The leader of far-right group Proud Boys has been arrested on suspicion of burning a Black Lives Matter flag at a protest in Washington DC last month.
Chairman of the male-only organisation, Enrique Tarrio, faces charges for misdemeanour destruction of property.
He also faces weapons charges after officers found him in unlawful possession of two devices that allow guns to hold additional bullets at the time of his arrest.
Tarrio has previously admitted to The Washington Post that he torched the banner taken from the church. ‘Let’s make this simple, I did it,’ he said.
He claims that he did not know the Asbury United Methodist Church is predominantly attended by Black worshippers.
The protests saw thousands gather to protest the presidential election results, despite all election officials confirming that no fraud took place.
Footage from the protest showed the gathering of a large, cheering crowd as the group pour lighter fluid on the sign before setting it alight.
Asbury’s lead pastor, Ianther M. Mills, said she had seen ‘an apparent rise in White supremacy’.
‘For me it was reminiscent of cross-burnings. As horrible and as disturbing as this is for us now – it doesn’t compare with the challenges and fears the men and women who started Asbury, 184 years ago, faced. So we will move forward, undaunted in our assurance that Black Lives Matter,’ she told Fox News at the time.
More recently, Tarrio took to YouTube to urge Proud Boys’ members and supporters to ‘take over’ President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration in January 2021.
Members of US Congress are due to certify the elected President on Wednesday, January 6, before he takes office on January 20.
The Proud Boys group is being sued by a different church that was also vandalised during the demonstration.
The Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church has accused the group of climbing over a fence and tearing down a Black Lives Matter sign.
Kirsten Clarke, the head of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said the lawsuit aims to hold white supremacists accountable.
‘Black churches and other religious institutions have a long and ugly history of being targeted by white supremacists in racist and violent attacks meant to intimidate and create fear. Our lawsuit aims to hold those who engage in such action accountable,’ Clarke said.
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