Proud Boys leader arrested after church’s Black Lives Matter banner burned

Proud Boy leader Enrique Tarrio smile while wearing a dark green t-shirt and cap

Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was arrested by Washington DC police Monday (4 January) on suspicion on burning a Black Lives Matter banner.

Tarrio, chairperson of the far-right white nationalist hate group and “Straight Pride” supporter, was arrested after arriving in Washington DC ahead of pro-Trump protests planned for Wednesday (6 January), when Joe Biden will be officially certified the winner of the US election.

Police confirmed the 36-year-old had been arrested on charges of destruction of property, the Washington Post reported, after he allegedly tore down the banner from a historic Black church during violent pro-Trump protests in December that consumed DC.

At the time, Tarrio reportedly told the Washington Post he had burned the banner.

“Let’s make this simple,” he said. “I did it.”

Officers stopped Tarrio in a vehicle after it entered the district, where he was found unlawfully possessing two high-capacity firearm magazines, they added.

Who are the Proud Boys?

Proud Boys is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a hate group and is considered by at least one official US agency as white nationalists.

It states on its website: “We long for the days when ‘girls were girls and men were men’.

“This wasn’t controversial even 20 years ago, but being proud of Western culture today is like being a crippled, Black, lesbian communist in 1953.”

The Proud Boy are, by reputation, a brawny band of brothers. Members are known for donning black and gold attire and spouting misogynistic, anti-LGBT+ and Islamophobic views.

Their members received a boost from outgoing US president Donald Trump during the September 2020 presidential debates when asked whether he would condemn white supremacists.

“Proud Boys,” he said, “stand back and stand by.” The remark served as a chilling publicity boost for the group, quickly becoming one of Trump’s most boisterous and vocal supports in his sad bid to overturn the election results.

Proud Boy leader Enrique Tarrio (R) hugs a fellow member

Proud Boy leader Enrique Tarrio (R) hugs a fellow member during a Proud Boy rally on September 26, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

Tarrio was scheduled to appear as a speaker at a so-called “Straight Pride” event in Boston, Massachusetts, in 2019 organised by Super Happy Fun America.

The group, which considers heterosexual people the “oppressed majority”, sowed immediate backlash for the event among LGBT+ activists. But as much as local law enforcement and officials tightened security measures, fearing the upshot of months-long simmer tensions, barely anyone showed.

Instead, the few hundred Straight Pride-goers, which included Pepe the Frog cosplayers and Proud Boys members, found themselves vastly outnumbered by the 1,000-strong pro-LGBT+ counter-protesters.