The leader of the Proud Boys, a white supremacist group, has been arrested for destruction of property in the nation's capital ahead of anticipated large-scale protests opposing Wednesday's certification of November's general election results. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., confirmed to The New York Times that Enrique Tarrio, the group's leader, was arrested Monday. Tarrio was also charged with possession of two "high-capacity firearm magazines" that police found when they took him into custody.
In December, the Proud Boys were documented burning a Black Lives Matter flag that had been torn from the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historic Black church in D.C. As the Times reported, Tarrio is "known for inciting violence at protests"; the protests last month resulted in multiple stabbings.
"It mattered not that the land was ours. It mattered not that the sign was ours," Rev. William H. Lamar IV, the pastor of the Metropolitan AME Church, wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post. "The mythology that motivated the perpetrators on Saturday night was the underbelly of the American narrative — that white men can employ violence to take what they want and do what they want and call that criminality justice, freedom and liberty."
The Proud Boys often point to President Trump's racist and white supremacist rhetoric as justification for their actions. Perhaps the most explicit example of this was when Trump was asked to renounce the Proud Boys in a presidential debate, and instead instructed them to "stand back and stand by." In multiple cities, police departments have allowed Proud Boys to incite violence.
In response to the Black Lives Matter flag burning, the Metropolitan AME Church sued the Proud Boys, naming Tarrio specifically. "Our suit seeks to hold accountable those responsible for vandalizing and terrorizing a historic Black church because of its support for racial justice," Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, wrote on Twitter. "This attack is a new chapter in a long and despicable history of mob violence targeting Black houses of worship."
Trump is a central figure in this, as his dangerous, stubborn, and false insistence that he won re-election has incited a movement of Republican followers who also support a theory that November's election results cannot be trusted. On Wednesday, Congress is set to approve the Electoral College's certification of President-elect Joe Biden's electoral victory. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell previously stated that he didn't want Republicans to stage this kind of floor fight. So while it's virtually certain that Biden's victory will be rightly certified, it's just as likely that violent agitators like the Proud Boys will continue to fight in Trump's name.