Court blocks Proud Boys leader motion to return to Washington

Judge rules Tarrio’s ban on entering DC is the ‘least restrictive’ it could be to maintain public order.

Proud Boys leader Henry 'Enrique' Tarrio wears a hat that says The War Boys during a rally in Portland, Oregon, in September 2020 [File: Allison Dinner/AP Photo]

A judge blocked a motion from Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, leader of the far-right Proud Boys, that challenged an order barring him from returning to Washington, DC, after his January 4 arrest on misdemeanour and felony charges.

Judge Robert Okun, an associate judge on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, wrote in his February 4 ruling (PDF) the condition that Tarrio not return to DC was the “least restrictive condition consistent with public safety” given “his prior criminal history“.

Tarrio was arrested for allegedly burning a Black Lives Matter banner taken from a historically-Black church during December demonstrations. He was released ahead of his trial, which does not have a date, but ordered to stay outside the US capital.

Court filings say DC Metropolitan Police found “two high capacity .556 caliber firearm magazines” inside Tarrio’s “personal book bag” during the arrest. They also cite Tarrio’s social media comments.

The Proud Boys are considered an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. They rose to prominence by brashly supporting former US President Donald Trump during demonstrations that often featured violence between far-right and far-left demonstrators.

Tarrio’s arrest came two days before the deadly riot at the US Capitol that sought to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory.

Tear gas is released into a crowd of protesters during clashes with Capitol police at a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 US presidential election results by the US Congress on January 6, 2021 [File: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

Lucas Dansie, Tarrio’s lawyer, argued in a January 10 filing (PDF) the removal of the ban was “an absolute emergency” as it blocked Tarrio from engaging in “lawful and constitutionally-protected speech, association, political organizing and other legitimate activities”.

Dansie further stated Tarrio’s need to enter DC is “even more pressing now” as there is “an ongoing need for patriots to make their voices heard regarding their politically-protected view about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.”

The filing also argues the ban limits Tarrio’s freedom of travel and identified three people involved in violent protests arrested after Trump’s 2017 inauguration that were released and not ordered outside of DC.

Okun dismissed these claims, saying the ban “does not impermissibly” infringe on Tarrio’s association, as he can speak with whomever he pleases online, nor on his freedom of travel as the Proud Boys leader can travel anywhere in the world “except for the District of Columbia, for a limited time”.

People hold a sign reading ‘Free Enrique’ in reference to Proud Boys leader Henry ‘Enrique’ Tarrio, who was arrested on January 4, 2021 when he arrived back in the District of Columbia, as they attend a rally at Freedom Plaza on Tuesday, January 5, 2021, in Washington, DC [File: Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo]

Dansie told Al Jazeera Tarrio’s legal team has appealed Okun’s decision “to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals (the highest appellate court), where we look forward to vindication.”

The events of January 6 continue to have an effect on US politics. Trump is currently on trial in the Senate for his historic second impeachment over allegations he “incited” the January 6 riot.

The Biden administration ordered a threat assessment on “domestic terrorism” on January 29, and federal authorities have warned of further violence in the months ahead.

Tarrio’s next court appearance is June 8, 2021.

Source: Al Jazeera