Enrique Tarrio, 36, was arrested on arrival in Washington DC Monday ahead of planned MAGA protests in the capital to coincide with congressional certification of the presidential election results on Jan 6
Proud Boys leader Tarrio, has been accused of burning a BLM banner that was property of the Asbury United Methodist Church in Washington DC
He is charged with misdemeanor property destruction, but DC police said last month it had been considering a potential hate crime charge over the incident
The church has a historic past associated with the civil rights movement
Tarrio previously admitted to burning a Black Lives Matter sign from a church
The Proud Boys are expected to descend on the nation’s capital on Tuesday
Groups have scheduled two days of protests around Electoral College vote certification
Downtown Washington is boarded up as officials in DC brace for anticipatedd violence in the coming days
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 historic Asbury United Methodist Church, a mainly African American church where he and others allegedly burned the banner during violent protests on December 12.
The protest devolved to several altercations between the White Suprmacists and BLM and Antifa who members launched counter protests
According to NPR, Tarrio had already admitted to removing and burning the banner from the church and faces misdemeanour destruction of property charges, police say.
President Donald Trump has been urging supporters to gather in the capital this week for another demonstration.
On Wednesday, members of Congress are due to certify Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory before he takes office on 20 January.
In a post on social media app Parler, Tarrionannounced that the Proud Boys will “turn out in record numbers on Jan 6th”, referring to his members as “the most notorious group of extraordinary gentlemen”.
The National Guard has been deployed by Washington DC’s mayor to assist local authorities. Officials say the troops will not be armed and will be there to assist with crowd management and traffic control.
Spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department, Dustin Sternbeck, told the Washington Post on Monday that Mr Tarrio had been stopped in a vehicle shortly after it entered the district.
The 36-year-old was also found during his arrest to be in unlawful possession of two devices that allow guns to hold additional bullets, a source told CBS News.
The destruction of property charge relates to a protest in Washington DC on 12 December in support of the outgoing Republican president’s unsubstantiated claims of systemic election fraud.
The mostly peaceful demonstration ended in isolated scuffles as confrontations with counter-protesters broke out. Police said more than three dozen people were arrested and four churches were vandalised.
Tarrio who lives in Miami, where he also reportedly runs a grassroots organisation called Latinos for Trump – told the Washington Post at the time that he had burned the Black Lives Matter flag.’
“Let’s make this simple,” he said. “I did it.”
Tarrio who said Proud Boy members have had their flags and hats stolen in past demonstrations without anyone being arrested for those alleged incidents, maintained he did not know the Asbury United Methodist Church, where the flag had reportedly flown, was predominantly attended by African American worshippers.
Earlier on Monday, another black church that was vandalised during December’s protest sued Tarrio and the Proud Boys.
The Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church accused the group of climbing over a fence and tearing down a Black Lives Matter sign.
Kristen Clarke, head of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a statement: “Black churches and other religious institutions have a long and ugly history of being targeted by white supremacists in racist and violent attacks meant to intimidate and create fear.
“Our lawsuit aims to hold those who engage in such action accountable.”
Despite Tarrio’s boast as reported by NPR, a week after the violence at the churches, stating: ‘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 Tarrio will also be charged with a hate crime in connection with the case, though he has previously dismissed that as his motivation.
The city’s police department said last month it had been considering a potential hate crime charge over the incident.
‘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.’
Tarrio’s 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 extremist 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 DC Mayor, Muriel Bowser.