Jan. 4 (UPI) — Police in Washington, D.C., on Monday arrested Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, a day before such groups plan to protest the results of the November presidential election in the city.
A D.C. police spokesman said Tarrio was arrested Monday afternoon on charges of burning a Black Lives Matter banner that was taken from Asbury United Methodist Church during protests in support of President Donald Trump last month.
Dustin Sternbeck, a D.C. Police spokesman, said Tarrio, a 36-year-old Miami resident, was arrested during a traffic stop shortly after entering the district after having landed at the airport.
On Dec. 12, four churches in the city were vandalized, including two historically Black religious places of worship, one of which was Asbury United Methodist.
Police said Tarrio faces one count of property destruction in connection to the burning of the banner and two felony counts of possession of high-capacity ammunition weapons, which were found during the arrest.
The Anti-Defamation League describes the Proud Boys on its website as “an unconventional strain of American right-wing extremism,” and the group is often characterized as misogynistic with links to White nationalism. Its members are also known to engage in violence, with several convicted of violent crimes, the anti-hate ADL said.
Earlier Monday, the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, the second of the two historic Black churches vandalized in December, filed a lawsuit against the Proud Boys, accusing the group of “engaging in acts of terror and vandalizing church property in an effort to intimidate the church and silence its support for racial justice.”
The lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia names Tarrio as chairman of the group and accuses him of conspiring with other members to commit violence.
“White supremacists, like the Proud Boys, would rather see the country burn than to see it united together under justice and freedom for all,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a statement announcing the suit. “Our lawsuit aims to hold those who engage in such action accountable.”
The group, along with other similar organizations, is planning a rally in the city Tuesday and Wednesday in support of Trump, who has yet to concede defeat to President-elect Joe Biden and maintains he won the election while citing widely debunked claims of voter fraud.
The Defense Department said Monday it has approved Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser’s request from Thursday to deploy the D.C. National Guard ahead of the protest.
Some 340 personnel will be deployed to the city from Tuesday through Thursday to provide crowd control support at metro stations and assist police with street closures as well as support D.C. fire and emergency services.
“At the request of Mayor Muriel Bowser, the District of Columbia National Guard is in a support role to the Metropolitan Police Department, which will enable them to provide a safe environment for our fellow citizens to exercise their first amendment right to demonstrate,” Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, commanding general of the Washington, D.C. National Guard, said in a statement. “Our main mission is augmenting select traffic control points and metro stations identified by MPD.”
Bowser had said in the letter of request that no National Guard personnel would be armed nor will they engage in domestic surveillance, searches or seizures.
The mayor on Monday urged the public in a press conference to avoid downtown and “people who are coming here to look for confrontation” during the rallies.
“Of course, people are allowed to come into our city to participate in First Amendment activities and they will be mindful of the laws of the District of Columbia,” she said. “We will not allow people to incite violence, intimidate our residents or cause destruction in our city.”
Attorney General Karl Racine said in a statement Monday night that groups, some of which promote hate, will be traveling to the district “to provoke residents and wreak havoc” but that authorities will be closely monitoring their activities to hold them accountable.
“While we respect their right to protest, we will not tolerate criminal behavior — and we should deny them the opportunity to cause chaos,” he said. “Hate has no home in the District.”
Several rallies have been planned for Washington, D.C. this week to coincide with Congress’ certification of Biden’s victory over Trump, who tweeted Monday that he will be at one event named Stop the Steal.
“I will be there,” he said. “Historic Day!”
Bowser has directed district agencies to create a public safety response due to the rallies.