News, Views, Happiness Pursued

The Proud Boys vs. Ferdinand the Bull

After 29 months living as a hermit in the Maine woods, Pat Hogan found a home and a job in Portland. Then he found a hate group plotting inside his bar

by | Aug 15, 2021

photo/Chris Busby

 

On July 20, Mainer broke news online that a statewide chapter of the violent, racist and misogynist hate group known as The Proud Boys has been regularly meeting at Mathew’s Pub, a dive bar in downtown Portland just steps from the Portland Museum of Art, since at least last January. Pat Hogan, a bartender hired by Mathew’s in May, was fired July 18 after he refused to serve Proud Boys during their monthly planning session the previous evening.

This print version of our online report includes new details and updates. Mathew’s owner Bob Ruminski and his wife, Bree, have not contacted Mainer since we initially tried to reach them and published the article about their business last month. There’s been no indication they’ve changed their minds about allowing Maine’s Proud Boys to rent their function room for meetings on the third Saturday of every month.

On the weekend of the Proud Boys’ July meeting at Mathew’s, Bree angrily confronted Carl Currie, head bartender at the historic Portland gay bar Blackstones, for calling attention to the hate group’s gatherings at Mathew’s on social media. “So what you’re saying is we should discriminate against them,” Bree told Currie during the encounter on Congress Street, portions of which were captured on video by a passerby and provided to Mainer.

“I’m not gonna do it to these people,” she said, referring to The Proud Boys. “I try to be kind and welcoming to any and every kind of person, because that’s what makes Mathew’s special, because we do allow, accept and welcome any and every person, as long as they don’t cause any violence or trouble.” Of the local Proud Boys, she added, “we have not a clue about their personal business or what they believe. We don’t even follow them. It’s not of interest.”

Shortly after our article was published, flyers went up around downtown Portland declaring “Mathew’s Pub Supports White Supremacists” and urging people to boycott the bar. Music and comedy events scheduled there were cancelled due to The Proud Boys’ association with the place both before and after news of their meetings broke. And on July 31, an impromptu protest outside Mathew’s by local anti-fascists drew about 40 people, according to Maine activist Michael Hein.      

Hogan landed the job at Mathew’s shortly after emerging from a remarkable personal journey. Last decade, within the span of a few years, he said both his parents died. His wife was diagnosed with leukemia, at which point her wealthy family — fearing Hogan’s potential inheritance if, as doctors then expected, she died — cut him out of her life (she survived, but their marriage did not; Hogan also has two young kids from a previous marriage.)

“It was a blast crater that was left behind, that you couldn’t fill,” Hogan said during a long interview with Mainer last month at a Portland tea shop. Hogan had slipped into an isolated depression not unlike that from which potential members of The Proud Boys and other far-right extremist groups are lured into a life of hate.

“I got a little money from when my mom died, so I rented a place in the mill in Biddeford and didn’t work — just sat and cried and played video games and got fat,” Hogan recalled. “My kids would come down and I would try and hide the crying. They knew I was fucked up. And then, at the end of the lease, I was like, Fuck, I didn’t get another lease, and before I knew it I was living in the woods. And I loved it.”

Pat Hogan’s campsite in the woods of Saco. photo/courtesy Pat Hogan

Hogan said he spent nearly two and a half years — 29 months — living in a tent, alone, in the woods near an interstate highway in Saco. He survived on food filched from dumpsters and trespassed on a medical building’s property at night to recharge his cell phones and “piggyback” on the Wi-Fi, downloading media onto his tablet to view or listen to at his campsite. Hogan, who grew up in Kennebunk, documented his hermit-hood in a collection of stories, The 260-Pound Raccoon, that he hopes to get published someday.

“The first time you walk down Route 1 with a backpack — and people know you’re homeless, ’cause you’ve got a backpack and you’re walking down Route 1 — you lose a little bit of ego,” said Hogan. “The first time you go and get food from a food bank, you lose a little bit of your ego. But the first time you go into the bins behind Hannaford and start pulling food out of there, and that’s what you’re eating — and I did that hundreds of times — you lose all your ego.

“So once that was gone, I was like, I can do whatever the fuck I want. I am invisible. I am pliable. I am vapor,” he continued. “And in the end, I’m more mentally healthy than I’ve been in eons. I’m more honest and connected with myself than I’ve ever been, and the belief I have in myself is through the roof, because I was able to aspirando et perseverando — ‘aspire and persevere.’”

“I took nothing but cold showers out of a bucket,” Hogan said. “Had to knock out my own tooth because I had such a bad toothache — no insurance.”

