We are sure the Proud Boys like it when they have attorneys within their ranks, but should officers of the court sworn to uphold justice be there? Answer: no.
Many in Texas might know Christopher “C.J.” Grisham as a prominent and controversial pro-gun activist while others still may know him as a member of the neo-fascist group Proud Boys. Few however may know that he could possibly augment both those roles as a future attorney, and while there are many neo-Fascists that serve on the bar across the country, it has often been a cause of ethical concern.
An article from last November on the Appalachian School of Law website reported on a Veterans’ Day program and luncheon held to honor its students who were also veterans. Among them was Grisham, who had served in the Iraq War as well as the War in Afghanistan. Grisham is a prominent activist known as the founder of Open Carry Texas, which pushes for the deregulation of firearms across the state and nation.
In 2013, the year Open Carry Texas was founded, Grisham was arrested when a Temple, Texas police sergeant confronted him as he hiked on a road with his son with a loaded AR-15 and the situation escalated, resulting in a resisting arrest charge and involved the officer pointing his gun at him and slamming him against the hood of his squad car. Grisham was eventually convicted of interfering with police duties and was fined $2000, but two years later he filed suit against troopers for false arrest and various violations of constitutional rights. The suit was later dismissed.
In 2018, Grisham attended and livestreamed from a rally sponsored by the Texas Patriot Network, a far-right coalition whose members include anti-immigrant group the Soldiers of Odin, as well as the Proud Boys. Also present that day was Joffre Cross, a member of the neo-Nazi Patriot Front, and currently serving nearly six years, for illegally possessing an AK-47, as well as numerous homemade rifles and pistols. At the rally, members of the Texas Patriot Network planned to ambush and attack antifascist protesters, leaked audio reveals.
In January of 2019, Grisham posted a video to his YouTube account of him saying, “I’m a proud Western chauvinist and I would not apologize for creating the modern world,” which would make him a “first degree” Proud Boy. Since then, his channel as well as a Facebook page connected to him has been heavy with content that promotes the neo-Fascist group.
Based in Grundy, VA, according to its website, the Appalachian Law School policy is that it “prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, race, color, sex/gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, pregnancy/childbirth, marital status, disability, religion, political affiliation, veteran status, or national and ethnic origin.” The Proud Boys are anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-trans, and misogynistic and have associated often with neo-Nazis and White Supremacists. The Proud Boys manifesto prohibits Muslims from joining the group, as well as Indigenous people.
The Proud Boys also have a history of violent acts on behalf of their hateful ideology. On October 6, 2018, Proud Boys in Providence, Rhode Island, crossed a police line to attack a group of anti-fascist protesters. Just days later, on October 12, 2018, with at least one of the members present at the Providence attack, a group of ten Proud Boys and associates viciously beat three protesters outside the Metropolitan GOP Club, where Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes had just reenacted the assassination of Japanese socialist Inejirō Asanuma. Also in attendance were Joe Bola and Dennis Davila, members of neo-Nazi bonehead crew the 211 Bootboys, and Irving Antillon, a member of Batallion 49, also a bonehead group. Max Hare and John Kinsman, two Proud Boys who participated in the Manhattan attack on protesters, are currently serving four years in prison for attempted gang assault. In November 2018, documents were leaked showing that the FBI designated the group as an “extremist group with ties to white nationalism.”
Grisham, using the Facebook name “Carter Braxton” (alongside photos of himself) displays the group’s logo as his profile picture, along with the call to arms President Trump recently issued to the group, “Proud Boys Stand By.” In July 2019, Grisham sported the Proud Boys’ signature black-and-yellow Fred Perry polo shirt on a livestreamed Austin, Texas, outing with his fellow Proud Boys, including Christopher Richie, an attendee of the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Issues concerning hatemongers becoming attorneys is nothing new. In 1998, Matthew Hale of the then-named World Church of the Creator (WCOTC) was barred from practicing law in Illinois by the state due to his incitement of racial hatred for the ultimate purpose of depriving selected groups of their legal rights, being considered blatantly immoral and rendered him unfit to be a lawyer. Hale fought against that decision, and while doing so WCOTC member Benjamin Smith, who was angry over the case, went on a two-state shooting spree in July of that year killing 3 and injuring 10 before killing himself on the Fourth of July. Hale is currently serving a 40-year sentence in federal prison for conspiring to kill a federal judge that presided over a trademark case that would ultimately result in the change the name of his group to the Creativity Movement.
The Appalachian School of Law did not return emails for comment at the time of this posting.