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Proud Boys leader charged for role in US Capitol riot

March 8, 2022

Enrique Tarrio was indicted Tuesday along with five other members of the far-right group. The charges are among the most serious leveled against the more than 775 suspects arrested so far.

Enrique Tarrio seen with a megaphone at a Proud Boys rally in Washington, DC
Enrique Tarrio is charged with planning and directing fellow Proud Boys during the attack on the US CapitolImage: Chris Tuite/ZUMAPRESS.com/picture alliance

Henry "Enrique" Tarrio, the former leader of the far-right hate group the Proud Boys, was arrested Tuesday and charged with multiple crimes in connection with the storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

What are the charges brought against Tarrio?

Tarrio was charged with conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, and two counts each of assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers and destruction of government property for his role in the January 6 riot, according to US Attorney for the District of Columbia Matthew Graves. 

If convicted of all charges, he could face up to 20 years in prison.

Though Tarrio was not physically present when supporters of former President Donald Trump attacked the building in an attempt to keep lawmakers from certifying Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States, authorities say he "led the advance planning and remained in contact with other members of the Proud Boys during their breach of the Capitol." 

He reportedly claimed credit for January 6 on social media and in encrypted chats.

Tarrio, who had been arrested on January 4 for destruction of property after he burned a "Black Lives Matter" banner at a historic African-American church in Washington, DC, was released the following day and ordered to remain outside the city on January 6 — something authorities say he did not do. He served four months in jail for the crime.

The US Attorney's Office named Tarrio as a co-defendant in its Capitol Breach case alongside Proud Boys Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Charles Donohoe, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola.

Tarrio met with Oath Keepers militia leader before attack

Prosecutors say that, on December 30, 2020, an unnamed individual sent Tarrio a nine-page document titled "1776 Returns," which outlined plans to occupy "crucial buildings" in DC, including the Capitol and government offices around it. The document called for getting "as many people as possible" to participate in order to "show our politicians 'We the People' are in charge," according to the US attorney's indictment.

"The revolution is more important than anything," the person forwarding the document wrote. According to the indictment, Tarrio replied: "That's what every waking moment consists of. ... I'm not playing games."

The indictment says that, rather than leaving Washington, DC, as ordered, Tarrio instead met with Elmer "Stewart" Rhodes, the founder of the far-right anti-government militia group the Oath Keepers, in an underground parking garage, where the two spoke for 30 minutes. One participant, according to the indictment, "referenced the Capitol."

Rhodes and nine members of his group were arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy on January 13, 2022, the most serious charges that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has brought against anyone involved in the event so far.

Who are the Proud Boys?

The Proud Boys describe themselves as a politically incorrect men's club for "Western chauvinists," with members frequently engaging in street brawls with antifascist activists at rallies and protests around the country. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a legal advocacy outfit, has labeled the Proud Boys a hate group.

Several Proud Boys entered the Capitol building during the January 6 insurrection after smashing windows and forcing open doors. Prosecutors say members of the group arranged to communicate using specific frequencies on Chinese-made Baofeng radios, which can be programmed for use on hundreds of frequencies, making it difficult for outsiders to eavesdrop.

Tarrio's arrest is further evidence that the DOJ is methodically pursuing convictions against the leaders of extremist groups whose members are suspected of planning and attacking the Capitol. The charges against Tarrio and his co-defendants highlight the DOJ's attempt to differentiate between those who orchestrated the attack and hundreds of Trump supporters at the scene that day.

So far, more than 775 people have been arrested in connection with the events of that day. More than three dozen members of the Proud Boys are among those arrested to date.

Tarrio, 38, appeared in a virtual federal court hearing in his hometown of Miami Tuesday afternoon.

That case is tentatively slated to go to trial on May 18.

js/wd (AFP, AP, Reuters)