It’s been two years since the January 6th riot on the Capitol when more than 2,000 of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol to protest the election results after he implied that the election was rigged. After breaking barriers and bypassing police, rioters broke into the building where they ransacked government offices and even threatened assassination of top officials including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, all of whom were evacuated. Five people died and dozens of people were taken into custody and charged. In the months since, we’ve seen thousands of other arrests and court charges. But other than the impeachment of Trump, no punishment has been as historic as the sentencing of ex-Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, an Afro-Latino of Cuban descent. This week, he received 22 years in prison for his role in the insurrection, the longest sentence of anyone involved in the riot, according to Axios. Federal prosecutors sought a 33-year sentence.
“No organization put more boots on the ground at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, than the Proud Boys, and they were at the forefront of every major breach of the Capitol’s defenses, leading the on-the-ground efforts to storm the seat of government,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Matthew Graves in a statement. “The leaders of the Proud Boys and the leaders of the Oath Keepers, who conspired before, during, and after the siege of the Capitol to use force against their own government to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, have now been held accountable.”
For decades, Tarrio has made a name for himself as a controversial figure in Cuban and American politics, from petty theft to schemes to serving as an informant to law enforcement. Beginning in 2017, he joined the Miami Proud Boys, a right-wing, neo-fascist extremist group, and quickly rose the ranks to become chairman. At the time of the riot, he’d actually been arrested days before for setting fire to a Black Lives Matter banner at a Black church in 2020 and wasn’t present at the Capitol. But prosecutors successfully proved that he did in fact use his arrest to spur his followers into action, encouraged them to protest, and cheered them on even after being arrested. Not to mention he also proudly took credit for the riot after the fact, at least until he was held accountable for it in court.
“I am not a political zealot. When I get back home, I want nothing to do with politics, groups, activism or rallies,” he said in a statement to the jury. “To the men and women of law enforcement who answered the call that day, I’m sorry. I have always tried to hold myself to a higher standard, and I failed. I failed miserably. I thought of myself morally above others, and this trial has humbled me.”
Tarrio joins two other ex-Proud Boy leaders Joseph Biggs, who received 17 years in prison, and Zachary Rehl, who received 15, for their roles in the riot. More than 1,100 rioters have been charged across the country for their roles on Jan. 6.
Tarrio “demonized his perceived adversaries, glorified the use of force against them and distributed violent propaganda to his thousands and thousands of followers,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Conor Mulroe said Tuesday, reported The Hill. “He is unique among his co-defendants in the extent of his toxic influence over others.” Mulroe added that Tarrio’s 22-year sentence is meant to be a deterrent for others who would use force to impose their political views, especially when it comes to future elections.