Enrique Tarrio was wanted by police after he admitted to tearing down and burning a Black Lives Matter flag outside a historically Black church in the nation’s capital during December riots connected to a protest supporting then-President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.
On 6 January, 2021, Tarrio watched the insurrection unfold from a hotel in Baltimore.
Before his arrest two days earlier, Tarrio wrote to his lieutenant: “Whatever happens … make it a spectacle.”
Tarrio is now among four members of the self-described “Western chauvinist” gang facing decades in prison after they were found guilty in May of seditious conspiracy and other charges in connection with the mob’s assault. Tarrio’s verdict marked the first successful seditious conspiracy conviction against a January 6 defendant who was not physically at the Capitol that day.
Federal prosecutors are now asking a judge to sentence convicted Proud Boys members to decades behind bars. Tarrio could face up to 33 years in prison, the longest sentence yet in connection with the attack.
In a sentencing memo, prosecutors said the men “organized and directed a force of nearly 200 to attack the heart of our democracy” and “intentionally positioned themselves at the vanguard of political violence in this country.”
“The defendants understood the stakes, and they embraced their role in bringing about a ‘revolution.’ They unleashed a force on the Capitol that was calculated to exert their political will on elected officials by force and to undo the results of a democratic election,” prosecutors wrote. “They failed. They are not heroes; they are criminals.”
During the trial, prosecutors presented hundreds of internal messages revealing the group’s toxic rhetoric and culture of violence depicting a gang “that came together to use force against its enemies” in the weeks leading up to January 6, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors argued that the Proud Boys were not merely obedient followers of the former president’s commands but were preparing for “all-out war” to undermine millions of Americans’ votes and upend a democratic election to preserve his presidency.
Tarrio, as the leader of the gang, along with his four co-defendants, “directed, mobilized and led” a crowd of 200 supporters towards the Capitol on January 6, “leading to dismantling of metal barricades, destruction of property, breaching of the Capitol building, and assaults on law enforcement,” then bragged about their actions on social media and in group chat messages that were later shared with jurors, according to prosecutors.
Defence attorneys have placed the blame on the words and actions of then-President Trump, who directed his supporters to “fight like hell” the morning of the attack and – in a message from a debate stage heard loud and clear by members of the Proud Boys and their allies – “stand by.”
“It was Donald Trump’s words. It was his motivation,” Tarrio’s attorney Nayib Hassan told jurors in closing arguments. “It was not Enrique Tarrio. They want to use Enrique Tarrio as a scapegoat for Donald J Trump and those in power.”
Proud Boys emerged in cities across the US as a violent response to antifascists organizing in the wake of the 2016 election, exploiting white, right-wing male rage and relying on semi-ironic posturing and barroom culture to launder far-right, anti-immigrant and anti-LGBT+ views.
Tarrio, who assumed the role of group “chairman” in 2018, previously was a “prolific” cooperator with local and federal law enforcement agencies, according to court records and testimony from a former attorney.
His own lawyer and an FBI investigator said Tarrio helped authorities prosecute more than a dozen people in cases involving drugs, gambling and human smuggling between 2012 and 2014. Tarrio has denied his involvement.
Enrique “Henry” Tarrio, 39, was born in Miami to Cuban immigrant parents.
He was initially reluctant to join the Proud Boys until he was courted by members at a party for far-right activist Milo Yiannopoulos in 2017; Tarrio was there working security.
Tarrio rose through the ranks of the burgeoning neo-fascist gang, attending events for Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, rallying alongside members at 2017’s so-called Unite the Right event in Charlottesville, Virginia that exploded into lethal violence, and broadening his Florida chapter into a national operation.