Enrique Tarrio, leader of the extreme-right group Proud Boys, has been arrested for burning a Black Lives Matter banner that was stolen from a historic Black church during protests in Washington, D.C., last month.
The arrest happened on Monday, Jan. 4, when Tarrio, 36, arrived in the capital ahead of the scheduled rally to protest the Jan. 6 Electoral College certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, The Washington Post reported.
“He (Tarrio) was charged with Destruction of Property related to an offense that occurred on Saturday, December 12, 2020 in the 900 block of 11th Street, Northwest,” D.C. police spokesman Sean Hickman told CNN. “At the time of his arrest, he was found to be in possession of two high capacity firearm magazines. He was additionally charged with Possession of High Capacity Feeding Device.”
The first charge is a misdemeanor, and the firearms charges are felonies. The Dec. 12 incident to which Hickman is referring was a protest in support of President Donald Trump’s claims of election fraud. Black Lives Matter banners were taken from two historic Black churches, Asbury United Methodist Church and Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Tarrio took responsibility for burning the banner from Asbury several times, including to the Post, on the social media website Parler and during a “WarBoys” podcast.
On WarBoys, Tarrio said he was “the person that went ahead and put the lighter to it and engulfed it in flames … and I’m damn proud I did.” On Parler, he pretty much dared police to pick him up.
“Against the wishes of my attorney I am here today to admit that I am the person responsible for the burning of this sign,” Tario wrote. “Come get me if you feel like what I did was wrong. We’ll let the public decide.”
Tarrio, who was born in Miami and is Afro-Cuban, said he would admit to burning the banner if arrested as well as pay for the banner to be replaced, according to the Post. He said he would not admit, however, to committing a hate crime because his actions were not motivated by race or religion.
“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.”
A blogger named Matt Couch, who calls Tarrio a friend of his, said the Proud Boys leader has a court hearing Tuesday afternoon. Despite Tarrio’s own admission, Couch said he is innocent. “Video clearly shows that he did not burn the BLM banner as police have cell phone video of the event,” Couch tweeted. He also accused the police of planting the magazines on Tarrio.
Among the Proud Boys beliefs are “closed borders” and “reinstating a spirit of Western chauvinism.” Tarrio once told a reporter, “Our main objective is to defend the West.” However, the FBI has classified the group as having ties to white nationalism.
When news of Tarrio’s arrest broke, social media users once again weighed in on how ironic it is that a Black Hispanic leads what is classified as a white supremacist group.
“Still can’t wrap my head around someone who is part black is not only leading a bunch of racists but inciting violence against them,” tweeted user @tootonlists.
“Where is the think piece on the Hispanic leader of the white supremacist group, Proud Boys?” tweeted CNN political analyst and former South Carolina state Rep. Bakari Sellers.