Washington – Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the far-right group Proud Boys, was arrested Monday in Washington, where he planned to participate on Wednesday in a massive protest in support of outgoing President Donald Trump, local police confirmed.
Tarrio, of Cuban origin, was arrested when he arrived in the capital from Miami, where he lives, on charges related to the burning of a banner with the slogan “Black Lives Matter” that he removed last month from a historic black church in the city.
The leader of the far-right group faces one charge of property destruction, a misdemeanor, in addition to two other charges for possession of firearm magazines with extra capacity for bullets, according to police sources cited by The Washington Post.RELATED
The Proud Boys group is the one that has gained the highest profile in recent months among the far-right organizations that support Trump, and both Tarrio and his followers planned to participate this Wednesday in a mega-protest in support of the president in the capital.
“The Proud Boys will take to the streets in unprecedented numbers, but this time with a difference,” explained Tarrio recently on the Parler social network, used by many conservatives.
“We will not wear our traditional black and yellow uniform. We will be incognito and will be scattered throughout downtown Washington DC in smaller squads, “he added.
Tarrio, who was also involved in the Latinos for Trump organization during the election campaign, acknowledged in December in an interview with the Washington Post that he had ripped off the church banner and burned it.
“I did it,” said the activist, anticipating that he planned to plead guilty and pay the church for the cost of the banner if he was formally charged.
However, his arrest apparently came as a surprise to Tarrio, who was entering the US capital on Monday in a vehicle when police stopped the car and arrested him.
Local police did not rule out that federal authorities could file charges against Tarrio for hate crimes, something that could carry higher penalties.
Tarrio denied in December that his actions were guided by a racist motivation against blacks, and claimed that his problem with the “Black Lives Matter” movement was that, in his view, they had “terrorized” the country during last year’s protests against police brutality.
The Proud Boys have ties to white supremacist groups, but Tarrio has generally tried to avoid that label, which other members of his organization do embrace more freely.
In addition to the Proud Boys, half a dozen other Trump loyalists have called for a rally in Washington on Wednesday that the outgoing president is expected to approach.
The march will coincide with the meeting in Congress for the formal and final counting of the Electoral College votes, which give Democrat Joe Biden victory in the November elections.
Several Republicans in Congress plan to challenge electoral votes in some key states, which promises to delay the ratification process for Biden’s victory for hours, although there are no real options of changing the outcome of the election.