The leader of the far-right nationalist group, the Proud Boys, was arrested in Washington DC before protests in the capital in support of Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the presidential election.
Enrique Tarrio was arrested on Monday on property destruction charges after admitting he destroyed a Black Lives Matter banner on a historic African American church during violent demonstrations last month.
According to a Metropolitan Police Department spokesman, he was in the possession of two high capacity firearm magazines at the time of his arrest.
Tarrio, who is also a convicted felon, was later accused of possessing a high capacity feeding device that could result in a three-year prison sentence if convicted.
At least four churches were destroyed in riots on December 12th. Rioters destroyed two Black Lives Matter banners at Metropolitan AME and Asbury United Methodist Church, both historic black churches. Tarrio was wanted in connection with the destruction in Asbury.
Tarrio admitted in comments on the right-wing social media app Parler and on a Proud Boys podcast that he was responsible for burning the church sign.
“When the BLM mark was burned, I was the one who set it on fire,” he said on the War Boys podcast last month. “I was the person who put the lighter on it and it went up in flames, and I’m damn proud of it.”
On Monday, Tarrio, as well as Proud Boys LLC and eight others involved in burning church banners, were indicted in a lawsuit brought by Metropolitan AME against the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
The lawsuit, filed on Monday, includes multiple pages of social media messages coordinating plans for demonstrations and violence on December 12, including calls to stock up on guns and ammunition and “keep our enemies awake”.
“In countless messages broadcast via social media platforms and messaging services, the defendants and their co-conspirators promised that violence would occur in their wake and as events [of 12 December] demonstrate that they have kept their promises, ”says the lawsuit.
The Church and the plaintiffs are seeking “indemnifiable, punitive, and restraining orders, and with this action are aimed at preventing nothing like this from happening again by the defendants, their affiliates, agents, and co-conspirators – not Metropolitan AME. and not the thousands of other people and organizations that the Proud Boys classify as violent. “
US attorney Michael Sherwin has called the attacks a hate crime. The FBI has also sought information from the public in order to identify suspects.
“They have harmed people of color and everyone who lives and works in our city who believes in fairness, justice and racial justice,” Sherwin said in a statement last month.
Tarrio told The Washington Post last month that he would not admit he committed a hate crime because he believed the Black Lives Matter movement “terrorized the citizens of this country”.
The president invoked the name of the neo-fascist men-only organization during the first presidential debate on September 29, after debate host Chris Wallace repeatedly asked the president to denounce white supremacism. Trump has been accused of ignoring repeated warnings from his own administration about the emergence of far-right violence and white nationalism, while relying on his own Justice Department to target left-wing protesters and persecute his political opponents.
He said, “Proud guys, stand back and stand by, but I’m going to tell you what someone has to do against Antifa and the left because this is not really a problem. This is a left problem. “
On the same day of the debate, the FBI released an intelligence report warning that far-right groups and white supremacists pose a “violent extremist threat” to the US, and the period between election day and the 2021 inauguration as a “potential hot spot” for violence .
The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified the Proud Boys as a hate group.
Although the group has claimed it represented an “anti-white guilt agenda” against “political correctness” as well as the “old right” label, the group’s membership has embraced white nationalism and advocated fascist views, including anti -Muslim and misogynist rhetoric and often turned to violence.
It belongs to several contemporary right-wing groups with multi-ethnic members who advocate right-wing extremist nationalism from an ideological point of view.
According to Cassie Miller, senior research analyst at SPLC, the Proud Boys belong to a “fascist, right-wing political bloc” galvanized by the president and encouraged by his supporters.
“They work symbiotically with right-wing media and a power structure – led by Trump – that seeks to contain protesters and seek political revenge on progressive constituencies like Portland,” Ms. Miller wrote, arguing that the group and others were motivating Color-right groups are among the political clubs used in the street-level government election campaign.