Enrique Tarrio: who is the Proud Boys leader who was jailed for 5 months for burning Black Lives Matter banner

Tarrio was accused of burning a Black Lives Matter banner torn down from a historic black church in downtown Washington

The leader of the Proud Boys extremist group has been sentenced to five months in jail.

Enrique Tarrio pleaded guilty last month to destruction of property and attempted possession of a large-capacity ammunition feeding device.

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But who is he, and why has he been imprisoned?

Here is everything you need to know about him.

Who is Enrique Tarrio?

Enrique Tarrio was born in the mid 80s in Little Havana, a neighbourhood in Miami.

His first encounter with the Proud Boys came when he volunteered at an event for far-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos in May 2017.

A year later, Tarrio became a fourth-degree member of the Proud Boys, a distinction reserved for those who get into a physical altercation "for the cause", after he punched a person who was believed to be aligned with antifa.

He assumed the role of chairman for the organisation in November 2018.

He served as the Florida state director of the grassroots organisation Latinos for Trump, and in 2020 was a candidate in the Republican primary election for Florida's 27th congressional district, but withdrew.

He has been quoted as saying, "I denounce white supremacy, I denounce anti-Semitism, I denounce racism, I denounce fascism,” and in regard to his own ethnicity, said, "I'm pretty brown, I'm Cuban. There's nothing white supremacist about me."

It was revealed in court records recently that Tarrio had worked undercover and cooperated with investigators after a 2012 indictment for participating in a scheme involving the resale of diabetic test strips; he helped the government prosecute more than a dozen other people.

What did Enrique Tarrio do?

Tarrio wearing a shirt supporting Derek Chauvin, the former police officer convicted of the murder of George Floyd (Photo: CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

Tarrio was accused of burning a Black Lives Matter banner torn down from a historic black church in downtown Washington, and bringing two high-capacity firearm magazines into the city.

Authorities said Proud Boys members stole a banner that read #BLACKLIVESMATTER from the Asbury United Methodist Church on 12 December, and then set it alight using lighter fluid.

Tarrio posted a picture of himself holding an unlit lighter to his Parler account, and admitted days later in an interview with The Washington Post that he joined in the burning of the banner.

“Mr. Tarrio has clearly — intentionally and proudly — crossed the line from peaceful protest and assembly to dangerous and potentially violent criminal conduct,” the judge said.

Tarrio was arrested as he arrived in Washington DC two days before thousands of supporters of then-President Donald Trump descended on the US Capitol and disrupted the certification of the Electoral College vote.

Tarrio had been ordered to stay away from the city.

When he was pulled over on a warrant for vandalising the banner, police found two unloaded ammunitions magazines emblazoned with the Proud Boys logo in his bag.

Who are the Proud Boys?

Proud Boys are a far-right, anti-immigrant, all male group who have been known to use violence against left-wing opponents.

The group was founded in 2016 by Canadian-British right wing activist Gavin McInnes. The name Proud Boys derives from a song in Disney film Aladdin ‘Proud of Your Boy’.

Their beliefs are extreme and vary from the call to “give everyone a gun” and “end welfare” to the return to traditional gender roles such as “venerate the housewife”.

Members can be identified by their use of black and yellow Fred Perry shirts, American flags, Make America Great Again hats and military armour. Members often carry guns.

Proud Boys members describe themselves as a politically incorrect men’s club for “Western chauvinists.” Its members frequently have engaged in street fights with antifascist activists at rallies and protests.

According to reports, the initiation process to join the group involves reciting: “I’m a proud Western chauvinist, I refuse to apologise for creating the modern world”, before being punched by fellow members.

They are then required to receive a tattoo, to vow not to masturbate and then get into a fight “for the cause”.

While the organisation’s members insist they are not white nationalists or “alt-right”, Proud Boys was classified as an extremist group by the FBI in 2018.

Authorities have narrowed in on the Proud Boys and other extremist groups, like the Oath Keepers, in their investigation into the 6 January attack on the Capitol that sent lawmakers running and injured dozens of law enforcement officers.

Nearly 600 people have been charged in the Capitol insurrection, but some of the most serious charges — involving accusations of planning to block the certification of the vote — have been filed against members of the extremist groups.

About three dozen people charged have been identified by federal authorities as Proud Boys leaders, members or associates.

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