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'Proud Boys' provide security at pro-America rally in Milton

WEAR – Mobile-Pensacola logo WEAR – Mobile-Pensacola 10/23/2020 Rebekah Castor
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MILTON, Fla. (WEAR) -- After a political event in Milton, questions were raised over who provided security.

Caption: WEAR

Channel 3 was asked if it was the Proud Boys, a "far-right" organization.

The group, some consider as "white supremacists", was thrust into the spotlight during the first Presidential debate.

The moderator asked President Trump to denounce the group and Trump told them to "stand back and stand by."

a group of people standing around a bus © Provided by WEAR – Mobile-Pensacola

Many considered that statement as the President being unwilling to condemn white supremacy.

On Saturday, the Proud Boys were seen in Northwest Florida.

Our cameras captured several men wearing black shirts and hats showing a yellow symbol with the initials "PB."

All appeared to be associated with the Proud Boys.

Congressman Matt Gaetz attended the event. His office confirmed the Proud Boys provided security.

Gaetz shared his own experiences with members of the Proud Boys on his podcast this week.

"I don't know much about the Proud Boys in terms of their doctrine and ideology, but I do know a Proud Boy and he's a gay rights activist," Gaetz says on the podcast.

Also in attendance at the Milton event was the group, "Blacks for Trump."

"As I was leaving the event, someone came up to me and said did you notice who was helping with security," Gaetz shared on the podcast. "I said no and she said, the Proud Boys. I thought, my goodness, the Proud Boys providing security and safety for the Black voices for Trump attending a pro-America rally in the Deep South... doesn't seem to match their characterization."

The Proud Boys were founded in 2016. Two years later, they were declared a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that fights racial and social injustice.

a group of people standing around a bus © Provided by WEAR – Mobile-Pensacola

The Center says this group has a record of being involved in violent street protests.

Two Proud Boys are currently in prison after a 2018 brawl with members of Antifa.

As a whole, the Proud Boys have tried to disassociate themselves from white supremacist ideology.

Their current chairman, Enrique Tarrio identifies as Black and Cuban.

We asked people in Northwest Florida on both sides of the political aisle what they think of the Congressman's association with the controversial group.

"They're basically patriots that support our country and I don't think there's anything wrong with them providing security," said Lynn Holmes.

Others thought it was in "bad taste" for the Proud Boys to be at the event.

"It's deplorable," said Henry Coe. "There's so much we could be working on together to make things better rather than creating this division and having this hate."

On his podcast, Gaetz also said he does not agree with every viewpoint the Proud Boys have.

"I don't think that just because you take a picture with someone or enjoy a celebration of law enforcement with someone, that you're tied to every viewpoint they've ever had or that they ever will have in the future," Gaetz said.

You can listen to Gaetz's podcast 'Hot Takes with Matt Gaetz' in its entirety here.

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