Federal prosecutors in the United States have charged a leader of the far-right Proud Boys group with conspiracy over his alleged role in plotting the attack on the US Capitol building on January 6, 2021.
Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, one of the most high-profile of more than 775 people criminally charged for their roles in the attack by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, was expected to appear in court on Tuesday afternoon.
He was not on the Capitol grounds on the day of the Capitol riot, but was charged on Tuesday with helping plan and direct the assault, which took place as Congress was meeting to certify President Joe Biden’s election victory.
Tarrio is charged with conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding, a fairly common felony charge that many Capitol rioters are facing, which can carry up to 20 years in prison on conviction.
Tarrio had been arrested in Washington, DC, two days before the riot and was charged with vandalising a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic Black church during a protest in December 2020.
The day before the Capitol was attacked, a judge had ordered him to stay out of the US capital, but Tarrio did not leave the city as he should have, the indictment said. Instead, he met with Oath Keepers founder and leader Elmer Stewart Rhodes and others in an underground parking garage for approximately 30 minutes.
“During this encounter, a participant referenced the Capitol,” the indictment said.
The indictment of Tarrio indicates how far the US Department of Justice is going to prosecute the leaders of extremist groups whose members are suspected of planning to attack the Capitol, even if they were not in attendance themselves.
Four other Proud Boys members are already scheduled to face federal trial beginning in May on felony charges of obstructing Congress. Eleven members or associates of the Oath Keepers anti-government group also have been charged with seditious conspiracy in relation to the Capitol attack.
Tarrio, who has stepped down from his post as Proud Boys chairman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press news agency.
Although Tarrio did not storm the Capitol with some of the other Proud Boys, prosecutors say he nonetheless continued to direct and encourage his fellow group members during the riot.
According to the indictment, on December 30, 2020, an unnamed person sent Tarrio a document that laid out plans for occupying a few “crucial buildings” in Washington, DC, on January 6, including House and Senate office buildings around the Capitol.
The nine-page plan was entitled “1776 Returns” and called for having as “many people as possible” to “show our politicians We the People are in charge”, the indictment said.
“The revolution is [sic] important than anything,” the person said.
“That’s what every waking moment consists of … I’m not playing games,” Tarrio responded, according to the indictment.
Tarrio allegedly claimed credit for what happened on social media, as well as in an encrypted chat room.
Proud Boys members describe their group as a politically incorrect men’s club for “Western chauvinists”, according to court documents. Its members frequently have brawled with antifascist activists at rallies and protests.
Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, who founded the Proud Boys in 2016, sued the Southern Poverty Law Center for labelling it as a hate group.
On the morning of January 6, group members met at the Washington Monument and marched to the Capitol before then-President Trump delivered an incendiary speech to thousands of supporters near the White House.
Just before Congress convened a joint session to certify the presidential election results, a group of Proud Boys followed a crowd of people who breached barriers at a pedestrian entrance to the Capitol grounds, an indictment says. Several Proud Boys also entered the Capitol building after the mob smashed windows and forced open doors.
Prosecutors have said the Proud Boys arranged for members to communicate using specific frequencies on Baofeng radios. The Chinese-made devices can be programmed for use on hundreds of frequencies, making it difficult for outsiders to eavesdrop.
More than three dozen of the more than 750 people charged in the Capitol riot have been identified by federal authorities as Proud Boys leaders, members or associates.
Dominic Pezzola, 44, of Rochester, New York, is charged with Tarrio in the new indictment, which identifies Pezzola as a member of his local Proud Boys chapter. Pezzola was already previously charged with conspiracy in a separate case and has been jailed since his arrest after the riot.