A Connecticut police officer accused a civil rights organization's leader of trying to "silence conservative voices" by raising concerns about his membership in a far-right group known for its violent clashes at political rallies, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press.
In his letter, addressed to East Hampton's police chief, Officer Kevin Wilcox said he was a dues-paying Proud Boys member for about eight months. But he said he quit the group because he suspected its members would be attacked by "far-left political organizations" and labeled as bigots due to their "love" for President Donald Trump.
The AP obtained a copy of Wilcox's July 31 letter in response to a public records request.
The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law called for Wilcox's removal from the police department after inquiring about his social media connections with Proud Boys members.
In September, East Hampton Police Chief Dennis Woessner told the organization that Wilcox's Proud Boys membership didn't violate department policies.
Kristen Clarke, the civil rights group's president and executive director, had urged the department to investigate Wilcox's "possible connections with white supremacist groups and individuals." Her July 24 letter to the police chief described the Proud Boys as a "male-chauvinist group with ties to white nationalism."
The chief asked Wilcox for a written response to Clarke's allegations. Wilcox said Clarke's claim that he publicly associated with white supremacists was "an outright lie and an assault on my character."
"Clarke's letter is filled with links to far-left propaganda that expose her motive, which is to silence conservative voices. The law firm that she represents is a cudgel used to bludgeon anyone who doesn't follow their far left ideology," he wrote.
The links in Clarke's letter included articles published by PBS, National Public Radio, the Guardian newspaper and the Hartford Courant.
Wilcox also said it is "very telling" that Clarke's organization is funded by "many uber-progressive (alt-left) foundations like George Soros's Foundation to Promote Open Society."
Soros is a billionaire philanthropist and Hungarian-born Jew who is frequently demonized by right-wing conspiracy theorists.
Wilcox said he only was a "passive" member before he quit the Proud Boys in February, about five months before Clarke's group first inquired about his Proud Boys ties.
"They were childish and annoying," he wrote.
Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes started the Proud Boys in 2016. McInnes and the Proud Boys have described the group as a politically incorrect men's club for "Western chauvinists" and deny affiliations with far-right extremist groups that overtly espouse racist and anti-Semitic views.
In February, McInnes sued the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center for labeling the Proud Boys as a hate group. In response to the lawsuit, the law center said Proud Boys members often spread "outright bigotry" over the internet and have posted social media pictures of themselves with prominent Holocaust deniers, white nationalists and "known neo-Nazis."
In New York City in October 2018, police arrested several Proud Boys members who brawled with anti-fascist protesters following a speech by McInnes at a Manhattan Republican club. Proud Boys members also have frequently clashed with counterprotesters at rallies in California and Oregon.
Wilcox said he paid dues to a group leader and was told the money would pay for food and a room for "meet-ups." The civil rights group claimed those publicly visible, online dues payments helped fund the Proud Boys' "violent or otherwise illegal" activities.
But the town's police chief said he closed the department's inquiry as being "unfounded," with no evidence to support a policy violation or any proof that Wilcox is a white supremacist.
"Different individuals or organizations can have their own opinions of certain groups or individuals, which may or may not be correct according to others," the chief wrote. "As an example, there are certain individuals/groups who view President Trump as a racist and others do not. Does that mean any person who contributes to the Republican party is therefore a racist?"
Wilcox had been an East Hampton police officer since 1999. The town is about 20 miles (30 kilometers) southeast of Hartford and has a population of nearly 13,000 residents, roughly 90% of whom are white.
Kunzelman reported from College Park, Maryland. Follow him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/Kunzelman75