The Proud Boys leader is taking credit for burning a Black Lives Matter sign belonging to a historic Black church during a Dec. 12 pro-Trump march.
Enrique Tarrio, who assumed the role of Proud Boys chairman after founder Gavin McInnes stepped down in November 2018, revealed that he “was the one that lit it on fire.”
“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,” Tarrio said during his appearance on War Boys, a podcast affiliated with the Proud Boys.
The Proud Boys are a far-right, neo-fascist men’s group with a history of violence at pro-Trump rallies across the United States. While the organization describes itself as “Western chauvinists,” the group has been known for spouting Islamophobic, misogynistic, and anti-Semitic propaganda. In 2018, the FBI classified the Proud Boys as an extremist group with “ties to white nationalism.”
Prior to becoming the organization’s highest ranking member, Tarrio attended the neo-Nazi and white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017. That same year, he was pictured alongside Roger Stone flashing the OK hand sign – a gesture used by some to denote white power.
The Proud Boys’ latest exploits, which included burning the BLM sign outside the Asbury United Methodist Church, is part of a string of violent rallies that the far-right group has taken part in since the 2020 presidential election. Tarrio later took to Parler, the social media network popular with the far-right, where he claimed his decision to vandalize church property was done “out of love.”
“Against the wishes of my attorney I am here today to admit that I am the person responsible for the burning of this sign,” Tarrio wrote on Parler. “And I am not ashamed of what I did because I didn’t do it out of hate … I did it out of love. Love for a country that has given my family SO MUCH. The burning of this banner wasn’t about race religion or political ideology it was about a racist movement that has terrorized the citizens of this country. I will not stand by and watch them burn another city.”
Tarrio claimed he did not know that the Asbury United Methodist Church was a Black church, and that his actions do not constitute a hate crime. He then issued a challenge to those who question his statement. “Come and get me if you feel like what I did was wrong. We’ll let the public decide.”
The Proud Boys burned a second BLM banner at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church that same night. Tarrio did not take credit for that incident, instead claiming he did not know who burned the sign.