The camp stove Hogan built to cook in the woods. photo/courtesy Pat Hogan

Hogan kept in touch with his kids during this period, and even attended weekly therapy sessions via Zoom on his cell phone. He built a stove and cooked with wood scavenged in the surrounding forest. “I learned to cook really well out there,” he said. He had “adventures” in the woods and “paths all over the place.” He dropped 80 pounds.

“I had no power at my camp, so everything ran on batteries,” said Hogan. “When I got my first stimulus check, the first thing I bought, on Amazon, was a box of 260 triple-A batteries, for like a hundred bucks. I still, almost every night, will put a headlamp on my head, just ’cause I’m so used to it.”

The cops never bothered Hogan or, apparently, discovered his campsite. He said he never got sick (Hogan was extremely socially distant as the COVID-19 pandemic tore through Maine) or encountered any dangerous animals or people. He’d bring back extra food for the creatures around his camp, including a raccoon he named Bruce. The worst part of the whole experience was “spider bites and piss bottles,” he said.  

As it turned out, the real danger wasn’t in the woods. It was meeting in the back room during his second night on the job.

Hogan, 47, said he was shocked to discover over 20 Proud Boys, some from as far as Aroostook County, gathered in the back room of Mathew’s on May 15 for their regular monthly meeting. “They weren’t trying to hide it,” he said, and this was not just a social occasion. “I don’t know if they were plotting,” said Hogan, “but to me it looked like minutes were definitely being taken.”

Attendees had tattoos and clothing that identified them as Proud Boys, including Fred Perry polos, black-and-gold attire, and t-shirts promoting gun brands. Parked outside the bar that night was a Toyota FJ Cruiser with heavily tinted windows and a Maine license plate that read “PRDBOY.”        

“The thing that really cracked me up was the amount of spit that was on that vehicle,” Hogan recalled, from “people who had walked by and spat on it.”

Mainer has identified the owner of that vehicle as the wife of Maine Proud Boy leader Shaun Hufton, who confronted Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland last summer. State records indicate this woman, who has participated in anti-immigrant protests with Hufton in the past, works as a prison guard at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham, where sources have seen the Toyota with Proud Boy plates parked in the employee lot.

Mainer is not naming this person at present; her association with The Proud Boys is muddy, in part because, being a woman, she can’t belong to the group. Hogan recalled seeing her sitting at the bar while The Proud Boys were meeting in May. He was impressed by her cool Megadeth t-shirt, and only after the meeting did he realize she was with them.

“To watch the way that they sort of lorded over her was ridiculous,” said Hogan, “like” — he clapped his hands — “‘We’re leaving now! Drink up! Where’s my coat?’ It really bummed me out when I put that two and two together. It wasn’t until the next time they came in, when she came in again, that I was like, ‘Oh, you’re a fucking dumb-ass.’ I wasn’t as nice.”

Hogan made a point of treating the Proud Boys with contempt when he had to work during their meetings. The man Hogan believes was the gang’s leader, probably Hufton, approached him at the bar during their June meeting. “‘So I hear you have a problem with us,’” he said, according to Hogan.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, I really do. But I’ll serve you. You’re being respectful. I’m being respectful by serving you. But I don’t need to like you. I’ll take your money. I don’t care if you guys tip me.’

“He was like, ‘What do you know about us?’ And I was like, ‘Where should I start?’

Hogan had taken a deep dive into the group’s history since encountering them at Mathew’s the previous month. Proud Boys helped organize the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, and numerous members of the group are among the terrorists arrested for participating in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“‘You want to talk about [neo-fascist Proud Boys founder] Gavin McInnes,’” Hogan had tauntingly replied, “‘or you want to talk about Enrique Tarrio?’” — the Proud Boys leader (and, according to court records, FBI snitch) who pleaded guilty last month to a weapons charge and to burning a Black Lives Matter banner stolen from a Washington, D.C., church last December.

The Proud Boy leader “just walked outside and gave me the finger for the rest of the night, literally,” Hogan said. “But he was talking to the owner’s wife” — Bree — “who was sitting in her truck. A bunch of them Proud Boys were out there [talking to her].”

Hogan said he worried he may have run his mouth too much that night, so after work, “I changed a ten dollar bill for a roll of quarters and I grabbed the pestle that I use to mash up drinks with, just in case [I was attacked] while I walking home.”

A selfie Pat Hogan took after hitting a tree in the woods during his 29 months in the wilderness.

Hogan said there was one Black man attending the Proud Boys meetings at Mathew’s. The white members called him Token — “just like out of South Park, a token Black man,” said Hogan. “That’s what they referred to him as. I don’t know if they did it to his face.”

During her confrontation with Currie, Bree said Proud Boys have mingled with Black customers at Mathew’s without incident, challenging common knowledge that they’re a racist group. To Hogan and others, the fact Proud Boys can be hard to identify makes them especially dangerous.  

