The leader of the far-right Proud Boys group was sentenced to more than five months in jail on Monday for burning a Black Lives Matter banner that was torn down from a historic Black church in downtown Washington, DC and bringing two high-capacity firearm magazines into the nation’s capital days shortly before the January 6 riot.
Enrique Tarrio told the court he was “profusely” sorry for his actions, calling them a “grave mistake.”
“What I did was wrong,” Tarrio said during the hearing held via videoconference.
Tarrio was arrested as he arrived in Washington, DC, two days before thousands of supporters of then-President Donald Trump — including members of the Proud Boys — descended on the US Capitol and disrupted the certification of the Electoral College vote. Tarrio was ordered to stay away from Washington, DC, and law enforcement later said Tarrio was picked up in part to help quell potential violence.
Authorities say Proud Boys members stole the banner that read #BLACKLIVESMATTER from the Asbury United Methodist Church on December 12 and then set it ablaze using lighter fluid and lighters. Tarrio posted a picture of himself holding an unlit lighter to his Parler account and admitted days later in an interview with The Washington Post that he joined in the burning of the banner.
Reverend Ianther Mills, senior pastor of the church, told the judge it was an “act of intimidation and racism” that caused “immeasurable and possibly irreparable harm” on the community.
“His careless act of violence and hatred, targeted at a congregation of individuals with a lived history of social and racial injustice, had the presumably desired effect,” she said. “Asbury was forced to reckon with the very tangible evidence that we continue to live in a world where people radicalize hate based upon race and skin color.”
When police pulled Tarrio over on January 4 on the warrant for vandalizing the sign, officers found two unloaded magazines emblazoned with the Proud Boys logo in his bag. Tarrio said, according to a police report, that he sells the clips and the ones he was carrying were purchased by a customer.
Tarrio pleaded guilty last month to destruction of property and attempted possession of a large-capacity ammunition feeding device.
A police spokesman told the Associated Press news agency in December that investigators were probing the events as potential hate crimes, but no hate crime charges were filed against Tarrio.
Proud Boys members describe themselves as a politically incorrect men’s club for “Western chauvinists”. Its members frequently have engaged in street fights with antifascist activists at rallies and protests.