In Donald Trump’s America, Nazis battle Communists.
Both sides swarmed Manhattan on Friday for an evening of death threats and fist fights sparked by Gavin McInnes’ appearance at the Metropolitan Republican Club. Dozens of police officers guarded the townhouse as nationalists taunted antifascists, and Upper East Side residents watched their neighborhood devolve into a cesspool of extremist politics.
“Did you notice any black and yellows outside?” a member of McInnes’ far-right tribe the Proud Boys asked one of his comrades, referring to the black-and-gold polos the group’s followers wear as a uniform.
Billed on Facebook as Gavin McInnes at The Met Club!, the evening at first resembled the Metropolitan Republican Club’s typical Friday night cross-pollination of older conservatives and millennial MAGAs, until it quickly flooded with Proud Boys—a sea of identically dressed men rushing past Republican women in their 50s for a seat. Some were balding. Others had tattoos.
The room’s temperature suddenly felt like William F. Buckley threw a party with the Hell’s Angels, except everyone was sober and a caricature of themselves.
Before McInnes took the stage, the Metropolitan Republican Club’s president, Debbie Coughlin, kicked Observer out of the venue.
“You’ve kind of outed yourself,” said Coughlin, pointing to Observer’s notepad. “This is a closed press event.”
The last time this reporter saw Coughlin was during a State of the Union watch party at the club, where she unsuccessfully attempted to stop young white men in MAGA hats from yelling “Assault the Animal!” at an intoxicated woman writhing on the floor who was accusing police officers of being operatives for George Soros. To avoid any conflict, Observer left the townhouse as reporter Lucian Wintrich—who was fired from the disinformation site Gateway Pundit after appearing on a podcast alongside a white nationalist— took his place among a sea of Proud Boy uniforms.
Outside, antifascist protestors in all-black held signs reading, “Kill All Rapists” and “Make Racists Afraid Again.” A day before the event, Antifa had vandalized the club and left a note promising the attack was “merely a beginning.” The Anarchy signs remained spray-painted on the club’s front doors, and a broken window still wasn’t fixed.
Across the street from the townhouse, antifascists rattled barricades as a Proud Boy holding an American flag smoked a cigarette. Both sides wanted blood, and both sides have histories of violence: McInnes awards his club’s highest honor to Proud Boys who physically assault antifascists, and during a pro-Trump gala in Hell’s Kitchen earlier this year, an antifascist hospitalized a 56-year-old Trump supporter.
As the scene on 83rd Street unfolded, Upper East Side parents shepherded children in designer threads past antifascists chanting death threats to nationalists.
“Follow your leader! Nine millimeter!” yelled one Antifa cluster.
“Kill all Nazis!” screamed another.
“Go drown in milk!” called out a rogue actor.
“You’re a provocateur,” a Republican woman from the Czech Republic shouted at an antifascist who ventured across the street to “have a dialogue.”
“I’m an indigenous American,” her counterpart shot back.
On the sidewalk, a young Trump supporter identified only as Dianne shined a flashlight at the crowd of antifascists. She told Observer she became a fan of the Proud Boys after members defended her from Antifa at a Trump rally in Portland, Oregon. Ever since, she’s shared McIness’ YouTube videos on her social media handles.
Waiting for McInnes’ speech to conclude, Observer ventured over to the antifascists, receiving dirty looks and mutters of “He’s a fascist” for our khakis.
After a brief reprieve, the crowd erupted as Proud Boys began filtering out of the Metropolitan Republican Club. Dozens of police officers escorted nationalists and fended off volatility from Antifa—one antifascist even bodychecked Observer, sending us tumbling against a barricade.
“You’re literally protecting Nazis,” one Antifa member told a police officer.
McIness later emerged from the club wielding a plastic samurai sword he used to reenact the assassination of Japanese socialist Inejiro Asanuma, taunting protestors from behind a wall of police protection. As he sped away in a car, protestors threw paper cups.
Hungover from political extremism, Observer left the vicinity. Minutes later, a brawl broke out between antifascists and Proud Boys. In a video posted by the NYPD’s Chief of Detectives Monday afternoon, a protestor in a ski mask is seen throwing a bottle at a Proud Boy—prompting immediate retaliation from his crew, who began throwing punches and eventually took one Antifa member to the ground, kicking him repeatedly. According to a citizen journalist present at the altercation, the nationalists yelled homophobic slurs
“Hate is never welcome in NYC and we will punish those responsible,” tweeted Mayor Bill de Blasio on Saturday, “whether they threw punches or incited violence—to the fullest extent of the law.”
The NYPD’s Chief of Detectives said Monday that police are aiming to charge nine Proud Boys members and three antifascists with rioting or attempted assault.
“Everyone is a bit on edge,” Metropolitan Republican Club board member Gavin Wax told Observer.