Two members of the far-right Proud Boys were sentenced Tuesday to four years in prison for their roles in a street fight after a speech last year at New York’s Metropolitan Republican Club.
Judge Mark Dwyer said the lengthy sentences should deter people from engaging in what he called “political street brawls.”
Maxwell Hare, 27, and John Kinsman, 40, were convicted in August on charges stemming from the October 2018 fight between members of the Proud Boys and the loosely organized anti-fascist group known as Antifa after a speech by Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes.
The trial was unusual in that no victims testified because they are not co-operating with police. Instead, prosecutors relied heavily on video, including security camera footage that showed Proud Boys members starting the fight.
Hare and Kinsman apologized Tuesday.
Their lawyers have said they acted in self-defence when a masked protester threw a bottle. Members of the Proud Boys and groups that were protesting McInnes’ speech were then seen kicking and punching each other on the sidewalk.
“I’m sorry about the whole mess. I regret the entire incident,” said Kinsman, a married father of three from Morristown, New Jersey.
Hare, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, said he “made a mistake that night” and blamed hasty decision making for his part in the melee.
Ten members and associates of the Proud Boys were arrested in the days following the clash. Hare and Kinsman were the first two to go on trial.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a liberal advocacy organization, has designated the all-male Proud Boys as a hate group. The Proud Boys made headlines last week when the police chief in East Hampton, Connecticut ruled that an officer’s membership in the group didn’t violate department policies.
McInnes, a Vice Media co-founder, quit the Proud Boys a month after the clash outside the Metropolitan Republican Club.
In issuing the sentences Tuesday, Dwyer said the brawl reminded of violent clashes that went unchecked in Europe in the 1930s, fuelling the rise of fascism.
Such violence won’t be tolerated in New York City, “especially at this time in the country when people are so divided,” the judge said.
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