Enrique Tarrio was arrested earlier this week in Washington, DC, for allegedly burning a Black Lives Matter banner taken from a Black church last month during local protests after a “Stop the Steal” rally. The Cuban-American leader of the Proud Boys, an organization associated with white supremacy and the group’s ideology has been labeled “misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic, and anti-immigration” by the Anti-Defamation League. They’re self-proclaimed “western chauvinists” and function against the ideas of political correctness and white guilt with a belief in “closed borders.” Tarrio, 36, was originally president of Miami’s Proud Boys chapter before being promoted to the group’s national chairman in 2018.
A law enforcement official told CNN that the DC Metropolitan Police Department charged Tarrio with destruction of property related to the BLM banner burned on December 12. DC Metropolitan Police Department Public Information Officer Sean Hickman told CNN in a separate interview that Tarrio was charged with possession of firearm magazines.
Tarrio took responsibility for destroying the banner in an interview with DCist/WAMU and on social media platform Parler, used by groups like Proud Boys. In an episode of the podcast War Boys, affiliated with the organization, he spoke with pride about what he did.
“In the burning of the BLM sign, I was the one that lit it on fire,” he said. “I was the person that went ahead and put the lighter to it and engulfed it in flames, and I am damn proud that I did.”
He burned the banner during a protest in Washington where at least four people were stabbed and at least 33 arrested, CNN reported. Large groups of protesters and those against the protesters had gathered earlier in the day outside the Supreme Court building and at Freedom Plaza to speak out against the presidential election results. DCist reported back in December that two Black Lives Matter banners, were reportedly burned, one at Asbury United Methodist Church and one at Metropolitan AME Church, during a right-wing rally that turned violent in DC.
Tarrio appeared in court on Tuesday and a judge ordered him to leave the District and banned him from returning except for very limited conditions including attending a court date, The Associated Press reported. When the news was reported as a hate crime, Tarrio denounced it and spoke out to the DCist.
“That kind of made me angry, to be honest with you,” he said. He said the term implies the act was motivated by factors including race, cultural background, or religious affiliation, when he believes it wasn’t.
“The crime that was committed was, yeah, OK, it was destruction of property, fine,” Tarrio said. “But I wanna see if this hate crime thing is a thing … I want to see what a jury of my peers would think.” He maintained that the act was not a hate crime because Black Lives Matter “isn’t about race.”