Police were called to the Los Angeles bar the Griffin on Saturday night, when a gathering of hate group the Proud Boys led to a confrontation with leftist activists. (The Proud Boys dispute that characterization.)* Members of the group reportedly showed up at the bar, and while the gathering was not announced…”Members of the group reportedly showed up at the bar, and while the gathering was not announced, many were easily identifiable by their uniform of red MAGA hats and Fred Perry polos. Word of mouth reached Los Angeles activists, which, according to reports and those present, included members of the DSA Los Angeles, a local branch of America’s largest socialist organization; Defend Northeast Los Angeles, an anti-gentrification group; and NOlympics LA, which opposes L.A.’s 2028 Olympic bid. The chaos was immediate, as can be seen in videos taken in and outside the bar, which, as a result of the altercation, was shut down for the night.
At 9:10 p.m. PT on Saturday, DSA member and actor Josh Androsky tweeted that he received a text about it. He later tweeted that there were “like 20” Proud Boys present, and that when he asked a doorman about the gathering he responded, “The only color I see is green.”
In one video, the activists can be heard chanting “no KKK, no fascist USA, no problem.” In another taken outside of the bar by DNELA, one Proud Boy says, “Irish people were slaves just like the fucking black people.” An LAPD officer told the website that officers were called at 10:35 p.m. and that when advised, both groups agreed to leave the scene.
On Sunday, the bar responded to the incident with an unsigned statement posted to Facebook. The author, who identified as an owner but gave no name, wrote, “Neither I nor my business partner support any Nazi or white supremacist groups and this is not a Nazi bar.” (Eastsider LA identified the owners as Jonathan Blaize Hensleigh and Aaron Mark Chepenik.) The statement goes on to say that because Proud Boys were already inside, the owner advised staff to “kill them with kindness.”
The incident provoked the usual deluge of negative Yelp reviews as well as a flurry of conversation on Twitter. A tweet from Vice writer Justin Caffier advocating for a boycott has so far been retweeted 16,000 times.
Others have echoed the sentiment, including comic Rhea Butcher and Androsky, who tweeted that bars and restaurants can either “refuse service to nazis or get boycotted.” According to CBS Los Angeles, actor, comedian, and writer Kumail Nanjiani tweeted, “Do not go to the Griffin in Atwater,” though it’s since been deleted. (The Proud Boys have claimed that the leftist activists were the agitators. They also insist that they are not in any way a hate group or white supremacists, and instead describe themselves as a multiracial fraternity of “Western chauvinists.”)
The Proud Boys are immature provocateurs. The group was founded by Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes, who likes to say things like “maybe the reason I’m sexist is because women are dumb.” The neighborhood the Griffin is located in is majority-minority, with a little over half of the population being Latino. This was the case for another Los Angeles gathering they held in June, when they met at Highland Park Brewery’s Chinatown location.
At the heart of the confrontation and ensuing conversation is whether restaurants and bars should serve known hate groups. The answer should be a very clear no; this is a time when white nationalists feel free to roam openly like it’s 1955.
McInness has said that “fighting solves everything.” Ethan Nordean, a Proud Boy member who punched a counterprotester at a Portland rally, told Alex Jones, “like Gavin McInnes says … justified violence is amazing.” These people aren’t at your bar to enjoy a pint of your bitterest IPA, or compare your dry-aged burger blend to their favorite. Like children acting out, groups like the Proud Boys are intentionally trying to create these confrontations.
Some would caution not to give them the confrontation they want. This presumes there won’t be a confrontation if they are let in, and it also negates that serving them creates a hostile environment for others. Restaurants and bars are (for the most part) meant to be places that make people feel comfortable. If you’re going to do that for hate groups then you are going to make members of the populations they target and discriminate against uncomfortable. The question is, whom do you want to serve?
*This post has been updated to reflect the view of the Proud Boys.