EXTREMISMHow Local Police Could Help Prevent Another January 6th-Style Insurrection

By Matthew Valasik and Shannon Reid

Published 21 September 2023

As scholars who study street gangs and far-right groups, we see that the larger law enforcement community continues to focus – we believe mistakenly – on the belief that, like terrorist groups, white supremacists are coordinated in ideology and intent. Evidence shows that perception actually diverts local police agencies’ attention from identifying and managing these groups. We believe that if police had treated Proud Boys as members of a street gang from the group’s inception in 2016, the events of Jan. 6, 2021, might have been avoided, or at least reduced in severity.

Some of the most prominent members of the Proud Boys, a far-right militant group that functions more like a street gang than a militia, have been sentenced to long terms in federal prison for their roles in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Experts declare that these successful prosecutions by the U.S. Justice Department will not only discourage far-right groups but also deter people from joining them and engaging in future criminal activity.

Group chairman Henry “Enrique” Tarrio was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison after being found guilty of seditious conspiracy. Group leaders Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs and Zachary Rehl were also found guilty of seditious conspiracy and sentenced to 18, 17 and 15 years, respectively. Dominic Pezzola, a Proud Boys member who breached the Capitol building with a stolen police riot shield, was found not guilty of seditious conspiracy but was convicted of a variety of felonies, including assaulting a police officer, robbing government property and obstructing an official proceeding – and sentenced to 10 years in prison.