Proud Boys Leader Pleads Guilty To Burning Church’s Black Lives Matter Banner

Henry "Enrique" Tarrio, leader of The Proud Boys, holds an US flags during a protest showing support for Cubans demonstrating against their government, in Miami, Florida on July 16, 2021. (Photo by Eva Marie UZCATEGU... Henry "Enrique" Tarrio, leader of The Proud Boys, holds an US flags during a protest showing support for Cubans demonstrating against their government, in Miami, Florida on July 16, 2021. (Photo by Eva Marie UZCATEGUI / AFP) (Photo by EVA MARIE UZCATEGUI/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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July 19, 2021 6:03 p.m.

The leader of the Proud Boys pleaded guilty Monday to destruction of property after admitting months ago that he’d burned a historically Black church’s Black Lives Matter banner in Washington, D.C., the Justice Department announced

Tarrio also pleaded guilty to one count of attempted possession of a large-capacity ammunition feeding device — a charge that stemmed from Tarrio’s arrest on the first charge, when police discovered that he possessed two Proud Boys-branded rifle magazines.

He was apprehended for the banner burning in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 4, two days before the attack on Congress. Because of the incident, he was ordered to stay out of the city the day before the attack, and was not present at the insurrection. Several Proud Boys allegedly participated in the attack, and the group has been in shambles since, particularly after Reuters revealed that Tarrio had been a “prolific” cooperator in several law enforcement investigations years ago. 

Sentencing is set for Aug. 23, the Justice Department said. 

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The details of the Black Lives Matter banner case were fairly straightforward: On Dec. 12, after another pro-Trump rally in D.C., a group of Proud Boys stole a Black Lives Matter banner from the Asbury United Methodist Church and then burned the banner. Tarrio then claimed credit for the act. 

“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 a few days after the incident. 

(A few days after that, an affidavit in Tarrio’s case noted, law enforcement reached out to Tarrio to ask to speak to the attorney he mentioned — only to learn from Tarrio that “I haven’t retained my attorney in this situation yet.”) 

The guilty plea from Tarrio in the Washington, D.C. criminal case is separate against him from a lawsuit from Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, which alleged that Tarrio and several Proud Boys destroyed its Black Lives Matter banner in a separate incident the same night, and another suit from several members of Congress that names Tarrio as a defendant.

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