The leader of the Proud Boys, the violent far-right group, was arrested in Washington DC and charged with destruction of property and a firearms crime, according to local police.
Enrique Barrio’s arrest on Monday comes ahead of pro-Donald Trump protests in Washington planned for Tuesday and Wednesday to coincide with the US Congressional vote on Wednesday affirming Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
The demonstrations are organized by the Proud Boys and other right-wing activists, who falsely allege election fraud and want to see the presidential election results overturned in favor of Trump.
The property destruction charges with which Barrio was arrested are related to his supported paper in the burning of a Black Lives Matter banner ripped from a historic black church during an earlier pro-Trump protest in Washington on December 12, which DC police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said they had been investigating as a possible hate crime. Police said Barrio, who lives in Miami, Florida, was arrested after arriving in the District of Columbia on Monday.
DC police said Barrio had also been charged with possessing two high-capacity ammunition magazines, which were with him when he was arrested. The District of Columbia, which has some of the strictest firearm laws in the country, prohibits the possession of chargers for firearms containing more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Less than three weeks before Biden takes office as president, Trump has been encouraging his supporters to continue protesting the results of an election that he refuses to admit he lost.
The National Park Service said it received three separate requests for pro-Trump protests on Tuesday or Wednesday, with a maximum attendance estimated at 15,000 people.
Experts monitoring extremist groups fear that the demonstrations more chaos and violence to the American capital, the Washington Post reported, including new violent attacks by the Proud Boys against left-wing counter-protesters.
The US capital has mobilized the national guard ahead of the planned protests. Mayor Muriel Bowser called for a limited deployment of the National Guard to help bolster the metropolitan police department and has asked local area residents to stay away from downtown DC.
” There are people trying to come to our city armed,” Acting DC Police Chief Robert Center said Monday.
During a presidential debate in September, Trump was asked to condemn the Proud Boys and other violent right-wing groups linked to white supremacy, and instead told the group to “back off and stay out of it,” because ” someone has to do something with Antifa and the left. “
Over the weekend, Trump retweeted a promo for the rally with the message: “I’ll be there. Historic day! “
At a November rally, which drew about 15,000 people, Trump organized a limousine past cheering crowds at Freedom Plaza on the city’s iconic Pennsylvania Avenue. And at the December rally, which drew fewer but a larger contingent of Proud Boys, Trump’s helicopter flew low over the cheering crowds on the National Mall.
Barrio’s arrest was first confirmed by the New York Times.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism