The chairman of the right-wing Proud Boys group was arrested Monday in Washington over the torching last month of a Black Lives Matter banner taken from a church during violent protests, police said.
Enrique Tarrio, 36, was taken into custody as the US capital braces for demonstrations against lawmakers’ certification this week of Joe Biden as the next US president.
Tarrio, who had just arrived in the city from Florida, was charged with destruction of property at the Asbury United Methodist Church, a mainly African American church where he and others allegedly burned the banner during violent protests on December 12.
According to NPR, Tarrio had already admitted to removing and burning the banner from the church.
He was hit with additional charges of possessing two illegal high capacity firearm magazines at the time of his arrest, police said.
In a parallel court case unveiled Monday, Tarrio and other members of the Proud Boys were accused by the historic Metropolitan AME church, also mainly African American, with tearing down and burning its banner during the protests last month.
‘The conduct of the Proud Boys in Washington, DC on December 12, 2020, amounted to a new and dangerous chapter in the long and terrible history of white supremacist mob violence targeting Black houses of worship,’ the church said in its filing.
A week after the violence at the churches, Tarrio made comments about the incidents per NPR.
‘In the burning of the BLM sign, I was the one that lit it on fire,’ Tarrio said on the War Boys podcast. ‘I was the person that went ahead and put the lighter to it and engulfed it in flames, and I am damn proud that I did.’
It remains to be seen whether or not Tarrio will also be charged with a hate crime in connection with the case, though he has previously dismissed that as his motivation.
‘These actions, meant to terrorize Black people, violated DC law and were hate crimes,’ D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said in a letter to the U.S. Attorney. ‘They harmed people of color, and every person who lives and works in our city who believes in fairness, justice and racial equity.’
The arrest came ahead of protests planned on Tuesday and Wednesday by backers of President Donald Trump supporting his unfounded claim that he, and not Biden, won the November 3 presidential election.
Washington police said Monday they were worried about potential violence, particularly from groups like the Proud Boys, and warned that people carrying firearms would be arrested.
‘We will not allow people to incite violence or intimidate our residents,’ said Mayor Muriel Bowser.
Women for America First, the Eighty Percent Coalition, and The Silent Majority all applied for permits for protests in the coming couple of days.
The Proud Boys appear to be coming too, though, with rumors circulating they’ll be dressed incognito in protests throughout the city.
Trump, meanwhile, has said that he will be attending the protests.
He famously told the Proud Boys to ‘stand back and standby’ during his debate performance, which was seen as a call to action for the right-wing group.
Street closures are set to take place in the nation’s capital and residents are being urged to either stay away or not engage with the protesters who attempt to incite violence.
‘Hate has no home in the District,’ Racine said. ‘Let’s keep the peace, rather than provide this band of agitators any more attention than their divisive and hateful demonstrations will otherwise receive.’ AFP.