Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes sued the Southern Poverty Law Center on Monday, claiming that the civil-rights organization has cost him business opportunities by designating the pro-Trump men’s group he created as a hate group.
In the lawsuit, McInnes blames the SPLC’s “hate group” designation for the Proud Boys for everything from his being kicked off of PayPal, Facebook, and Twitter, to criticism from his own neighbors in a tony New York suburb.
“Mr. McInnes is essentially an untouchable, unable to retain or be considered for gainful employment in his line of work,” the lawsuit claims.
McInnes is suing the SPLC for defamation and tortious interference with economic advantage. McInnes also wants a court order stopping the SPLC and its employees from referring to him as someone connected to a hate group.
The SPLC declined to comment on McInnes’s lawsuit until Monday afternoon, after McInnes holds a press conference on the suit.
McInnes created the Proud Boys in 2016 as a club for “Western chauvinists,” with rules about what its members could wear and even how often they could masturbate. Since their founding, the Proud Boys have frequently clashed with left-wing protesters at rallies, and even served as bodyguards for Trump adviser Roger Stone.
McInnes announced in November that he was leaving the Proud Boys.
In his lawsuit, McInnes alleges that the SPLC has “falsely” described the Proud Boys as violent. But McInnes himself created a high-level rank for Proud Boys who got involved in fights, a distinction he later claimed only applied in cases of self-defense. Several Proud Boys were arrested in October after an attack following a McInnes speech in New York City.
McInnes isn’t the first person covered by the SPLC to pursue legal action against it. The SPLC issued an apology and a $3.4 million settlement payout in 2018 over listing British political activist Maajid Nawaz as an “anti-Muslim extremist.” In January, the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies filed a racketeering lawsuit against the SPLC over its own hate group designation.