It was a message heard by millions, across the country and around the world. "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by."
President Donald Trump dodging the question at Tuesday night's debate and refusing to condemn a far-right extremist group with ties to white supremacist groups.
While the president told the members to "stand by," many Proud Boy members live right here in Arizona. Our sister station, ABC15 in Phoenix has seen members participating in demonstrations in Gilbert and Phoenix - even handing out flyers. Other members have been recruiting on the app, Nextdoor.
"They are one of the most dangerous organizations out there because they have the ability to reframe their extremism as an assertion of their masculinity. Which pulls many people from the mainstream to the fringes," said Samantha Kutner, who has been studying the Proud Boys since 2017, after Charlottesville.
One Phoenix man says the group was trying to recruit members recently on the Tramanto Nextdoor page. "[The poster] did say he’s already got seven people who did sign up in our area for the Proud Boys," said the man, who asked to remain anonymous.
The father then called out the poster in the comments and alerted neighbors to the group's radical and racist views. "They were threatening to come and interfere with my life. Obviously, I have a family and kids," said the man.
The "Proud Boy" recruiter though, found the wrong name online and in what was supposed to be an intimidation tactic, was more laughable when he mentioned a business that the man had never even worked at.
The group was formed in 2016. According to The Guardian, and in 2018 the FBI had the group classified as an "extremist group with ties to white nationalism."
"They identify as defenders of the west, but west is code for White," said Kutner who runs proudboyswhisperer.com. "When you look at the incidents that Pride Boys have targeted, co-attended and organized, their ideology becomes very clear."
The group has members all across the country, including an unknown number in Arizona. "Sometimes they like to inflate their numbers, but they definitely have a presence here in our state," said Keisha McKinnor, Assistant Regional Director for the Anti-Defamation League Arizona.
The group is as active and bold as ever right now, ahead of the 2020 election. "They will always be trying to maximize their visibility, and Trump has emboldened them to do so," said Kutner.
Wednesday, President Trump clarified his remarks, but stopped short of condemnation. "I don't know who the Proud Boys are, but whoever they are, they have to stand down, let law enforcement do their work," said the President.
Already though, Proud Boys are touting their newfound legitimacy online after being mentioned in the debate. Kutner says there is no doubt they will try and use the notoriety to try and build their numbers and win over people to their fringe and dangerous ideology.
"And if Trump loses, or wins, that’s deeply concerning what they will do with that," said Kutner.
Gilbert police say they are "aware" of "the Proud Boys...at past gatherings." A spokesperson said all the demonstrators are closely monitored at the events and violence will not be tolerated.
The FBI said in a statement: "The FBI's focus is not on membership in particular groups but on individuals who commit violence and criminal activity that constitutes a federal crime or poses a threat to national security...The FBI does not and will not police ideology."