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The leader of the Proud Boys is going to jail.
A judge in Washington, D.C., threw the book at Proud Boy “chairman” Henry “Enrique” Tarrio on Monday afternoon and sentenced him to 155 days for destroying a Black Lives Matter sign belonging to a historically Black church and possessing a pair of high-capacity rifle-magazines during two separate trips to the nation’s capital.
The punishment, which adds up to around five months, exceeds the three months that prosecutors originally asked for. But Judge Harold L. Cushenberry Jr. slammed Tarrio, who has led the Proud Boys since late 2018, for what he characterized as a brazen disregard for the law and failure to express genuine remorse for his actions.
“Mr Tarrio didn’t care,” Judge Cushenberry Jr. said. “That’s what I think. He could not have cared less about the laws of the District of Columbia. He cared about himself and self-promotion.”
Tarrio appeared, clean-shaven, wearing a grey T-shirt, via video, and ventured to say he was sorry for what he did on Dec. 14—when hundreds of Proud Boys and hardcore supporters of former President Donald Trump descended on D.C. to protest the results of the 2020 election.
“My attorney said I wasn’t thinking clearly and it goes beyond that,” Tarrio said. “That day I made a grave mistake. A very bad mistake.” And, Tarrio added, the church wasn’t the only one that had felt the consequences. “I’ve suffered financially,” he said. “My family’s business has been hit pretty hard.”
Monday’s hearing also included devastating testimony read aloud by Rev. Dr Ianther Mills on behalf of Asbury United Methodist Church, in which she spelled out the material and psychological impacts of Tarrios actions.
“This was deliberate and planned,” Mills said. “Who carries a bottle of lighter fluid to a peaceful demonstration? In our opinion, this was an act of intimidation and racism.”
Asbury Church, she explained, is incredibly symbolic to the Black community and provided a safe haven for escaped slaves who were attempting to make their way to free states or Canada via the Underground Railroad. The church and its congregants participated in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Today, many in the church are direct descendants of individuals who traveled north to escape the terror and violence of groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
So when Tarrio and other Proud Boys marauded around the streets of D.C., defaced two Black churches including Asbury, ripping down Black Lives Matter signs and setting them alight, before posting videos of the destruction on social media, their actions brought back painful memories, according to Mills.
“Now imagine the images conjured up in the imaginations of Asbury congregants,” Mills said. “Visions of slavery, Ku Klux Klan, lynchings, and their public spectacles.”
The judge sentenced Tarrio to a total of 150 days for possessing the large weapon gun magazine with 25 days suspended, and to another 90 days for destruction of property with 60 days suspended. The two sentences are to be served consecutively—for a total sentence of 155 days with another 85 days suspended.
“Mr Tarrio clearly and intentionally and proudly crossed the line of peaceful protest and assembly, to dangerous and potentially violent criminal conduct,” Cushenberry Jr said.
While acceptance of responsibility for one’s criminal conduct certainly bears weight, the court ultimately agrees that Mr Tarrio has not credibly expressed genuine remorse.”
Tarrio is now required to self-surrender in two weeks, which the judge says should give him enough time to get his “affairs in order.” If he fails to show up, a bench warrant will be issued for his arrest and he may have to serve the suspended portions of his sentence, the judge warned.
Following his sentencing, Tarrio took to Telegram to share his thoughts.
“Take it to the chin,” he wrote.
He followed up with a longer statement, in which he described himself as a “leading advocate for free speech,” and said he planned to hold a press conference later on Monday.
"Free speech is protected under the United States constitution,” Tarrio said. “Sadly, with online censorship by Big Tech and in-person violent intimidation tactics from BLM and Antifa, many Americans have been robbed of their free speech rights. I will continue to do everything in my power to call out their hypocrisy and protect my fellow Americans from their depraved acts of violence.”
Tarrio has said previously that he plans to step down from his role as the group’s leader next month and focus his efforts on local politics. His decision comes during some splintering within the far-right street-fighting gang, due in equal part to the intense scrutiny after many of its members were implicated in the Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, simmering disputes over optics, and a bombshell report by Reuters that exposed Tarrio as a former federal informant.
A leadership vacuum has also emerged within the Proud Boys since two other major figures within the group, Ethan Nordean and Joe Biggs, are facing conspiracy charges linked to Jan. 6. But the Proud Boys have remained extremely active on a local level this year.
Uniformed members have been seen at anti-vaxx and anti-mask events across the country and appeared at school board meetings to protest “critical race theory,” which has become a catchall term used by the Right to describe any program that involves the discussion of race or racism. Just this weekend, Proud Boys and other right-wingers were involved in a brutal and bloody clash in Portland, Oregon, which resulted in gunfire.