Escondido American Legion post to decide whether to oust commander who is member of the Proud Boys

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An American Legion post in Escondido is beginning the process that could potentially remove its commander after social media posts revealed him to be a member of the Proud Boys and he bragged in a video about participating in street brawls involving Black Lives Matter protesters, a member of the post’s executive committee said last week.

Photos shared on social media in December show Michael “Mick” Sobczak, 56, the commander of the American Legion J.B. Clark Post 149, wearing a Proud Boys jacket and marching with Proud Boys during a Dec. 12 pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C. The march eventually turned violent.

The Proud Boys are classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Anti-Defamation League describes them as a gang. Members of the organization participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and five alleged members of the Proud Boys were charged with criminal conspiracy in connection with it.

Sobczak, who lives in southern Riverside County, has described in a Facebook video a beating he says he gave an anti-Trump activist in self defense during an earlier protest in Yorba Linda, in Orange County.

The national American Legion in December removed Sobczak from two leadership positions — one on the board of the American Legion Riders and one as dean of the American Legion College, California State Commander Ed Grimsley has said. However, due to the constitution and bylaws of the organization, Sobczak could not be removed as commander of his post or as a Legionnaire without due process.

Tuesday evening was the first full meeting of Post 149 since the story’s publication in early January. The executive committee charged Sobczak with conduct unbecoming a Legionnaire, a member of the board told the Union-Tribune, asking not to be identified. Another committee member confirmed it but provided information about the charge anonymously because, he said, Sobczak still has authority to retaliate against him for speaking out.

Two reporters, one from the Union-Tribune and another from the Escondido Times-Advocate, attended the meeting after being invited, but about 20 minutes in Sobczak ordered all visitors to leave the Legion hall. Then the press was not allowed back inside, a move one post member called unusual.

Reached via text, Sobczak said he would only comment for this story if the Union-Tribune revealed its source. The newspaper declined to do so, and Sobczak did not respond to questions.

If found guilty by a panel of fellow Legionnaires, Sobczak could be removed as commander and expelled from the American Legion altogether, according to the organization’s constitution.

“No person who is a member of an organization which has for its aim the overthrow of the United States Government by force or violence, or who subscribes to the principles of any group opposed to our form of government, shall be eligible to become or remain a member of The American Legion,” the constitution says.

Jeff Daly, vice commander for the American Legion in California, declined to respond to questions about Sobczak’s case, saying the organization must keep a distance while local leadership works through the issue.

According to a member of the executive committee, Sobczak was issued a summons Tuesday to appear at a hearing on March 16 to enter a plea on the charge of conduct unbecoming a Legionnaire. At that time, a trial board will be selected to review evidence and the post will conduct a trial sometime afterwards, the committee member said.

News about Sobczak’s Proud Boys membership has tarnished the American Legion in the eyes of some members, the committee member said.

“It’s ruined attitudes across the Legion in California — we have members who have already left,” he said.
Our post “has been losing members — 100 since November.”

Post 149 has more than 800 members, the committee member said, but up to 150 of them have not renewed their membership.

Regardless of the trial results, the post will have a regularly scheduled leadership election, with nominations beginning in April and the election in May, according to members.

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