Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, the leader of the far-right group the Proud Boys, was sentenced Monday to 155 days in jail for burning a Black Lives Matter banner taken from a historic Black church and for bringing two high-capacity ammunition magazines to Washington, DC.
Tarrio pleaded guilty to the charges last month.
Judge Harold Cushenberry ordered Tarrio, 37, to report to DC to begin his sentence on Sept. 6 and to pay fines totaling hundreds of dollars for the destruction of Asbury United Methodist Church property and possession of the magazines.
Appearing in court via video and wearing glasses and a blue plaid shirt, Tarrio apologized for his actions and said he made a “very, very big mistake.”
"What I did was wrong,” he said, and what was right was “to plead guilty in this case.”
Lucas Dansie, Tarrio’s attorney, called him “a man of moral character who respects the laws” and said Tarrio “is extremely sorry for what he did. He made a poor decision and wasn’t thinking clearly.”
Cushenberry was unconvinced, saying Tarrio had clearly, intentionally, and proudly “crossed the line” into “dangerous conduct.” He said Tarrio’s claim that he was unaware of the laws on possessing high-capacity magazines was “wholly not credible”
Cushenberry said that Tarrio seemed not to care about the repercussions of his actions or who they may have harmed.
“He cared about himself and self-promotion, not the laws of the District of Columbia or anyone else’s laws,” he said.
On Dec. 12, 2020, Tarrio and several members of the Proud Boys marched through Washington, DC, with other far-right extremists in support of then-president Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the election. Members of the Proud Boys stole the Black Lives Matter banner from Asbury United Methodist Church and then doused the banner in lighter fluid and burned it at a nearby intersection, according to the Justice Department.
The incident was caught on video, as was the group of Proud Boys chanting “Fuck antifa!” as the banner burned.
Police at the time said they were investigating the banner burning as a possible hate crime, BuzzFeed News reported.
Tarrio was arrested on Jan. 4, when he attempted to enter DC ahead of the “Stop the Steal” rally that would devolve into a deadly riot at the Capitol two days later. Police said that Tarrio was also in possession of two high-capacity firearm magazines when he was arrested. He was released and has remained free on his own recognizance since then.
Tarrio, who has been outed as an informant for federal and local law enforcement, pleaded guilty in July to one count of destruction of property and one count of attempted possession of a large-capacity magazine for a firearm.
In a sentencing memo published last week, the government pointed out that Tarrio bragged openly about his role in burning the BLM banner in interviews with major media outlets and on Parler, the far-right friendly social networking platform.
“Tarrio made very clear that he was proud of his crime,” the government wrote. “He sought to exploit and profit from his criminal conduct in an apparent effort to bring himself and the Proud Boys increased media attention.”
“It was also certainly foreseeable to Tarrio — if not his intended goal — that the degree to which he boasted of his crime sent his followers the message that traveling to Washington, DC, to engage in violent and destructive criminal activity was not only acceptable but encouraged,” the memo continued.
The memo also underlined that Tarrio’s burning of Asbury United Methodist Church’s BLM banner has had “a profound emotional and psychological effect upon the Church and its members.”
In an accompanying victim impact statement, Rev. Ianther Mills, Asbury’s senior pastor, highlighted the physical damage and financial cost of Tarrio’s actions, as well as the emotional and psychological impact they had on the church:
Imagine, if you would please, a marauding band of seemingly angry white men moving about the city, apparently looking for trouble. That group happens upon Asbury, a black church. They proceed to rip down and burn the church’s BLM banner on the street directly in front of Asbury. The group further escalates this act of violence and terror, this demonstration of outright hatred and anger, by videoing the act and uploading it to various social media platforms for the world to witness. Now imagine the images conjured up in the minds of Asbury congregants as a result of these white men burning the BLM banner: visions of slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, cross burnings, and the post-Civil War Jim Crow south.
Mills added that “Tarrio’s actions sparked feelings of hurt, anger and even confusion.”
While Tarrio wasn’t present at the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, several Proud Boys were. More than two dozen alleged members or associates of the group have been charged for playing various roles in the riot, including physical assaults on police officers and breaking windows of the Capitol building. Four Proud Boys leaders are also accused of directing the attack and are facing federal conspiracy charges.
Yet despite the attention from law enforcement and reports that arrests of several Proud Boys members have caused them to “fracture” or “splinter,” the group has become increasingly active in recent months. And they have shifted from battling on the streets in support of the bogus “rigged election” issue to fighting over mask mandates and “critical race theory.”
Tarrio’s sentencing came a day after a group of Proud Boys clashed with antifascists in the parking lot of a shuttered Kmart in Portland, Oregon, and later on the streets of the city’s downtown area. The melee broke out during an event billed by the Proud Boys as a “summer of love” gathering and quickly devolved into an all-out brawl, with a truck smashed, a van flipped over, and a brief gunfight in a busy public space, according to reporting by the Guardian and local news outlets.