Enrique Tarrio, leader of the far-right Proud Boys group, has been arrested ahead of a planned protest in support of U.S. President Donald Trump‘s effort to overturn his election loss in Washington, D.C.
Tarrio, 36, was arrested upon his arrival in D.C. on Monday for alleged offences dating back to Dec. 12, when he participated in another Proud Boys demonstration in the capital. He faces destruction of property and firearms charges, according to D.C. Metropolitan Police.
The Florida resident previously told the Washington Post that he tore down and torched a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic Black church in D.C. on Dec. 12 during a protest. He has also acknowledged lightning the banner on fire on a WarBoys podcast and in a post on Parler, the conservative social media platform, CNN reports.
“And I’m proud I did,” he said on the podcast.
Video captured from the scene on Dec. 12 shows dozens of Proud Boys members, many of them in combat gear, cheering in a circle while the banner burned. One member could be seen pouring what appears to be fuel on the fire.
“We just want to see justice be done,” said the Rev. Dr. Ianther Mills, senior pastor at the church where the banner was burned, in an interview Monday night.
Tarrio was arrested for destruction of property, the New York Times reports. He was also charged with possession of high-capacity firearm magazines after officers found the ammo on him, police told CNN.
Tarrio has not responded to various outlets’ requests for comment.
He and his Proud Boys were part of the violent clashes that happened between pro- and anti-Trump demonstrators and police in D.C. last month. Several churches, including historic Black churches, were damaged at the time. Four people were stabbed and 23 people were arrested.
D.C. has deployed the National Guard ahead of planned protests on Tuesday and Wednesday, and has issued warnings about carrying firearms in the capital.
Three separate pro-Trump groups have applied for applications to protest this week, with attendance expected to reach approximately 15,000 people.
“There are people intent on coming to our city armed,” said D.C. Acting Police Chief Robert Contee on Monday. “We have received some information that there are individuals intent on bringing firearms into our city and that just will not be tolerated,” Contee told a City Hall news conference, adding that anyone found doing so or provoking violence would be arrested.
Georgia ran two run-off elections for its Senate seats on Tuesday. Those run-offs will decide the balance of power in the Senate going forward, and will play a major role in determining how much President-elect Joe Biden can achieve after he takes office on Jan. 20. Republicans need to win only one of the two races to maintain power in the Senate.
Biden defeated Trump in the presidential election by 74 Electoral College votes on Nov. 3. He also won the popular vote by more than 7 million.
The government’s head of election security described the election as “the most secure in history,” shortly before he was fired by Trump. No evidence of widespread voter fraud has been found, despite Trump’s claims.
The outgoing president spent months sowing doubt ahead of the election last year, then cried fraud after he lost in November. He did not present any credible evidence to support his claims, and his lawyers have failed to prove any systemic voter fraud in court over two months of legal wrangling.
Trump has also spent the last two months courting Republican lawmakers to intervene on his behalf, and calling for battleground states to overturn the democratic results to save him from being the loser.
Audio published by the Washington Post earlier this week captured an extraordinary phone call between Trump and Georgia’s secretary of state, in which the president called for the Republican official to “find 11,780 votes.”
The official told Trump there is no evidence to support his claims after several recounts, appeals and investigations.
Nevertheless, a significant chunk of Republican lawmakers have entertained Trump’s conspiracy theories about the election, and have vowed to challenge the certification of the result on Wednesday. The challenge is expected to slow down the process, but is unlikely to derail it.
Trump also summoned his supporters to protest outside the Capitol on Wednesday while the process unfolds.
The Proud Boys are among several far-right, militia-like groups who have backed the president over the years.
Trump famously refused to denounce the Proud Boys during one election debate last year, when he was pressed to condemn white supremacy. Trump asked for a specific group to condemn at the time, and Biden suggested he condemn the Proud Boys.
“Proud Boys — stand back and stand by,” Trump said, before pivoting to accuse “the left” of being responsible for all violence in the U.S.
The Proud Boys welcomed Trump’s statement as a new slogan, and Tarrio was later seen with it on his T-shirt.
Protest organizers say they’ll start their demonstrations with a Tuesday evening rally in Freedom Plaza, followed by a day-long demonstration on the Ellipse Wednesday.
Trump has hinted that he will join the protesters at some point.
— With files from The Associated Press and Reuters