Enrique Barrio, the leader of the far-right group Proud Boy, was arrested this Monday in Washington, where he planned to participate this Wednesday in a massive protest in support of the outgoing president Donald Trumpconfirmed local police.
Barrio, of Cuban origin, was arrested when he arrived in the US capital from Miami, where he lives, on charges related to the burning of a banner with the slogan “Black Lives Matter” (“Black lives matter”) which he removed last month from a historic black church in the city.
The leader of the far-right group He faces one count of property destruction, a misdemeanor, in addition to two other counts of possession of firearm magazines with extra capacity for bullets, according to police sources cited by The Washington Post.
The Proud Boy group is the one that has gained the highest profile in recent months among the far-right organizations that support Trump, and both Barrio and his followers planned to participate this Wednesday in a mega-protest in support of the president in the capital.
“The Proud Boy will take to the streets in unprecedented numbers, but this time with a difference,” explained Barrio recently on the Parler social network, used by many conservatives. “We will not wear our traditional black and yellow uniform. We will be incognito and will be dispersed throughout towntown Washington DC in smaller squads,” he added.
Barrio, who during the election campaign was also involved in the organization Latinos for Trump, acknowledged in December in an interview with the Washington Post that he had ripped the banner off the church and burned it. “I did it,” the activist said, anticipating that he planned to plead guilty and pay the church for the cost of the banner if he was formally charged.
However, his arrest apparently came as a surprise to Barrio, who was entering the US capital on Monday in a vehicle when police stopped the car and arrested him. The local police did not rule out that federal authorities could to file charges against Barrio for hate crimes, something that could carry greater penalties.
Barrio denied in December that his actions were guided by a racist motivation against blacks, and claimed that his problem with the “Black Lives Matter” movement was that, in his view, they had “terrorized” the country during last year’s protests against police brutality.
The Proud Boy have ties to white supremacist groups, but Barrio has generally tried to avoid that label, which other members of his organization to embrace more freely.
In addition to the Proud Boy, half a tozen other Trump-loyal groups have called for a rally in Washington on Wednesday that the outgoing president is expected to approach.
The march will coincide with the meeting in Congress for the formal and final counting of the Electoral College votes, which give Democrat Joe Biden victory in the November elections.
Several Republicans in Congress plan to challenge electoral votes in some key states, which promises to delay the ratification process of Biden’s victory for hours, although there are no real options that they will change the outcome of the elections.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.