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A police officer in Fresno, Calif., is under investigation after he was spotted attending an anti-LGBTQ rally with the Proud Boys.
Fresno Police Department confirmed that Officer Rick Fitzgerald had been placed on paid administrative leave after he was spotted in footage from the rally.
The Proud Boys gathered in Fresno’s Tower District to support an anti-LGBTQ church seeking to purchase a historic building in the the district, which is known as a progressive and LGBTQ hub in the city.
The Adventure Church, which allegedly opposes LGBTQ equality, is seeking to purchase the Tower Theatre, a local landmark which also hosts the annual Reel Pride LGBTQ Film Festival.
In addition to the church’s views, those opposed to the sale have argued that Adventure’s presence in the district could impact the opening of bars, nightlife spots, and marijuana dispensaries, the Fresno Bee reports.
As such, regular protests have taken place at the Tower Theatre to demand the sale be halted. It was one such protest, on Sunday, March 14, that the Proud Boys attended to counter-protest.
A recognized extremist hate group who also participated in the attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the Proud Boys reportedly joined other local far right and white supremacist individuals in supporting the sale of the building to Adventure.
In footage of the rally, Fitzgerald was spotted standing with the Proud Boys.
After it was alerted to his presence, the Fresno Police Department opened an investigation into Fitzgerald, who was placed on paid administrative leave.
“Any allegations of actions unbecoming of a police officer or the affiliation with any alleged criminal or hate group will always be investigated and addressed,” Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama said in a statement. “Fair and impartial policing are extremely important in our society. There is no place in our police ranks for any biased, racists, or anti-Semitic views.”
Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer tweeted, “These images are extremely disturbing and are being taken very seriously.”
“As the mayor of this city, I will not tolerate any city of Fresno employee belonging to organizations that promote views of supremacy, racism or criminal conduct,” Dyer said. “This matter is under investigation and appropriate action will be taken to address any misconduct.”
In social media posts found by the Bee, Fitzgerald encouraged others to join the Proud Boys and the “Three Percenters,” a white nationalist militia group. He also calls himself the president of “Sons of ’76,” a “patriotic fraternity.”
Appearing in a podcast, Fitzgerald claimed he wasn’t a fan of protests and called Sons of ’76 “gentleman combatants.”
“We’re gentlemen until it’s time to not be a gentleman anymore, and then we fight,” he said. “And when we fight, we do it in an honorable way, and we do it in an efficient way, and we win. We finish the fight when it’s brought to us.”
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