A DC court on Monday sentenced Enrique Tarrio to more than five months in jail after the Proud Boys leader pleaded guilty to a weapons charge and also burning a Black Lives Matter banner that was stolen from a historically Black church.
The banner in question was stolen from the Asbury United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. on December 12 during a pro-Trump rally Tarrio and his group attended, CNN reported. The accused was later filmed burning the banner and bragging about it on social media. His sentencing came after he pleaded guilty to the two offenses in July.
Tarrio was arrested on January 4 after he returned to the nation’s capital. Upon his arrest, authorities found two high-capacity magazines in his possession. Those ammunitions are banned in Washington, D.C. Tarrio was charged with two misdemeanors and ordered not to return to the city following his arrest. Authorities later explained they banned the Proud Boys leader in an effort to clamp down on possible violence during the January 6 protests.
During his sentencing hearing, DC Superior Court judge, Harold L. Cushenberry Jr., said Tarrio’s actions contravened the country’s “democratic values.”
“This court must respect the right of any citizen to peacefully assemble, protest, and make his or her views known on issues,” Judge Cushenberry said. “But Mr. Tarrio’s conduct in these criminal cases vindicate none of these democratic values. Instead, Mr. Tarrio’s actions betrayed them.”
A senior pastor at the Asbury United Methodist Church, Rev. Dr. Ianther M. Mills, also said the burning of the Black Lives Matter banner negatively affected the church’s congregants and reawakened “visions of slavery, the Ku Klux Klan (and) cross burnings,” CNN reported. Mills, who also spoke during Monday’s hearing, labeled Tarrio’s actions as racist, adding that the accused led a “marauding band of angry white men… apparently looking for trouble” in the nation’s capital.
“In our opinion, this was an act of intimidation and racism,” Mills said.
Tarrio apologized for burning the banner during the hearing, saying he “made a grave mistake.” “I’d like to profusely apologize for my actions… what I did was wrong,” he said.
Despite showing remorse, Tarrio appeared to insinuate the incident had also impacted him. “I have suffered financially, socially, for what I’ve done. My family’s business has been hit pretty hard. So, what I did doesn’t only affect the church. It affects a lot more people, including my family,” he told the judge.
And though Tarrio also said he had no idea the banner he burned belonged to the church, the judge dismissed that claim, adding that his apology was also not “credible.” “He could not have cared less about the laws of the District of Columbia,” Cushenberry said. “He cared about himself and self-promotion … His claim of ‘innocent mistake’ is not credible at all.”
Responding to the sentence, Tarrio told CNN that though he had no issue with the punishment, he was surprised by the judge’s actions during the hearing. Initially, Cushenberry wrongly handed Tarrio a sentence longer than what people convicted on a weapons charge receive. The judge later modified the sentence on two different occasions.
“I’m not surprised with the sentence per se. I am surprised by the judge,” Tarrio said. “I feel like the judge already had his mind made up. At its most basic function, a judge is supposed to know what the person in front of him was charged with. And in my case, he did not.”
“If I would have known it would have happened like this, I would have gone to trial [instead of pleading guilty],” he added.
“I learned from this experience. If anyone thinks putting me in chains silencing me, dehumanizing me will keep me quiet, they are wrong. In fact, I will use my voice even more. Even the people who disagree with me, like Black Lives Matter, see the injustice in the justice system and I hope they keep up the fight because I sure as hell will.”
Tarrio has been the leader of the far-right extremist and pro-Trump group since 2018.