Summary List PlacementA historic Black church in Washington, DC, has filed a lawsuit against the Proud Boys, alleging members of the far-right extremist group burned the church’s Black Lives Matter flag during a pro-Trump rally in December.
The Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church brought the suit against the Proud Boys, its leader, Enrique Tarrio, and eight more unnamed defendants, for allegedly “engaging in acts of terror and vandalizing church property in an effort to intimidate the Church and silence its support for racial justice,” according to Monday’s filing.
Videos depicting the December 12 incident at the church, as well as others showing Black Lives Matter flags being destroyed, were shared widely online in December. Four churches were vandalized during the rally, according to the Washington Post.
Tarrio was arrested in DC on Monday evening on destruction of property charges related to the incident, a spokesperson for the DC Metropolitan Police Department confirmed in a statement. He was also hit with a possession charge after police found he was carrying two high capacity firearm magazines, the spokesperson said.
He had previously claimed responsibility for the burning of a Black Lives Matter banner from the Asbury United Methodist Church. “Against the wishes of my attorney I am here today to admit that I am the person responsible for the burning of this sign,” he wrote in a Parler post. “And I am not ashamed of what I did because I didn’t do it out of hate…I did it out of love.”
In a tweet, Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a civil-rights organization, which is representing the church alongside other groups, called the incident “a new chapter in a long and despicable history of mob violence targeting Black houses of worship.”
Clarke continued, “Our suit seeks to hold accountable those responsible for vandalizing and terrorizing a historic Black church because of its support for racial justice.”
BREAKING: We are suing the Proud Boys and their members for the racist attack on Metropolitan AME church in Washington DC. This attack was one of several levied against churches targeted for their support of the Black Lives Matter movement.The Proud Boys are NOT above the law. pic.twitter.com/CB53Upi9wH — Kristen Clarke (@KristenClarkeJD) January 4, 2021
The complaint, filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on Monday, alleges that members of the Proud Boys, which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has deemed a hate group, “traveled to Washington D.C. for the purpose of committing further acts of violence.”
Proud Boys tear down another Black Lives Matter board from the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church #DC #MarchForTrump #DefendDC #ProudBoys pic.twitter.com/ml1TbhV98Q — Brendan Gutenschwager (@BGOnTheScene) December 13, 2020
The Proud Boys are planning to descend on Washington once more on Wednesday, when Congress is expected to finalize the results of the presidential election. A far-right organization, the Proud Boys is aligned with President Donald Trump, and many of the group’s members don’t believe in President-elect Joe Biden’s win.
Tarrio, who was arrested Monday night when traveling to DC for the event, said on Parler that the group’s armed members will not be wearing their traditional black-and-yellow garb, but will wear all black clothing to be “incognito” in an effort to blend in with Antifa counter-protesters.
Proud Boys set fire to the Black Lives Matter banner outside of Harry’s here in DC #DC #MarchForTrump #ProudBoys #Antifa #BLM pic.twitter.com/uWfhwyTITC — Brendan Gutenschwager (@BGOnTheScene) December 13, 2020
The Proud Boys, which was founded in 2016 as a fraternity for “Western chauvinists,” has become increasingly visible throughout the 2020 election. While the organization claims to disavow white supremacy, its members have included many white supremacists.
The group has also increasingly pro-Trump, as the president has appeared to show them support. During September’s presidential debate, when asked to condemn white-supremacist groups like the Proud Boys, Trump told them to “stand back and stand by.”
This article has been updated with the news of Enrique Tarrio’s arrest.
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