Bias Watch

Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio & 3 others found guilty of sedition in January 6 riots

Enrique Tarrio in 2019 surrounded by Proud Boys and members of the Three Percenters and Oath Keepers militias in Portland, Oregon Photo: Shutterstock

Former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and other three organizers have been found guilty of seditious conspiracy for directing their members to storm the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. They now face up to 20 years in prison.

A jury found Tarrio guilty along with three other Proud Boys leaders: Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, and Zachary Rehl. The jury is still deliberating about the sedition charges facing a fifth member, Dominic Pezzola, the Associated Press reported.

Prosecutors alleged that the men urged members to commit violence at the Capitol, viewing themselves as fighters on behalf of former President Donald Trump. Trump — who repeatedly and baselessly claimed that an unprecedented nationwide conspiracy of voter fraud had occurred only in the states he lost — famously told the Proud Boys “stand back and stand by” during his September 29, 2000 TV debate against now-President Joe Biden.

The Proud Boys’ plot — referred to as “1776 Returns” in an alleged text exchange between Tarrio and other Proud Boys — reportedly involved occupying “crucial buildings” in Washington, D.C., including the U.S. Senate and House. Tarrio and his co-conspirators also allegedly used the internet to strategize, recruit members and raise funds for paramilitary gear, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) indictment against Tarrio said.

Tarrio was in Baltimore, Maryland, on the day of the riots. When they began, Tarrio allegedly wrote to fellow Proud Boys in an encrypted chat room that he was “enjoying the show” on TV.

“Do what must be done. #WeThePeople,” Tarrio allegedly messaged his group’s members on social media. Minutes later, he allegedly wrote to the group at the Capitol, “Don’t fu**ing leave.” After the riots concluded, Tarrio sent a text message to members stating, “Make no mistake… We did this.”

More than three dozen supposed members or associates of the Proud Boys were charged for their roles in the riot, including charges of attacking police that helped the mob breach the Capitol building.

The Proud Boys’ lawyers argued that they, like many other January 6 arrestees, were misled by Trump.

The Proud Boys is a self-avowed anti-feminist, anti-Muslim, “Western chauvinist” group that beats up new members and encourages members to never masturbate. The group has allied with white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups to target drag queen performances nationwide.

Data from the Crowd Counting Consortium, which collects information on U.S. protests, showed that, before 2022, drag events accounted for less than 1% of Proud Boys protests. Since May 2022, however, ani-drag protests accounted for 36% of the group’s public protests. Last December, Vice News found that the group’s involvement in anti-LGBTQ+ protests tripled in 2022 compared to 2021.

Proud Boys in at least 11 states have appeared at libraries and restaurants hosting drag queen story hours and drag brunches. According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), 20% of all Proud Boys demonstrations since 2020 have turned violent, and members are increasingly appearing at events armed.

The group has been designated as a terrorist organization in Canada and New Zealand.

The group’s founder Gavin McInnes has a long history of anti-transgender and anti-Islamic rhetoric. McInnes has previously referred to trans people as “gender n****rs” and “mentally ill gays.” He supported Trump’s trans military ban, has called parental support of trans children “child abuse,” and has called Muslims a bunch of interbreeding rapists.

In August 2018, Twitter took down the Proud Boys Twitter account, Gavin McInnes’ Twitter account, and the accounts of regional Proud Boys chapters in violation of Twitter’s policy forbidding “violent extremist groups.” The @ProudBoysUSA account has since been taken over by a pro-LGBTQ+ group that hasn’t tweeted since 2019.

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