Proud Boys leader arrested after Black Lives Matter banner was set on fire

5 January 2021, 07:20 | Updated: 5 January 2021, 07:22

Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio has been arrested in Washington DC
Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio has been arrested in Washington DC. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Proud Boys leader Henry "Enrique" Tarrio has been arrested in Washington DC on suspicion of burning a Black Lives Matter (BLM) flag last month.

The banner was torn down from a historic church in downtown Washington during a pro-Trump rally that ended in violent clashes between the group and BLM supporters.

Police arrested Mr Tarrio, 36, after he arrived in the capital ahead of planned demonstrations by Donald Trump supporters in response to the congressional vote expected on Wednesday to affirm Joe Biden's election victory.

The far-right activist was taken into custody by the city's Metropolitan Police Department after a warrant was issued for his arrest for the destruction of property.

Mr Tarrio is also facing weapons charges after he was found with two high-capacity firearm magazines upon his arrest, a police spokesman said.

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During December's clashes, hundreds of Proud Boys tried to reach Black Lives Matter Plaza - a road near the White House - but were barred by counterprotestors.

Later, some vandals pulled down a BLM banner and a sign from two historic black churches in downtown Washington before setting the banner alight.

Footage posted online showed vandals pouring fuel on the flag near the Asbury United Methodist Church.

In the video, some in the group could be heard cheering and swearing after lighting it up, before another person walked up to extinguish the flames about a minute later.

Another video showed men removing a BLM sign at the Metropolitan AME Church.

Mr Tarrio told The Washington Post he had taken part in the burning of the banner and said he would plead guilty to destruction of property and pay the church the cost.

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In an interview on Monday night, Reverend Dr Ianther Mills, the senior pastor at Asbury said: "We just want to see justice be done."

The church community is "in some ways of course feeling some relief" following the arrest, Dr Mills added.

Even so, she said, "we still remain concerned" about the high number of expected protesters in the area.

Dr Mills said Asbury saw another BLM sign taken from its location over the Christmas holiday, prompting her to formally request extra protection for the church during Wednesday's planned protests.

Local police already have begun conducting extra surveillance in the area, she said.

A police spokesman said last month that investigators were probing the incidents as potential hate crimes, but no hate crime charges had been filed against Mr Tarrio.

The 36-year-old did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on the allegations and it was not immediately clear whether he had an attorney who could comment on his behalf.