The leader of the Proud Boys, the group that has vocally supported President Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results, was arrested on Monday on charges of destruction of property after he arrived in Washington to protest the congressional certification of the election later this week, the NYT and WaPo reported.
The chairman of the Proud Boys – a Latin man by the name of Enrique Tarrio – was arrested by Metropolitan Police on suspicion of burning a Black Lives Matter banner torn from a historic Black church in Washington during protests last month that led to several violent clashes, including stabbings, around the city.
Police stopped a car Tarrio had been in shortly after it entered the District, said Dustin Sternbeck, a D.C. police spokesman. He said it is believed that Tarrio, who lives in Miami, was coming into the District from the airport. Sternbeck said Tarrio is charged with one misdemeanor count of destruction of property in connection with the Dec. 12 burning of a banner stolen from Asbury United Methodist Church.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department confirmed that Tarrio, 36, had been arrested on charges of destruction of property, stemming from a mid-December incident in downtown Washington. Police said Tarrio, who was in custody Monday evening, also was charged with two felony counts of possession of high-capacity ammunition feeding devices, which is a legal term for a firearms magazine that allows guns to hold additional bullets. The devices were found during the arrest, police said.
Members of the Proud Boys are planning a rally in the District on Wednesday in support of President Trump and his efforts to overturn the election outcome. Trump has urged his supporters to descend on Washington to express their dismay with the certification of the election for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. On New Year’s Day, he promoted what he described as “the BIG Protest Rally” in Washington.
Tarrio had told The Washington Post last month that he was among those who burned the banner. The church banner was ripped down after a similar rally last month.
According to WaPo, Tarrio could appear Tuesday in D.C. Superior Court. Prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office in the District could modify the charges brought by police. Authorities had described the burning of the banner as a potential hate crime. Sternbeck said it would be up to prosecutors to determine whether to file hate crime charges, which could increase the penalty.
Tarrio last month told The Post that he would plead guilty to destruction of property, pay the church the cost of the banner and surrender to authorities if a criminal charge was filed. “Let me make this simple,” he said. “I did it.”
However, Tarrio said he would not admit to committing a hate crime. He said he was not motivated by race, religion or political ideology, but because he believes the Black Lives Matter movement “has terrorized the citizens of this country.”
The Proud Boys, along with members of antifa were caught in protests and marches in mid-December that gave way to violent clashes between Trump’s supporters, antifas and law enforcement, as well as vandalism and destruction of property at churches in the city, including historic Black churches. The local police said at the time that it would investigate the church attacks as potential hate crimes.
The banner that Tarrio said he participated in burning was taken from Asbury United Methodist, one of the oldest Black churches in the city. DC police have classified the burning as a destruction of property, a misdemeanor when damage is under $1,000. It is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Tarrio previously said he does not know who tore down the banner, and that neither he nor his members knew the church is predominantly African American. “We didn’t Google the church and go, ‘Oh, it’s a Black church, let’s target it,’ ” Tarrio said. “The sign was taken down because of what it represents.”
Washington is bracing for another round of protests on Wednesday, when the Senate convenes to certify the results of the Electoral College. Pro-Trump groups including the Proud Boys are expected to protest, and law enforcement officials are preparing for more violence.
Tarrio had said on Parler that the Proud Boys would “turn out in record numbers on Jan 6th,” but that they would fan out across the city “incognito.”