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Proud Boys leader arrested in the burning of church’s Black Lives Matter banner, D.C. police say

Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, center, and other demonstrators gather in Freedom Plaza on Dec. 12. Police said Tarrio was arrested Monday as he arrived in Washington. (Graeme Sloan/Bloomberg News)

The leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, was arrested by D.C. police Monday afternoon on a warrant charging him with burning a Black Lives Matter banner taken from a historic Black church during a demonstration last month, officials said.

Police stopped a vehicle Tarrio had been in shortly after it entered the District, said Dustin Sternbeck, a D.C. police spokesman. He said it is believed that Tarrio, who lives in Miami, was coming into the District from the airport.

Sternbeck said Tarrio is charged with one misdemeanor count of destruction of property in connection with the Dec. 12 burning of a banner stolen from Asbury United Methodist Church.

Tarrio had told The Washington Post last month that he was among those who burned the banner.

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Police said Tarrio, who was in custody Monday evening, also was charged with two felony counts of possession of high-capacity ammunition feeding devices, which is a legal term for a magazine that allows guns to hold additional bullets. The devices were found during the arrest, police said.

Members of the Proud Boys, a male-chauvinist organization with ties to white nationalism, are planning a rally in the District on Wednesday in support of President Trump and his efforts to overturn the election he lost to Joe Biden.

The church banner was ripped down after a similar rally last month.

Tarrio could appear Tuesday in D.C. Superior Court. Prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office in the District could modify the charges brought by police.

Authorities had described the burning of the banner as a potential hate crime. Sternbeck said it would be up to prosecutors to determine whether to file hate crime charges, which could increase the penalty.

Proud Boys leader says he burned Black Lives Matter banner stolen from church during demonstrations in D.C.

Tarrio last month told The Post that he would plead guilty to destruction of property, pay the church the cost of the banner and surrender to authorities if a criminal charge were filed.

However, Tarrio said he would not admit to committing a hate crime.

He said he was not motivated by race, religion or political ideology, but because he believes the Black Lives Matter movement “has terrorized the citizens of this country.”

Police have said four churches were vandalized the night of Dec. 12 as the Proud Boys and other groups marched through downtown.

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More than three dozen people were arrested during the day’s events. In one incident, four people were stabbed amid a crowd of Proud Boys and Trump supporters outside Harry’s Bar, which has become a Proud Boys gathering spot.

After the stabbings, authorities said the Proud Boys and Trump supporters roamed through the city looking to fight people.

Tarrio has said his supporters reacted to being attacked. It was during this time that Black Lives Matter signs were taken from Asbury United Methodist Church and Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, both historically Black houses of worship.

The banner that Tarrio said he participated in burning was taken from Asbury United Methodist, one of the oldest Black churches in the city, at 11th and K streets NW.

D.C. police have classified the burning as a destruction of property, a misdemeanor when damage is under $1,000. It is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Tarrio previously said he does not know who tore down the banner, and that neither he nor his members knew the church is predominantly African American. “We didn’t Google the church and go, ‘Oh, it’s a Black church, let’s target it,’ ” Tarrio said. “The sign was taken down because of what it represents.”

Asbury replaced its banner after it was taken on Dec. 12, but the church said the second banner was taken during the week of Christmas. Church officials have asked for an increased police presence on Wednesday.