Proud Boys leader sentenced to more than 5 months for burning Black Lives Matter banner


WASHINGTON — The leader of the far-right Proud Boys was sentenced Monday to more than five months in jail after admitting that he burned a Black Lives Matter banner taken from a historic Black church in Washington during a pro-Trump demonstration in December.

Henry Tarrio, known to followers as Enrique, was arrested Jan. 4 in Washington on a warrant stemming from an incident on Dec. 12. The Proud Boys and other groups marched in a raucous rally through downtown. The banner was stolen from Asbury United Methodist Church, one of the oldest Black churches in Washington.

Tarrio, 37, of Miami, also pleaded guilty to attempting to possess a high-capacity gun magazine, which is illegal in Washington. Investigators said he had the magazines with him when he returned to the city for the Jan. 6 protests of the electoral vote count in Congress.

Both charges were misdemeanors, punishable by up to six months in jail.

Federal prosecutors recommended a sentence of 90 days in jail followed by three months of probation and an order forbidding him to return to Washington. They said his burning of the banner "had profound emotional and psychological effect upon the church and its members" and that he bragged openly about it, saying on social media, "I'm damn proud I did it!"

A senior pastor at the church, the Rev. Dr. Ianther Mills, spoke during the court hearing before the sentence was imposed. She called Tarrio's conduct "an act of intimidation and racism" and he treated his action as "a trophy on social media."

Tarrio told the judge Monday that he made "a grave mistake" by burning the banner. "I profoundly apologize. I didn't see the consequences of what I did."

But prosecutors said that video taken during the December demonstration showed that he was on and around the church property as other members of the Proud Boys stole the banner. "He surely knew where he was and where the banner he burned — which had Asbury's name printed on it — had come from."

Superior Court Judge Harold Cushenberg said Tarrio "did not credibly express genuine remorse" and sentenced him to a total of 155 days.

Tarrio was ordered to surrender to the Washington, DC jail on September 6.

The guilty plea and sentence were unrelated to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, in which at least three dozen members or followers of the Proud Boys have been charged. Federal prosecutors said in court documents that Tarrio, referred to as the "Proud Boys Chairman," posted messages on social media that members of the group planned to "turn out in record numbers on Jan 6th."

After Tarrio was arrested, prosecutors said, other members of the group took over the planning for what would happen when Congress met to count the electoral vote for president.

Federal law enforcement officials have said Washington police were tipped off that he was coming to Washington for the event and were on the lookout for him, prepared to arrest him for burning the banner.

Proud Boys leader sentenced to more than 5 months for burning Black Lives Matter bannerPete Williams

Pete Williams is an NBC News correspondent who covers the Justice Department and the Supreme Court, based in Washington.