A Washington D.C. judge has ordered Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, a violent neo-fascist group, to stay away from the nation’s capital until a court hearing later this year, throwing his plans to lead a massive pro-Trump rally this week into disarray.
Tarrio was arraigned Tuesday on a misdemeanor count of property destruction for the burning of a Black Lives Matter banner and on another felony count for possession of high-capacity gun magazines.
He appeared at the arraignment via video feed from detention, and the judge asked him to put on a face mask at the beginning of the court proceeding. Tarrio pleaded not guilty to both charges, his lawyer said.
Police apprehended Tarrio on Monday after he drove into Washington, D.C., city limits. The Proud Boys national chairman, who lives in Florida, had arrived in the city for a series of far-right protests scheduled this week in support of President Donald Trump.
Officers discovered two high-capacity magazines, both engraved with Proud Boys logos, in Tarrio’s possession during his arrest on Monday.
At Tarrio’s arraignment on Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Courtney requested he “stay away from the District of Columbia, in its entirety.” Courtney said the government believed this was the least restrictive condition of Tarrio’s release that would “ensure the safety of the residents of the District of Columbia.”
Superior Court Judge Renee Raymond called the request “reasonable,” citing Tarrio’s admission — which he posted to the right-wing social media site Parler — that he had participated in the burning of a Black Lives Matter banner during a pro-Trump Proud Boys demonstration in December.
“Given the fact that there are a lot of Black Lives Matter banners, placards, posters, murals and the like in the District of Columbia, this would be the least-restrictive condition under the circumstances,” she said, ordering Tarrio to stay out of the capital except for when he returns for his June court date.
Tarrio’s attorney Lucas Dansie asked the judge to limit the scope of the stay-away order only to the area around Black Lives Matter Plaza, which is near the White House, but the judge denied the request.
In the nation’s capital, where D.C. citizens lack the representation that most Americans enjoy, prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office handle both local and federal crimes. The office is typically headed by a presidential appointee.
In court documents in the misdemeanor case, the government pointed to videos showing the destruction of a Black Lives Matter banner that was hanging in front of a church as well as Tarrio’s statements on social media and in an interview with the DCist. The documents indicate that the city’s Metropolitan Police Department worked with the FBI’s Washington Field Office on the case.
The government cited a meme that Tarrio posted on his Parler page that said he would “FUCKING DO IT AGAIN,” which Tarrio captioned with “Ayo… Pass me the lighter.” The government said none of the videos it reviewed showed Tarrio actually lighting the banner, but indicated it was possible he had applied an open flame to it. The flame that ultimately engulfed the banner, the government said, appeared to have been lit by unknown individuals.
In the felony case involving gun magazines, police said Tarrio had told them he was supposed to meet a customer in Washington, D.C., who had purchased magazines. Tarrio said he’d mailed the magazines, but that they were returned because he had the wrong address.
Washington is bracing for unrest on Wednesday, when a motley crew of far-right extremist groups, including Tarrio’s Proud Boys, are set to descend on the capital as Congress is scheduled to certify the Electoral College votes from November’s presidential election and declare President-elect Joe Biden the winner.
Tarrio wrote recently on Parler that Proud Boys would attend the protests “in record numbers.” He also claimed they would not be wearing their signature black and gold uniforms, but instead would go “incognito” and “spread across downtown DC in smaller teams.”
Mayor Muriel Bowser has requested help from the National Guard, which is sending 340 troops to assist local law enforcement with the demonstrations.
Similar protests supporting Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results turned violent last month in Washington when Proud Boys and other far-right activists clashed with counter-protesters. Those demonstrations resulted in 33 arrests and four stabbings.