The leader of the far-right group the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, was released from jail Tuesday and ordered to stay away from the District, following his arrest over the burning of a Black Lives Matter banner last month.
Tarrio was ordered to leave the city and will only be allowed in DC to attend hearings of his trial.
He was arrested in DC on Monday for allegedly vandalizing a church’s Black Lives Matter sign during a pro-Trump demonstration on December 12, 2020, and charged with destruction of property.
The incident took place at Asbury United Methodist Church, a historically Black church in downtown Washington. Video that circulated on the internet showed a group of demonstrators removing the banner from its signpost and setting fire to it in the street.
Tarrio also told The Washington Post in a December interview that he was responsible for the burning of the banner. However, he claimed that his actions were not racially motivated.
“We didn’t Google the church and go, ‘Oh, it’s a Black church, let’s target it.’ The sign was taken down because of what it represents. If they want to get me for destruction of property, I won’t even give them a fight. I’ll tell them guilty,” he said.
Tarrio’s arrest came shortly before protests organized in DC’s downtown area by supporters of President Donald Trump. The DC National Guard has been deployed by Mayor Muriel Bowser to assist the Metropolitan Police Departmen (MPD) with crowd management during the protests.
The 36-year-old of Miami, Florida, was carrying two high-capacity firearm magazines when he was arrested, and was charged with “possession of a high capacity feeding device,” DC police say.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) designated the Proud Boys as a hate group. They are known for their white nationalist, anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric.
“Established in the midst of the 2016 presidential election by VICE Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, the Proud Boys are self-described ‘western chauvinists’ who adamantly deny any connection to the racist ‘alt-right,’ insisting they are simply a fraternal group spreading an ‘anti-political correctness’ and ‘anti-white guilt’ agenda,” according to SPLC.
In the wake of the burning, Asbury United Methodist Church issued a statement notifying the public that its members replaced and re-installed the Black Lives Matter banner, condemning the incident as “an unprovoked act of violence and vandalism.”
“It pained me especially to see our name, Asbury, in flames. For me it was reminiscent of cross burnings,” Rev. Dr. Ianther M. Mills said in a December 13 release. “Sadly, we must point out that if this was a marauding group of men of color going through the city, and destroying property, they would have been followed and arrested. We are especially alarmed that this violence is not being denounced at the highest levels of our nation and instead the leaders of this movement are being invited to the White House,” Mills had added.