A mixed martial arts fighter belonging to the neo-fascist Proud Boys hate group in Australia reportedly played a key role in anti-lockdown protests in Melbourne last year.
Jarrad Searby, a long-time MMA fighter and gym owner who also runs the “borderlands” chapter of the Proud Boys in Australia, helped orchestrate protests during Melbourne’s second-wave lockdown in 2020. According to The Guardian, Searby sought people “trained in some form of combat” to confront and “lawfully arrest” police officers working at the protest.
A month after posting the open call on an anti-lockdown group on social media, Searby was among a group of Proud Boys who were pepper sprayed by law enforcement during a protest on Melbourne Cup day where several hundred people were detained. Searby can be seen in Guardian footage alongside Proud Boys members wearing their signature Fred Perry polo shirts. In the clip, Searby appears to be detained after confronting officers who were arresting protesters.
“They hit us with pepper spray which disabled us instantly and ended any chance we had to again best them,” Searby later wrote in a prominent anti-lockdown group. “Our numbers where [sic] few and we made mistakes but we learnt and we will now become more organised.”
Searby has since taken part in more anti-lockdown protests, including an Invasion Day rally in Melbourne on 26 January, 2021. He has also been filmed stalking the homes and workplaces of people he claimed were “Antifa” members. One of the people Searby targeted was a 65-year-old man who made fun of him online.
The Proud Boys, a far-right neo-fascist hate group that describes its members as “Western chauvinists.” Founded by Canadian far-right activist and Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes and now under the leadership of Enrique Tarrio, the gang has made it its mission to target leftists at protests.
There are several MMA fighters who have shown support for the Proud Boys, including Ultimate Fighter veteran Tara LaRosa. The fighter regularly took part in clashes involving the Proud Boys, including the Million MAGA March following the 2020 presidential election, where she posted pictures on social media taunting anti-fascists while flashing the OK hand sign—a known hate symbol used by some to denote white supremacy. LaRosa also tweeted a fake list of anti-fascist activists and organizers ahead of a Proud Boys rally in Portland. The list, which was devised on 8chan — an extremist forum where white supremacists and domestic terrorists have uploaded their manifestos — is actually a list of people who signed an anti-Trump petition from refusefacism.org.
Then, during a protest in Portland, Oregon, LaRosa pinned a demonstrator on the ground in an attempt to restrain her. When the pinned woman gasped “I can’t breathe,” LaRosa responded with “I don’t care.”