“Here’s the fuckin’ problem with them,” said Hogan. “They come in, they’re polite, they tip well, they’re not dirty. You would think that they’re upstanding fellas — probably cops, by the looks of them.”

But also like cops, the Proud Boys’ mere presence can incite violence. That’s what happened during their June meeting at Mathew’s, Hogan said, when a gang member with “a lot of hubris … busted out his Proud Boy flag and was holding it up at the bar and shaking it.

“Well, this big fella who’d just graduated from UMaine, played football for ’em, he’s like boom,” Hogan said, slamming both palms on a table the way the football player at the bar did before he abruptly stood up “and walked straight through the guy, tried to knock the flag out [of his hands].” Hogan, a burly former college football player himself, said he was able to separate the combatants.

Hogan had high praise for Ruminski. “He’s a great fucking guy,” he said. “He’s just a dumb-ass who doesn’t understand the severity of it all. It’s like trying to convince an old man of something that they just don’t want to know about.”

Hogan said the Maine Proud Boys described themselves to Ruminski last winter as a “drinking club” — a ruse group members have used in other cities, according to press accounts — that wanted to rent the bar’s back room. It was the “middle of the pandemic, when you’re scratching for money,” said Hogan, “and Bobby was like, ‘Oh, yeah, sure!’ [He had] no idea what they were, didn’t ask what their organization was.”

Hogan said he’d thought, after the Proud Boys’ June meeting, that he’d reached an agreement with Ruminski by which Proud Boys could still drink at Mathew’s, but could not assemble in the back room or upstairs, and could not wear identifying clothing, in keeping with the bar’s longstanding ban on “club colors” — originally imposed to stop fights between rival motorcycle gangs.

But when Hogan showed up for work on July 17, there were the Proud Boys again, wearing their colors and setting up the back room for their monthly conclave. Hogan called Ruminski and told him he would not serve the group, then left. Ruminski came in to cover his shift, and when Hogan returned to the bar the next day, he said Ruminski fired him for walking off the job.

“I was an English major in college, with a minor in studio art and religion, but my focus in religion was on the Holocaust,” Hogan said. “There’s a book called Hitler’s Willing Executioners, which is all about sovereign citizens of Germany who were just like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll kill a bunch of Jews for ya.’ … Bobby is acting like one of those people by allowing the Proud Boys, which are very much like the Brown Shirts of old. I think there’ll be a Night of Broken Glass in America if this kind of shit keeps up.”

Not long after starting at Mathew’s, Hogan said he met some neighbors who gave his old school’s motto — aspirando et perseverando — much deeper significance. It was around 3 a.m. and Hogan, having recently left work at the bar, was winding down by smoking a joint outside his Portland apartment. The woman next door, a refugee from Rwanda, was just returning from work at a local hospital — “one of her, like, probably six jobs,” Hogan said. They struck up a conversation and became friends.

“Her [two] kids adore me, and we all get along great,” said Hogan. “I’ve been to their apartment for dinner. I had beef tongue — never before had I had beef tongue like that.”

One night at dinner, Hogan heard the story of the woman’s husband’s experience during the Rwandan genocide of the 1990s. “He has a scar that goes” — Hogan made a swipe across his body from his right collarbone down to his left hip. “Literally, they almost cut him in half. And when he woke up, after being attacked, he was in a pile of all of his friends and his brothers, who were all slaughtered, and they were piled on him and over him and around him. So that got me.

“Then she kinda got into what happened to her,” Hogan continued, tears welling in his eyes. “And listening to this lady … just the fuckin’ rape and the beatings. And she’s so happy and wonderful, this lady.

“I think about the kind of shit that they went through — and yeah, I lived in the woods — but then I look at these fuckin’ assholes spoutin’ shit: they hate what the refugees coming into Portland are doing to the city. Yeah, what are they doing? They’re working six fuckin’ jobs, protecting their family, came from a place that we couldn’t even fuckin’ fathom, and you’re gonna sit here and tell us you fuckin’ hate them?

No,” Hogan emphatically added. “It’s that kind of shit that gets me. It’s that kind of shit that isn’t right anymore.”

“My nickname is Ferdinand, as in Ferdinand the Bull,” Hogan remarked toward the end of our interview last month. “Ferdinand would rather sit underneath his cork tree and sniff the flowers than fight, but when it came to fighting, there was no one as bad as Ferdinand. It’s been my nickname for a long time. And my family motto is ELE: Everybody Love Everybody.”

If Maine’s Proud Boys gather again at Mathew’s for their meeting this month, Hogan said, “I’ll be in the front of the other side.”

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