SEATTLE — A group of "Proud Boys" in western Washington have aligned themselves with a campaign that seeks to squash a measure that would bring back affirmative action.
Last spring the state Legislature approved Initiative 1000, which repealed a 21-year-old ban on affirmative action. Opponents of the initiative collected enough signatures to put it on the ballot as Referendum 88. Those opponents have now formed the Reject Referendum 88 campaign.
Proud Boys describe themselves as a "pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world; aka Western Chauvinists."
In a YouTube video, they are seen helping opponents of Initiative 1000 turn in signatures in Olympia. Campaign members said they feared for their safety and the Proud Boys offered to help.
Former Washington Governor and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke says the video is disappointing.
"What's interesting is the Proud Boys volunteered to offer that security and openly brag about it in a video about how they are aligned with this anti-1000 initiative group," Locke said. "And then you look up what the Proud Boys stand for, and you find out they are a white supremacist, anti-immigrant, anti-female group that is also part of the organization that led to violent, ugly demonstrations and tragedy in Charlottesville a few years ago."
While the Proud Boys have only been around since 2016, they've made headlines in Portland and New York for violent clashes with other groups. Some even faced criminal charges for the violence.
The FBI has identified some members as extremists.
The Southern Poverty Law Center classified the Proud Boys as a hate group. Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, who also co-founded Vice, sued the law center for defamation. A court has not ruled in the case.
Linda Yang from the the Reject 88 campaign released the following statement:
"We worked with a lot of volunteers and didn't know the association of these individuals you refer to, nor did they tell us. The Reject Ref.88/I-1000 campaign welcomes people from all walks of life who believe in equality for all, regardless of race. Those who don't believe in that principle -- be they on the far left or the far right -- are not welcome in this campaign."