New Zealand designated two U.S. far-right groups, the Proud Boys and the Base, as terrorist organizations this month, as the Pacific nation grapples with the potential spread of right-wing extremism within its borders.
A top New Zealand police official approved the designation on June 20, but the declaration wasn’t published by the government until Monday. Canada has designated both entities as terrorist groups, while Britain has labeled the Base an extremist organization. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s office said New Zealand actively reviews and updates its terrorist blacklist regularly.
The declaration makes it illegal for New Zealand residents to fund or support either group, which join the Islamic State and al-Shabab on the list.
It isn’t clear whether either far-right group has a significant presence in New Zealand, but authorities said the Base had attempted to expand into neighboring Australia. Former New Zealand attorney general Christopher Finlayson said in an email that officials were following “standard process” and that many groups on Wellington’s terrorism list were not active in the country.
Police officials, in documents supporting the decision, noted the Base’s intention to start a race war and install a White ethno-state. They also cited the arrests of several Base members in the United States, accused of planning to kill a couple who held anti-fascist, or “antifa,” views.
Law enforcement officials also said the Proud Boys’ participation in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection in Washington was a key reason for their designation. “Actions and statements by [American Proud Boys] members both before and during the attack demonstrate an intention to cause the death or serious bodily injury to people,” they wrote.
Members of the Proud Boys fomented a riot that aimed to prevent Congress from confirming Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election, according to charges unveiled by federal prosecutors in June. A confidential informant also told the FBI that the Proud Boys would have killed Vice President Mike Pence “if given a chance,” according to Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), a member of the House committee investigating the insurrection.
Earlier this month, Proud Boys members disrupted a drag-queen reading event near San Francisco, prompting a hate-crime probe. Prosecutors have also successfully sought prison terms for members of the Base after they tried to “commit violence in furtherance of white nationalism and the downfall of the American state.”
What we know about the Proud Boys’ involvement in Jan. 6
Political violence, while rare, has recently occurred in New Zealand. Demonstrators against covid restrictions set fire to tents and hurled chairs, bottles, bricks and other objects at police officers in March, after they attempted to clear a protest camp near Parliament. Parts of the protest mimicked the “Freedom Convoy” that obstructed traffic on the U.S.-Canada border and brought Canada’s capital to a standstill for days. Far-right and anti-government extremists were involved in the Canadian protests.
John Ip, a law professor and counterterrorism expert at the University of Auckland, said there was concern that the government did not label far-right groups as terrorist entities even after a 2019 mass shooting by a white supremacist at two mosques in Christchurch that killed 51 people.
“By contrast, both the U.K. and Canada have designated right-wing groups from 2020 onward,” Ip said.