Proud Boys met for food and drinks on a Sunday at the Sandy Hut bar in northeast Portland. Local bar flies had their cameras on them and snapped a couple pictures of Proud Boys members wearing their signature yellow-trimmed black Fred Perry shirts and “Make America Great Again” hats.
As a result, a campaign from those actively opposed to Proud Boys presence in Portland has circulated the internet which initially included blacklisting the Sandy Hut and showing up with their “tools” to confront the group’s presence at the bar.
Who are the Proud Boys?
Proud Boys was created in 2016 by Vice Media and magazine’s co-founder Gavin McInnes, who has been long since removed from the Vice organization. Proud Boys’ Twitter page states, “I am a Western Chauvinist and I Refuse to Apologize for Creating the Modern World. The West is the Best!” The same Twitter account references the hashtag “UHURU,” referencing the Proud Boy’s fondness for harassing a specific queer black activist, who regularly calls for reparations, with several offensive slurs.
Source of controversy
The controversy began when three photos began circulating the internet on Aug. 6 showing a group of Proud Boy members inside The Sandy Hut. The post alleged that a large group of Proud Boys had been making Sandy Hut a regular spot. By the Aug. 10 this post had cast a wide net.
“Hey Portland friends,” the Facebook post read. “Anyone recognize these faces? Group of about twenty proud boys hanging out at Sandy Hut. Just passing it on. They’ve been showing up on Sunday’s in big groups. It’s posted in their Facebook page too just a heads up.”
“The Sandy Hut had nothing to do with it,” an anonymous Sandy Hut employee stated. “The Proud Boys came in one Sunday and there was a rumor spreading that they were gonna be back the next Sunday. The anti-scene got ahold of that and they reacted and they put out that flyer that says, you know, bring your toys.”
The employee wanted to remain anonymous because they felt they didn’t want to misrepresent the Sandy Hut’s intentions by speaking on their behalf. Other Facebook posts have announced bans against the Proud Boys, who are now not allowed in the bar and that the Sandy Hut and its affiliated businesses, such as The Alibi, the Double Barrel and etc. can once again have their business.
The employee confirmed strategies are being worked on to properly address discriminatory groups the business and its patrons don’t want inside.
“I think mostly [Proud Boys members and their associates are] just trying to get a reaction out of people and it’s building a huge distraction,” the Sandy Hut employee said. “I see a lot of people in the LGBT community here, a lot of regulars come in, and the fact that they can be here and be okay with being themselves really fuckin’ warms my heart.”
Carisa Sprecher is a bartender at B-Side Tavern and agrees the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer’s main concern is getting Portland riled up. Sprecher feels they want to make their presence known.
Sprecher also concluded the controversy was a little overstated but felt it nonetheless started an important conversation. According to Sprecher, the Proud Boys had come into the Sandy Hut two to three times before heading down to Patriot Prayer events, contrary to the theory that the Hut was a Sunday social meetup spot.
Sprecher shared her potential strategy for dealing with such a situation. As a person in the service industry, Sprecher said you can punch Nazis outside, but wants the bar to be a place where people don’t have to look over their shoulder and can just enjoy a drink in peace. Sprecher offered a line for people in the service industry to nip potential situations in the bud by turning away customers that can create problematic situations:
“I can’t have you in here because I’m worried for the safety of my friends, my customers, and the safety of you, so it’s probably best that you find a different place to go,” Sprecher said.
Both Sprecher and the Sandy Hut employee discussed the concept of dress codes like not being able to wear gang colors in the bar and adding black Fred Perry shirts with yellow piping and MAGA hats to the list. Sprecher said NE Portland bar and venue The Know’s manager gave some really good advice in this regard.
“We don’t allow people to fly their colors in here,” Sprecher said. “We don’t allow gangs to congregate in here and you’re obviously wearing colors, I mean you’re all five of you douchebags, I mean five of you human whatever are all in black-and-yellow Fred Perry shirts and Make America Great Again hats, I’m sorry you can’t come in here with your colors like that. That’s intimidating because now everyone’s starting to know what a Proud Boy is. Five people walk in wearing the same fucking shirt, it’s like, ‘Who the hell are you?’”
Sprecher also took issue with the way the situation got away from the bartender, who attempted to address this situation in real time without help from his immediate community, and the Sandy Hut, who happened to have a door that people dressed similarly walked into one day.
“That was another problem I had with this whole thing: If you’re gonna drag a business and people like bartenders and their fuckin’ jobs through the mud, you should probably know your enemy and what you’re talking about because those Proud Boys aren’t gonna come in because they’re at a fuckin’ rally in Seattle,” Sprecher asserted. “So stupid.”
Sprecher is referring to the Patriot Prayer rally in Seattle that occurred on Sunday, Aug. 12, which was the date many Facebook posts predicted would be the next meetup.
According to individuals who work at the establishments mentioned, the recent controversy has sparked a new conversation in local businesses about where and how to draw the line when allowing certain people to patronize their establishments and what enforcement of those policies looks like.