‘You Want to Storm the Capitol’: Ex–Proud Boy Leader Charged With Planning Jan. 6

One week before Jan. 6, Enrique Tarrio allegedly received a document that laid out a plan to occupy “crucial buildings” in the nation's capital.
enrique tarrio proud boys jan

In the final days of December 2020, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, the Proud Boys chairman at the time, received a nine-page document titled “1776 Returns,” according to federal prosecutors. 

That document allegedly laid out a plan to occupy “crucial buildings” in Washington, D.C., with as “many people as possible.” Possible targets included the House and Senate office buildings near the Capitol. The goal of this occupation would be to “show the politicians We the People are in charge.” 

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The person who shared the document added, “The revolution is (sic) important than anything.” 

“That’s what every waking moment consists of,” Tarrio replied, according to prosecutors. “I’m not playing games.” 

The person who sent that document to Tarrio is identified in federal court documents only as someone who is “known to the grand jury.”

A new superseding federal indictment, docketed Tuesday, brought criminal charges for the first time against Tarrio, who led the far-right street-fighting gang the Proud Boys from 2018 until very recently. He’s facing seven charges in total, and has been accused of conspiring with Proud Boys Joe Biggs, Ethan Nordean, Charles Donohoe, Dominic Pezzola, and Zachary Rehl to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6. 

Before sunrise on Tuesday morning, Tarrio was arrested in his underwear at his home in Miami, as captured by NBC6. He was later seen being led out of his residence, and on Tuesday afternoon, appeared before a magistrate judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Prosecutors stated that they plan to argue that Tarrio should be detained pending the outcome of the trial. 

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When asked about his assets, he said he recently got a job printing T-shirts, makes about $400-$500 per week, and has no other sources of income. Tarrio said he has no savings, and doesn’t own any property, stocks, vehicles, or any other assets. 

Tarrio had escaped criminal prosecution for Jan. 6 until now in part because he wasn’t actually in Washington that day, and so his alleged role in the riot was much murkier. He’s repeatedly expressed regret that Proud Boys engaged in the Capitol riot, and has insisted (along with some of his co-defendants’ lawyers) that members of the group got caught up in the heat of the moment and that there was zero plan to attack any government buildings. 

Some of the details laid out in the new court documents by prosecutors, including what Tarrio was up to in the week prior to Jan. 6, potentially undermine some of those claims. 

In late December 2020, Tarrio and other members of the Proud Boys established a special new chapter, consisting of “hand-selected members,” called the “Ministry of Self Defense” (“MOSD”), according to prosecutors. Tarrio described the MOSD as a “national rally planning” chapter, and created a group chat for them on an encrypted messaging app, according to court documents.  

Earlier court documents had confirmed the existence of this group, but the new superseding incitement offers more insight into it.

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On Dec. 29, Pezzola, aka “Spazzo,” a Proud Boy from Rochester, New York, who was seen on video smashing a window at the Capitol in the first breach that allowed rioters to enter the building, DM’ed Tarrio, according to prosecutors. 

“Hey boss,” Pezzola wrote, and said he was one of the guys bringing a “decorative shield.” He traveled to both North and South Carolina on Dec. 30 and 31, and presented that shield to someone identified as “Person 1” in court documents. A couple days later, Tarrio shared a now infamous photo to his Parler account, showing Pezzola and Rob Minuta (an Oath Keeper who’s facing sedition conspiracy charges), featuring the captions Lords of War and #J6. 

Tarrio held a virtual meeting on Dec. 30 to explain “how this all works,” according to the court documents, and said that the MOSD would have a “top-down structure.” He also allegedly told members they shouldn’t bother attending the meeting if this was “something you’re not comfortable with.” He told them they would operate under an upper-tier leadership that was divided into sections. The “operations” section would be led by Rehl (president of the Philadelphia Proud Boys), someone identified in court documents as “Person 3”, and one other unnamed individual. 

The “marketing” section would be led by Tarrio, Biggs (a Florida resident and prominent Proud Boy organizer), and Nordean (described as the group's “Sergeant of Arms”). The second-tier leadership would consist of eight regional members. 

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Rehl told people on the call that this would be a “completely different operation,” according to court documents. 

On Jan. 2, Tarrio created a secondary MOSD group for Proud Boys who had been accepted as members of the unit. There were 65 members in total, including Pezzola. According to prosecutors, members of the MOSD group made various statements that seemed to reference attacking the Capitol. One person asked, “What would they do [if] 1 million patriots stormed and took the capital building. Shoot into the crowd? I think not.” The person identified as “Person 3” replied, “They would do nothing because they can do nothing.” 

On Jan. 3, Tarrio told members of the chat that he wanted to wait until Jan. 4 to make plans for D.C. two days later. 

In response to this, “Person 3” shared a voice note to the “MOSD Leaders group at around 7 p.m., stating: “I mean the main operating theater should be out in front of the House of Representatives. It should be out in front of the Capitol building. That’s where the vote is taking place and all of the objections, so we can ignore the rest of these stages and all that shit and plan the operations based around the front entrance to the Capitol building. I strongly recommend you use the national mall and not Pennsylvania Avenue though. It’s a wide-open space, you can see everything coming from all angles. “

Rehl replied saying the Capitol was “a good start.” 

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The next morning, at 7:36 a.m., Tarrio allegedly shared a voice note saying, “I didn’t hear this voice note until now, you want to storm the Capitol.” 

Later that day, Tarrio was arrested on his way into D.C. for burning a Black Lives Matter sign belonging to a historically Black church during a rally in December. During that arrest, officers discovered a high-capacity magazine, which is not allowed in D.C. Tarrio recently completed a five-month sentence for those crimes. 

About one hour after Tarrio was arrested, Donohoe created a new group chat, titled “New MOSD Leaders Group,” that did not include Tarrio, according to the documents. Donohoe, who headed the North Carolina Proud Boys, allegedly advised other leaders, “each one of us should personally clear our history of that MOSD chat.” “You gotta manually delete each message from each chat,” Rehl replied. 

Rehl added, according to prosecutors, “since [Tarrio] knew the cops were for him, hopefully he logged out” of the app. Donohoe also made a new group chat for the other MOSD members, and told them they were “nuking” the previous one. 

Tarrio was released on bond on Jan. 5 and ordered to stay away from D.C. But he didn’t immediately comply with that order, prosecutors say. After being turned away from a hotel, he went to an underground parking garage, where he met with a small group of people—including Oath Keeper leader Elmer Stewart Rhodes, who was charged earlier this year with sedition conspiracy. The meeting lasted about 30 minutes, say prosecutors, during which, someone brought up the Capitol. 

VICE News was unable to reach Tarrio for comment. 

(Disclosure: Gavin McInnes, who founded the Proud Boys in 2016, was a co-founder of VICE in 1994. He left the company in 2008 and has had no involvement since then.)