- The Washington Times
Friday, December 18, 2020

Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio dared police to arrest him Thursday for recently setting fire to a “Black Lives Matter” banner that members of his group had stolen from outside a church in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Tarrio declared his involvement in the incident during an online program in which he defended setting the “BLM” banner on fire and denied it constituted a hate crime. It is being investigated as such.

“I was the one that lit it on the fire. I was the person that went ahead and put the lighter to it and engulfed it in flames. And I am damn proud that I did,” said Mr. Tarrio, the Proud Boys’ chairman.

“So if this puts me under some type of investigation or somebody is going to knock on my door, then bring it, because I did nothing wrong,” added Mr. Tarrio, a former Republican congressional candidate.

Mr. Tarrio and other Proud Boys, a men-only group with a growing reputation for violence, were among thousands of supporters of President Trump who protested his defeat Saturday in D.C. and other cities.

Video recorded in the nation’s capital that evening captured several members of the Proud Boys removing the “BLM” sign from a historic Black church in D.C., placing it in the street and setting it on fire.

The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department announced Monday it was investigating the incident as a potential hate crime and circulated images of suspects it sought help identifying. None depicted Mr. Tarrio.

MPD told The Washington Times on Friday that the investigation is still active and that individuals with relevant information should contact the department.

Mr. Tarrio, who unsuccessfully ran earlier this year to represent Florida’s 27th Congressional District, denied setting fire to a stolen church sign that reads “Black Lives Manner” amounts to a hate crime.

“In this case, it wasn’t about the person’s religion, race or skin color. In this case, it was about a movement that has terrorized the country,” Mr. Tarrio said about the Black Lives Matter movement.

“What I did was not racially motivated, it wasn’t religiously motivated and it wasn’t politically motivated,” Mr. Tarrio said in the “War Boys” program he co-hosted Thursday night with fellow Proud Boys.

Mr. Tarrio, a Cuban-American, then shared a photo that showed an unidentifiable person that he said was himself setting fire to the sign. Other images available online also show he was at the scene.

“This is me with a lighter in my hand lighting this b—— on fire,” Mr. Tarrio said as he showed the image. “Send it to your local office. And if I did this crime that you say I did, I welcome you to come pick me up.”

District leaders denounced the Proud Boys days earlier as images of its members setting fire to the sign from Asbury United Methodist Church, one of the city’s oldest Black churches, circulated online.

That incident occurred near the tail end of demonstrations held by Trump supporters that started early Saturday morning in D.C. and attracted thousands of people from across the country. 

Multiple people were later arrested or injured, including several members of the Proud Boys who were stabbed during fights that broke out within the District after dark, among others.

“Overall, I think it went very well,” Mr. Tarrio said earlier in the show, adding: “Granted, I’m removing the fact that our guys were stabbed. That was — the worst thing that could have happened, happened.”

Mr. Tarrio was at the White House several hours before the stabbings occurred Saturday.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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