Organizer of cheerleaders rally supports far-right Proud Boys
By Chris Miller
Stanly News & Press
NEW LONDON — One of the organizers of a Friday night rally to support the North Stanly High School cheerleaders has ties to the Proud Boys, a far-right group labeled as a “general hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Jay Thaxton, who lives in Cabarrus County, said he is a supporter of the group and his Facebook cover photo is a Proud Boys graphic. He and friend Jeremy Onitreb are organizers of the rally to support the North Stanly cheerleaders, who were put on probation by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association for holding a Trump 2020 campaign banner at a recent football game.
Thaxton countered that the Proud Boys is “in no way” a white nationalist group. Calling “white nationalist” a “gaslight term,” Thaxton said members of the Proud Boys are “proud nationalists.”
He said opponents of the Proud Boys like to interject race “by coining a phrase white nationalist.”
“If you are proud of your country, then you should be a nationalist,” he said.
Stanly County Sheriff Jeff Crisco said he did not know that Thaxton was a member of the Proud Boys and that additional security measures are being put in place for the rally. Crisco said his ultimate responsibility is the safety of people attending the football game.
To Thaxton, the Proud Boys are “proud western chauvinists” and “proud to be masculine in the Western world.” He added that for the group, there is “no such thing as toxic masculinity.”
Proud Boys members and anyone who supports them are family-oriented and patriotic and believe above all else in the importance of the Constitution, Thaxton said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a national civil rights watchdog that tracks hate groups, wrote that “rank-and-file Proud Boys and leaders regularly spout white-nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists” and that the group “appeared alongside other hate groups at extremist gatherings like the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville.”
That rally resulted in self-identified members of the alt-right, white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other far-right extremist groups chanting racist slogans and carrying racist and Nazi symbols. At the rally, which was a response to a controversy about the removal of a Confederate monument, one woman was killed in a vehicle-ramming attack.
The SPLC wrote that the Proud Boys, which was created in 2016, is known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric.
Though Thaxton said he is aware that the SPLC has referred to the Proud Boys as a hate group, he disagrees with the characterization.
“From my experience, the left will demonize any narrative that they do not agree with,” he said. “If you don’t fall in line with their creed or mantra, then their gaslight term is to call that organization racist.”
Thaxton pointed out that the group’s chairman, Enrique Tarrio, is an Afro-Cuban immigrant, which would make the group “the worst racists in history,” he said.
When Thaxton was asked if he is officially a member of the group, he declined to say.
Asked about the cheerleaders’ probation, Thaxton said they were simply expressing free speech.
“Whether it’s a school policy or a rule, that doesn’t trump the Constitution of the United States,” he said.
The athletic association described the probation as merely a warning because the school system did not punish the squad and they can still perform during football games.
The story has received national and international attention, with many people angry that the girls were punished and saying they simply were expressing their political beliefs.