A Kansas Proud Boy charged in the Capitol riot has requested a judge’s release due to chronic back pain, which prosecutors claim didn’t stop him from reportedly swinging an ax handle against police outside the Capitol.
In February, William Chrestman, 47, and four other members of the Kansas City chapter of the Proud Boys were arrested. Chrestman appears to be wearing tactical gear, wearing a respirator, and wielding a wooden ax handle in photos from the Capitol disturbance. He is charged with conspiracy, civil disorder, and threatening to assault a federal law enforcement official, among other things.
Chrestman’s lawyers also claim that Donald Trump ordered him into the breach, thus he should be given a second chance.
“It is an astounding thing to imagine storming the United States Capitol with sticks and flags and bear spray, arrayed against armed and highly trained law enforcement,” his attorneys stated in a February filing. “Only someone who thought they had an official endorsement would even attempt such a thing. And a Proud Boy who had been paying attention would very much believe he did.”
The worst excuse ever is that “Donald Trump told me to do it.” Prosecutors, for their part, were not convinced by Chrestman’s pretensions.
“Interestingly, the defendant’s back pain did not prevent him from storming the United States Capitol while armed with an ax handle, threatening law enforcement officers, and attempting to prevent Congressional proceedings, among other conduct,” stated Justice Department lawyers in their response.
The Justice Department also fought Chrestman’s attorneys’ attempt to portray him as a bystander in the alleged Proud Boys conspiracy that took place on January 6. Chrestman, according to the DOJ, took an “active role in leading the co-defendants in his conspiracy and the crowd writ large in the attack on the Capitol.”
If someone was hoping that the Proud Boys, who have 18 members pending trial for their actions during the Capitol insurgency on Jan. 6, would wither and fade away in the aftermath don’t hang on too tightly to those hopes. According to chat messages on Telegram, Ethan Nordean and his comrades exchanged they are not going to go quietly away anytime soon.
Nordean, a leader of the Proud Boys who broke the Capitol’s security barriers, has expressed his displeasure with Donald Trump for encouraging them to act and then “leaving us on the battlefield” afterward. Nordean and his fellow white supremacist thugs have started making plans for their post-insurgency world, as they prepare for what they call “absolute war.”
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Prosecutors in Nordean’s case filed a document detailing some of the Proud Boys’ messages after January 6. It’s chilling reading because it’s obvious that the violent far-right extremists who make up their membership rolls have no intention of slowing down anytime soon and only plan to ramp up the abuse in the months and years ahead.
In a Telegram message obtained by the FBI on Jan. 20, Nordean, who goes by “Rufio Panman on Telegram, outlined the agenda for a Feb. 2 meeting of Washington State Proud Boys officers in the central Washington town of Leavenworth, which included “Secure Vetting,” “Communications,” “SHTF [Shit Hits The Fan] safe locations,” “Bulk armor deals,” and of part, “Bulk armor deals.”
“This is a very fragile time for the club, but we must be more vigilant than ever, not just for those that look up to us in the club,” Nordean wrote. “We are on the brink of absolute war.”
The national organization’s initial response, however, was to order a short-term “stand down” for Proud Boy-led rallies that would last until May 1 (“Almost none of my guys want to do rallies now,” one message read). Indeed, until that date, when the Proud Boys held an aggressive rally in a city park in Salem, Oregon, the Proud Boys’ activities were kept quiet.
Nordean, on the other hand, was adamantly opposed to suggestions that they suspend operations in the interim.
“They’re coming for you no matter what you [guys],” he wrote. “Wake the hell up. I’m not gonna be sitting on my ass waiting for the end.”
He later added: “I’m gonna press on with some smart level headed nonemotional guys and create a game plan for how to approach this year, we aren’t gonna stop getting involved in the community, especially with the momentum we have and if you’re worried about getting arrested and think that doing nothing will remove that threat you’re fooling yourselves. I’ve had this conversation with guys like this for 3 years and every year you all get worked up and wanna hide. We can be smarter, train, plan etc … but we will never stop. Get on board or move aside.”
Nordean also had an exchange with an unidentified Proud Boy in which he wrote, “Patriot movement is full of whiney virtue-signaling [people] who hate violence.” His interlocutor responded that “there’s some of us who simply will never quit, ever. Maybe I’m just insane, but I will fight until my dying breath no matter what situation we’re in, and I think every man in this room will too … And that [is] something our founding fathers would be proud to see.”
In another exchange about the “stand down” with another Proud Boy later charged in the conspiracy, Nordean wrote: “Yeah, this is just to organize and prepare for when we do decide to get active again. At the very least there are lots of good excuses to just get out and do meet n greets with the public, raise money, community service, security for events, etc … but we can work on an effective process so we look more organized and have properly vetted members who are representing the club.”
His tweets have included a dismayed follower’s invective aimed at Donald Trump, including an extended outburst from Jan. 20:
“Alright, I’m gonna say it. FUCK TRUMP! Fuck him more than Biden. I’ve followed the guy for 4 years and given everything and lost it all. Yes, he woke us up, but he led us to believe some great justice was upon us … and it never happened, now I’ve got some of my good friends and myself facing jail time cuz we followed this guy’s lead and never questioned it. We are now and always have been on our own. So glad he was able to pardon a bunch of degenerates as his last move and shit on us on the way out. Fuck you trump you left us on [t]he battlefield bloody and alone.”
After the national chairman, Enrique Tarrio was revealed to be acting as a federal informant, a number of Proud Boys chapters, including Nordean’s Northwest division, broke away from the national organization. “Until such a time as we can choose to agree to join those bodies of government, we do not accept the presumed authority of any national Proud Boy leadership, including the Chairman, the Elders, or any subsequent governing body that is created to replace them,” read announcements from chapters in Alabama, Indiana, and Oklahoma.
Another Northwest-based party, the Proud Boys of the American Redoubt, which includes members from Montana, Idaho, and eastern Washington, broke away as well but has been very involved on Telegram. It has recently posted memes depicting helmeted “New World Order” soldiers kidnapping American citizens.
On May 1, the Proud Boys Northwest made their official comeback at a rally in Salem’s Riverfront Park called “One Nation Under God.” Despite the fact that the event lacked a city permit, the gun-wielding Proud Boys were able to bar those they considered unwelcome, intimidating both journalists and civilians with impunity. A police helicopter hovered overhead as the only sign of law enforcement.