The leader of a northern Utah Black Lives Matter chapter held a press conference with local Proud Boys leaders in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, defending the group which has been labeled by critics as white supremacists.
But the leaders from both activist organizations — who have been meeting together to find common ground — called on Americans to come together in unity after months of unrest and divisiveness in the country.
What are the details?
In video taken by KUTV-TV, Jacarri Kelley, the leader of Black Lives Matter, Northern Utah, told the press that she called the conference because she wanted to set the record straight after the Proud Boys were mentioned during the first presidential debate and accused of being “white supremacists.”
Kelley was flanked by Proud Boys local president Seth, and chief Thad, both of whom only provided their first names.
The BLM leader explained that she has been meeting with Seth and Thad for the past several weeks to learn more about their views, after she spoke with a few Proud Boys members during a protest who reassured her that they were just there “to make sure nothing goes down.”
“We sat down and had a conversation about each others’ myths that we heard about the Black Lives Matter movement and about the Proud Boys,” Kelley said about her first meeting with the leaders. “And we came to realize we had more in common than not. And in order to combat evil and racism and hatred in this country, we do need to be able to reach across the aisle and have these tough conversations.”
“They’re not white supremacists. These are proud American men,” Kelley said, before adding that both groups “have an issue with the media” because they feel their organizations are not fairly portrayed.
On their website, the Proud boys tout themselves as “Western chauvinists,” who believe “the West is the best,” and state that they “do not discriminate based upon race or sexual orientation/preference.” Seth told KUTV, “Don’t get it wrong, like male chauvinism or anything like that. Those are two different things.”
A KSTU-TV reporter shared a clip on Twitter of Thad saying during the press conference, “I will go out and say that the #ProudBoys as a whole, I will say this on behalf of the entire national organization, denounce white supremacy.”
The group has been involved in several clashes with left-leaning activists in Portland and elsewhere. Last week, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) declared a state of emergency ahead of a planned Proud Boys rally in riot-plagued Portland on Saturday, saying the group was “looking for a fight.”
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden invoked the group’s name during the presidential debate when he and moderator Chris Wallace called on President Donald Trump to denounce white supremacy. The president was met with backlash when we called for the group to “stand back and stand by.”
The next day, the president told the press he did not know who the Proud Boys are, and clarified that “they have to stand down, let law enforcement do its work.”