A Manhattan jury was asked to decide Wednesday whether members of far-right neofascist group “Proud Boys” were justified when they unleashed a brutal beatdown on an opposing extremist group — or if they were just practicing what they preach.
In closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said Maxwell Hare and John Kinsman instigated the “ferocious” brawl on Oct. 12, 2018, outside the Manhattan Republican Club where Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes had given a speech.
“Their attack was vicious, disproportionate and most of all unnecessary,” he said.
Pulling up footage of a hulking Kinsman issuing a straight-armed salute moments before the assault — identical to one he gestured to reporters outside the courtroom Wednesday — Steinglass said he hardly cut the figure of a man afraid.
“Defendant Kinsman is far from cowering in fear,” he said.
The prosecutor added that the meaning behind Kinsman’s gesture was not difficult to interpret given that his arm shot up as members of leftist group Antifa began chanting, “No Nazis, no KKK, no fascist USA, no Trump.”
Acknowledging the case is ultimately about the one-sided beatdown, Steinglass asked the jury to consider the correlation between the Proud Boys’ racist and misogynistic rhetoric and the brutality of the attack itself.
“These defendants are on trial for what they did, not what they believe,” he said. “It is important to (recognize) the historical context.”
Steinglass asked the jury to compare Hare’s “soft-spoken” demeanor during his testimony with his “booming voice” captured on video the night of the attack.
“He’s not scared when he’s clapping and waving to rally the troops — he’s not even scared in the midst of the brawl itself,” he said. “He’s not afraid of confrontations, he seeks them out.”
The prosecutor asked jurors to weigh the odds that Hare really cut his knuckles on the ground rather than from punching someone’s face, as he testified Tuesday, and if he was being truthful when he said he shaved his head for a hunting trip — not to change his appearance from wanted posters.
Of the the group’s intent, he said jurors need to look no further than the Proud Boys changing their bylaws about violence on the heels of the attack.
An amendment made to the online Proud Boys Constitution in November stated “any requirement for a brother to commit a violent act as a condition precedent to receiving” higher status within the group had been abolished, evidence at the trial showed.
Lawyers for the two defendants said prosecutors had “demonized” McInnes and alleged a secret conspiracy between Antifa, the Manhattan DA’s office and the NYPD.
“They’re not the New York County District Attorney’s Office — they’re the New York County Antifa’s office,” said Jack Goldberg, representing Kinsman.
Representing Maxwell Hare, defense lawyer Ronald Hart said members of Antifa, clad in “plastic gloves” and “black masks,” engaged in the exact type of attack alleged of Hare and his co-defendant.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the best example I can give is that Antifa acted like Terminator,” he said. “They can’t be bargained with. They can’t be reasoned with. They don’t feel remorse, pity or fear. They won’t stop ever until you are dead.”
The lawyer, who referred to Antifa as a “terror group” during his summation, said if Hare and Kinsman intended to inflict real harm upon their victims, they would have “continued to stomp” them into unconsciousness.
Hare and Kinsman are charged with attempted gang assault, attempted assault, rioting and other related charges. Ten members of the Proud Boys were arrested and indicted in connection to the 2018 attack; all but three have already pleaded guilty.