D.C. police on Monday said they were putting special focus on houses of worship this week as supporters of President Trump who want to overturn his loss return to the city. They come weeks after another protest in which attendees vandalized four churches, including taking down and burning Black Lives Matter banners at two historical Black ones. One of those churches, Asbury Methodist, recently said a second banner was taken over Christmas week.

Highly concerned about the potential for further vandalism or worse, downtown congregations are now taking multiple tacks: asking downtown hotels and liquor stores to limit business during protest days, hiring private security, debating whether to counterprotest or stay out of the city, and in one case, litigating.

Attorneys for one of the city’s oldest and most prominent Black churches, Metropolitan AME Church, on M Street NW, filed a lawsuit in Superior Court on Monday against the Proud Boys, one of the groups leading the pro-Trump protests. The Proud Boys are an all-male far-right group with ties to white nationalism. On Dec. 12, protesters took down and burned a Black Lives Matter banner at Metropolitan AME.

The suit seeks compensation aimed at discouraging such groups, which have been emboldened since Trump’s 2016 election. Incidents like the Dec. 12 assault on churches, “are modern-day cross burnings intended to stoke fear among people in Washington D.C. and nationwide,” Kristen Clarke, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of the firms representing Metropolitan AME, said at a virtual Monday news conference.

“White supremacists will not dictate the terms of our worship, theology, or our strident commitment to the liberation of humankind from violence, oppression and exploitation. Our ancestors were victorious against the white supremacists who sought to instill fear in them and to control them,” AME’s pastor, the Rev. William H. Lamar IV, said at the conference. “I declare that we will be victorious against these white supremacists because God is with us, Jesus Christ is on our side, and our ancestors surround us. We are on the side of justice and justice will prevail.”

Multiple downtown neighborhood commissioners emailed police Monday, with one saying downtown congregations are “frantic” about Jan. 6.

Proud Boys and other pro-Trump protesters have been organizing on social media to return to D.C. this week when Congress meets to formally certify the electoral college vote and Joe Biden’s victory and then on Jan. 20 for Biden’s inauguration. Some of their language has suggested they plan or welcome violence. Police plan to increase their presence around houses of worship Jan. 20 as well.

The Rev. Ianther M. Mills, senior pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church, asked for an increased police presence and a marked car at the church on Jan. 6. Police approved the former. Asbury and Metropolitan AME saw their Black Lives Matter banners removed by protesting trespassers last month and burned.

Asbury believes it’s being targeted, Mills wrote to D.C. police officials Dec. 31. Church leaders believe they could face more serious vandalism and “also our staff and membership are in jeopardy of harassment and harm. . . . Please respond with your plan for protecting our church as well as other targeted downtown churches,” she wrote. “It would be helpful to know what further measures are reasonably expected of us to ensure the security of ourselves and church property.”

A Post request for information from the city police wasn’t immediately returned, but a Monday email to multiple neighborhood commissioners from Police Cmdr. Stuart Emerman said, “Our enhanced deployment during these upcoming days are 24/7, with additional concentration being placed on houses of worship.”

“In addition to the locations that saw criminal acts during the last demonstrations, we are also providing attention at other locations based on proximity and other concerns. Unfortunately, based on the sheer number of locations and potential locations, I cannot guarantee that officers will be at 1 specific location for 24/7,” Emerman wrote.

The leader of the Proud Boys, who admitted to burning Asbury’s banner in early December, was arrested Monday in D.C. on a warrant charging with him one misdemeanor count of destruction of property. Police said Enrique Tarrio, who was in custody Monday evening, also was charged with two felony counts of possession of high capacity ammunition feeding devices. The devices were found during the arrest, police said. Authorities have been looking into the burning of the banner as a potential hate crime. Sternbeck said Monday it would be up to prosecutors to determine whether to file that enhancement.

Tarrio on Dec. 18 posted on social media that he had burned Asbury’s banner but would not admit to committing a hate crime. He said he was not motivated by race, religion or political ideology, but he believes the Black Lives Matter movement “has terrorized the citizens of this country.” On Monday, apparently just before his arrest, he posted on the social media site Parler mocking the lawsuit.

“You can’t put an idea in chains . . . So sue me put me in chains or attempt to destroy me. The armor of God protects me,” he wrote.

Asbury told police on Dec. 31 that a second Black Lives Matter banner was “cut from the signpost and stolen sometime over Christmas weekend.”

Officials from D.C. police and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management had a scheduled two-hour call Monday with downtown clergy to discuss security preparedness for this month. Trump has been encouraging protesters to come to D.C., and multiple pro- and anti-Trump groups have said they will be present in the city.

Some downtown pastors and their advocates are looking to more than police. Some wrote to hotels and other businesses hoping for help.

The Rev. Amy Butler, interim senior minister at National City Christian Church at Thomas Circle, wrote to her neighbor, the Washington Plaza hotel, saying “we know that guests from your hotel who have traveled to DC to be part of white supremacist gatherings have engaged in a pattern of verbal harassment and vandalism at Luther Place Church, as well as tearing down National City’s Black Lives Matter sign last time they were in town.”

Butler wrote that while the church would prefer the hotel not rent to certain patrons — she noted that nearby Hotel Harrington is closing altogether on Jan. 4-6 — and she asked that Washington Plaza “be prepared to join us in stopping the violence” if guests harm church properties. A request for comment from the Plaza was not immediately returned.

Terry Lynch, head of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, is urging officials to ask liquor stores to close early downtown.

Some liberal downtown clergy swapped emails debating whether they should be out to meet pro-Trump protesters, as a sign of Christian witness, or whether that would be unproductive. Or “if staying home is a more effective way to handle the presence of the Proud Boys?” read one pastor’s email to others. “Have you all been hearing that? I will certainly be praying with you in spirit.”