get it wrong with like, male chauvinism or anything like that. Those are two different things,” Seth added.
The pair also dismissed any lasting influence of Proud Boys founder, Gavin McInnes, who stepped down from the organization in 2018.
“He’s gone. He’s not part of the organization anymore,” both men said.
They said they plan to continue to hold conversations with Black Lives Matter leaders.
“Meeting and talking and having that understanding allowed us to move forward with working together on police reform,” Seth said.
Meanwhile, Black Lives Matter Utah leader Alexis “Lex” Scott said her group doesn’t want anything to do with the Proud Boys.
“Black Lives Matter Utah would like nothing to do with the Proud Boys,” she told FOX13. “We believe they are a violent, White supremacist militia and we would prefer if they would leave us alone.”