Newly released surveillance video from a brawl between the Proud Boys, a far-right group, and leftist protesters after a Republican dinner in October appears to show the self-proclaimed “Western chauvinists” initiating the violence, contradicting the group's claims that they were defending themselves.
On Oct. 12, Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes delivered a speech at the Metropolitan Republican Club in Manhattan, triggering counterprotests outside the building. After the event ended, several recordings captured members of McInnes's group streaming out of the building and then clashing with a handful of leftist demonstrators who had sidestepped police blockades and were waiting for the group near another exit. When officers arrived, the Proud Boys were able to walk away, sparking outrage over whether they should have been arrested or at least questioned.
In the months following, authorities arrested and charged at least nine members of the Proud Boys with rioting and attempted assault. At least three leftist protesters were also charged.
Initially, McInnes claimed that his group descended on the protesters after one threw a water bottle at them. But now footage from a nearby building, which the New York Times obtained and released Sunday, shows two Proud Boys members beelining toward a group of about six protesters first, prompting one of the protesters to chuck the water bottle in the Proud Boys' direction.
In the video, the Proud Boys then continue to charge right into the group, hurling punches as other members sprint toward the fight.
Prior to the release of the security footage, prosecutors, media, and authorities used photographs and at least three other videos taken by bystanders and the New York Police Department to try to piece together who really started the fight.
Sandi Bachom, a video journalist, captured the moment the brawl began and the ensuing violence.
In that video, someone yells “Proud Boys! You ready? Proud Boys!” right before the men charge the protesters.
The entire fight lasted about a minute, the Times reported, and police arrived on the scene as the groups were still throwing punches. The NYPD had originally said the scene was “chaotic,” with many members running in different directions. But the videos contradicted that claim, showing most members walking into the dark street. Officers did not arrest anyone at the scene.
Shay Horse, a photojournalist who snapped a photo of the group after the fighting concluded, which authorities then used to help identify those involved, tweeted Sunday night that police “stood and watched the attack unfold.”
According to the Times, prosecutors have stated that they are relying on video evidence and witness accounts to investigate who initiated the assault, since several of the victims have refused to cooperate or be identified.
The Manhattan District Attorney's Office declined to comment for this story. BuzzFeed News reached out to the NYPD for comment on the surveillance footage but did not immediately hear back.