Proud Boys Leader Enrique Tarrio Pleads Guilty to Burning BLM Sign and Related Firearms Charge

Enrique Tarrio, chairman of the Proud Boys, at a pro-Trump rally. (Shutterstock)

Henry “Enrique” Tarrio—the 37-year-old leader of the far-right Proud Boys hate group—pleaded guilty Monday to two charges stemming from the burning of a Black Lives Matter banner stolen from a Black church in Washington, D.C., this winter. 

In ​the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Tarrio pleaded guilty to destroying the banner as well as “one count of attempted possession of a large-capacity ammunition feeding device,” the Department of Justice announced Monday.

On Dec. 12, 2020—the same day as two massive pro-Trump rallies featuring extremist speakers—members of the Proud Boys descended on the nation’s capital and, as night fell, engaged in violent skirmishes with counterprotesters. That same evening, unidentified Proud Boys members stole from Asbury United Methodist Church—the oldest Black church in the city—a banner emblazoned with the hashtag “#BLACKLIVESMATTER​,” ​carrying it some blocks​ before taking out their lighters and lighting it on fire. Three other D.C. Black churches were vandalized that night. 

Tarrio was one of those individuals responsible, as seen in his postings on social media in which he admitted to burning the banner; in one post on Parler, Tarrio shared an image of himself holding a lighter in front of the banner. A warrant was put out for his arrest.

When Tarrio, who lives in Miami, returned to D.C. on Jan. 4, 2021, to participate in another pro-Trump rally meant to delegitimize the election of Joe Biden, he was arrested for the destruction of the banner. Police officers also found the hate group leader in possession of two high-capacity firearm magazines ​bearing the Proud Boys insignia. Tarrio told law enforcement ​officers that he had brought the magazines to ​deliver them to a “customer” who was also going to be in Washington, D.C. 

With his arrest, Tarrio was ordered to stay away from the nation’s capital except for his hearings, leaving him sidelined during the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol—violence that Proud Boys members took part in.

Tarrio could face a maximum sentence of 180 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine for each count. While he awaits sentencing before Judge Harold L. Cushenberry, Jr. scheduled for Aug. 23, Tarrio must remain out of the city.

As my colleague Karim Zidan reported, the Proud Boys have had a rough few months since Tarrio’s arrest. On Jan. 27, Tarrio was outed as a “prolific” informant for the FBI and local law enforcement following his arrest in 2012 for rebranding and reselling stolen medical devices. Right Wing Watch reported then: “In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, the far-right, neo-fascist hate group has seen several of its chapters declare autonomy, its organization labeled a terrorist entity in Canada, and a handful of its key members arrested for their role in the Capitol siege.”