Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, a far-right men’s group, was arrested Monday in Washington, DC, on suspicion of burning a “Black Lives Matter” banner taken from a historic Black church during violent protests in the city in December.
The Proud Boys have publicly backed President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the election and been involved in violent protests supporting his agenda.
Tarrio had arrived in DC to take part in more protests against the certification of the presidential election this week, and he has been blunt about his role in the Dec. 12 vandalism that spurred other clashes, which resulted in four people being stabbed and another shot. Days later, he told the Washington Post he was the culprit.
“So let me make this simple. I did it,” he said.
Tarrio was reportedly on the phone with a USA Today reporter on Monday when he was pulled over and taken into custody.
“They’re for me,” USA Today reporter Will Carless said Tarrio told him over the phone.
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department told BuzzFeed News the 36-year-old was arrested when he entered DC on a warrant for destruction of property charges.
Tarrio was also in possession of two high-capacity firearm magazines when he was detained, police said.
Videos of the protests on Dec. 12 show members of the group tearing down a “Black Lives Matter” banner at Asbury United Methodist Church.
Members of the group then cheered as they burned the banner and others chanted, “Fuck antifa!” Antifa, short for “anti-fascist,” is a decentralized movement that protests against the far right, with some members occasionally resorting to violence.
Police at the time said they were investigating the vandalism as a possible hate crime.
Authorities in DC are preparing for more violence on Wednesday, when the Senate is scheduled to certify the results of the Electoral College and Joe Biden’s presidential victory.
After the election in November, at least one person was stabbed and 20 others were arrested during the “Million MAGA March,” during which Proud Boys members were documented violently confronting counterdemonstrators. Tarrio and the Proud Boys, meanwhile, have been encouraging Trump supporters to converge on DC for another protest on Wednesday.
Biden won the election, but Trump and his most ardent supporters have been airing baseless claims of mass voter fraud, despite the fact the president’s legal team has lost all major challenges to the election in court.
Election officials have repeatedly refuted the conspiracy theories, and Trump’s attorneys have presented no credible evidence to their claims.
Despite this, thousands of supporters are expected to descend on DC on Wednesday, including the Proud Boys and other far-right groups.
Tarrio’s arrest also came a day after the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church announced a lawsuit against the Proud Boys.
In the suit, attorneys for the church say that the group’s violent acts against the congregation and its property “amounted to a new and dangerous chapter in the long and terrible history of white supremacist mob violence targeting Black houses of worship.”
The church accuses the group of climbing over its fence and destroying a large “Black Lives Matter” sign.
The suit specifically names Tarrio and cites his multiple interviews and social media postings.
In one post on Parler, the suit alleges, he posted an article about the burning of the banner and wrote, “I’M DAMN PROUD I DID IT.”