Update (July 20, 2021): Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio pleaded guilty on Monday to two misdemeanor charges for his involvement in violent Dec. 2020 protests supporting former President Donald Trump.
“If I had known that the banner came from a church, it wouldn’t have been burned,” Tarrio told Judge Harold Cushenberry, Philadelphia Tribune reported. “I would never consider doing anything to a church myself.”
The far-right group’s leader appeared in D.C. Superior Court, pleading guilty to one count of destruction of property and attempted possession of a high-capacity magazine, a violation of local gun control laws.
The federal government continues to investigate the Proud Boys’ involvement in the Capitol insurrection, which is now suspected as a follow-up to the December protests. However, the charges filed against Tarrio are unrelated to the riots that took place on Jan. 6.
“Nothing in this plea agreement is intended to prevent the government from bringing different, additional charges against your client based on his conduct on January 6, 2021, or at any other time,” prosecutors wrote in the four-page plea deal that Tarrio signed Monday.
Following the destruction of the BLM sign, Tarrio wrote on conservative app Parler that he was proud of himself for taking a lighter to the banner and engulfing it in flames.
“I’ll say it again…and I’ll say it loud for the people in the back… I’M DAMN PROUD I DID IT!” the Miami native wrote on Parler.
Tarrio is slated to face sentencing next month and could face up to one year in jail, and/or a $1,000 fine. Ahead of his hearing, he has been banned from Washington, D.C.
Original (January 6, 2021): Ahead of planned protests on Wednesday, police in Washington, D.C., have arrested Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio for ripping a Black Lives Matter sign off of a historic Black church and burning it, according to The New York Times.
As Blavity previously reported, the white supremacist group held a large rally last month in the nation’s capital, where dozens of members roamed through the streets attacking people and ripping down any Black Lives Matter signs they could find, including the one at Asbury United Methodist Church, one of the city’s oldest Black churches.
— Brendan Gutenschwager (@BGOnTheScene) December 13, 2020
Tarrio was flying into the city from Miami for the planned rally in support of outgoing President Donald Trump. He was initially charged with one misdemeanor count of destruction of property, but during his arrest, police found gun-related tools and charged him with an additional two felony counts of possession of high-capacity ammunition feeding devices, according to The Washington Post.
D.C. police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said Tarrio may also face hate crime charges due to the targeted nature of the attack.
In an interview with local outlet WAMU and many others last month, Tarrio proudly admitted to vandalizing the sign with his group.
“I’ll say it again…and I’ll say it loud for the people in the back… I’M DAMN PROUD I DID IT!” Tarrio wrote on Parler, a new social media site beloved by conservatives and white supremacists. The messages were seen and shared by Newsweek.
“In the burning of the BLM sign, I was the one who lit it on fire. I was the person that went ahead and put a lighter to it and engulfed it in flames. And I am damn proud that I did,” he later said on the group’s podcast The War Boys.
He and his acolytes have said the act is not a hate crime because their actions were not motivated by race, despite specifically targeting Black Lives Matter signs posted at Black churches.
“These actions, meant to terrorize Black people, violated D.C. law and were hate crimes. They harmed people of color, and every person who lives and works in our city who believes in fairness, justice and racial equity,” D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine told WAMU last month.
Although some have tried to deny that the group is a white supremacist organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center explicitly explained that its leaders, like Tarrio, routinely spread white supremacist ideology and often protest along with neo-nazi and KKK-affiliated groups.
Members of the popular group were seen at the infamous 2017 “Unite The Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia shouting “Black Lives Don’t Matter,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
According to police statements to The Washington Post, the Proud Boys rally held last month quickly descended into violence when members of the group began roaming the city explicitly looking to attack people,
“Last night demonstrators who were part of the MAGA gatherings tore down our Black Lives Matter sign and literally burned it in the street. It pained me especially to see our name, Asbury, in flames,” church senior pastor Rev. Lanther M. Mills told the newspaper in a statement.
“For me, it was reminiscent of cross burnings,” the pastor added.