A Washington D.C. judge has banned Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, the leader of the right-wing Proud Boys group, from entering any part of D.C. ahead of planned rallies supporting President Donald Trump’s challenges to the 2020 elections.
Tarrio, 36, was arrested after he arrived in D.C. on Monday and faces misdemeanor charges for burning a church’s Black Lives Matter flag during a December protest in the city. Tarrio also faces two felony weapons charges for having a pair of “high capacity” magazines in his possession when he was arrested, WTOP News reported. D.C. Magistrate Judge Renee Raymond ordered Tarrio’s pre-trial release during a virtual court appearance on Tuesday but ordered Tarrio to stay out of D.C. until his next court appearance in June.
The decision to ban Tarrio comes as the Proud Boys and other groups have begun arriving in D.C. as part of planned demonstrations in support of Trump’s election challenges.
Tarrio’s lawyer requested he only be banned from the city’s recently renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza and surrounding areas, where the flag burning incident occurred. However, Raymond cited Tarrio’s own social media posts, including memes threatening to burn additional Black Lives Matter flags, and argued similar Black Lives Matter flags could be found throughout the city.
During the court hearing, Tarrio pled not-guilty to both the destruction of property and weapons charges. Tarrio, who is an Afro-Cuban American, recently claimed responsibility for burning the Black Lives Matter flag in comments to the Washington Post and said he would plead guilty to the charges, but insisted there was no hate crime.
Tarrio told the Washington Post he was not motivated to burn the flag by racial or religious prejudice, but because he believes the Black Lives Matter movement “has terrorized the citizens of this country.”
Tarrio also told the DCist that he was motivated to claim responsibility for the flag burning after he saw the incident characterized as a hate crime.
“The crime that was committed was, yeah, okay, it was destruction of property, fine,” Tarrio told DCist. “But I want to see if this hate crime thing is a thing … I want to see what a jury of my peers would think.”
The current charges do not focus on the motive of the flag burning, though WTOP reported D.C. prosecutors could ask a grand jury if they would consider the incident a hate crime.
WTOP reported police presenting evidence for the flag-burning case said video of the incident showed Tarrio was present along with other people dressed in the black and yellow colors that the Proud Boys often wear. Police said none of the evidence they have clearly shows Tarrio as the one who lit the flag on fire.