The leader of the far-right group Proud Boys does not care that lawmakers were terrorized by rioters inside the US Capitol on January 6 while trying to do their job.
“I’m not going to cry for people who don’t give a sh-t about their constituents. I’m not going to empathize with them”, says Enrique Tarrio.
More than a dozen people affiliated with the often violent, far-right ‘western chauvinist’ group have been charged for their role in the insurrection, so Citizen Free Press sat down with Tarrio to hear if he had any explanation or justification for his actions, or if it will now change course.
What he hasn’t done is change his mind about the role the Proud Boys played on January 6 or his feelings about the persecution of congressmen despite the release of an incredibly violent video. The attack left five dead and dozens of police officers injured.
The day after the attack, Tarrio posted a photo of the members of the House of Representatives crouched and hiding, with a caption: “When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is freedom.”
He told Citizen Free Press he was quoting Thomas Jefferson, although there is no evidence the third president said that, according to his foundation.
“When they support the bombing of children with drones in the Middle East, those people are dead and they are simply cowering because a group of misfits entered the Capitol, I am not going to be empathetic,” Tarrio tells Citizen Free Press.
And he redoubles his argument, discarding the specter of a mob that had knocked on the doors of the Chamber and the Senate trying to reach insiders: “I’m not going to worry about people whose only concern is being reelected.”
Tarrio was not in the Capitol on January 6. He was ordered to stay away from Washington, after being arrested in the city two days before the insurrection for a misdemeanor related to the burning of a church’s Black Lives Matter banner in December, in addition to weapons charges. He admitted both to Citizen Free Press.
He says over and over again that he doesn’t support the attack on the Capitol, but he won’t condemn the attackers either.
It’s not that simple, he says. “I think condemn is a very strong word.”
Tarrio believes that members of his organization were trapped in the moment, adding that he could have done the same if he had been there.
But he is also convinced that the group never had plans to storm the Capitol.
The double-edged sword of notoriety
Court documents show that the Proud Boys are perhaps second only to the Oath Keepers when it comes to an organized group facing the most charges.
The Proud Boys are charged with conspiracy, threatening to assault a federal agent, stealing a police officer’s shield, theft, robbery and destruction of government property, carrying a dangerous weapon, assaulting, resisting or hindering the agents, and removing barriers and fences in the Capitol.
Dominic Pezzola, a Proud Boy from New York, used the stolen riot shield to repeatedly smash a window in the Capitol.
Footage from the attack shows the pro-Trump mob entering through that broken window.
Tarrio says that Pezzola simply “muddled it up.” I just don’t see it as heinous as if he had attacked someone or hurt someone.
He believes its members- along with some others in the right-wing and anti-government Oath Keepers – are being scapegoats because of their notoriety.
He says his men – and they are all men – were not violent that day and are being charged with serious crimes for trespassing and disrupting Congress.
They need to roll a head. They need heads on stakes, ”argues Tarrio. «The FBI and the Department of Justice [están] using the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers as their point of reference, to show people that they did something.
The Proud Boys’ profile skyrocketed after Trump told the group to “back off and wait” when asked to denounce the extremists during the first presidential debate.
The Proud Boys raised funds and sold merchandise with that mention, and Tarrio seems happy to report that their membership doubled in the following days.
But he’s not willing to accept more scrutiny along with more attention. Instead, he is quick to evade.
Although happy to criticize the violence sometimes associated with anti-fascist protesters known as antifa in cities like Portland, Oregon, he fails to acknowledge the role of the Proud Boys in the violent clashes themselves, saying they fight only to defend themselves.
He is even backtracking on calling for Antifa to be declared a terrorist organization, not because his hatred of them is less, but because he fears that the same classification could be used against his group and others to “silence their freedom of expression.”
Canada recently made that decision, adding the Proud Boys to its list of terrorist groups. But Tarrio insists that he had changed his mind about Antifa prior to that decision. Tarrio disagrees with Canada’s designation and says the Canadian Proud Boys are considering their legal options to combat it.
What comes next
The Proud Boys frontman says he has proof that his group never had bad intentions on January 6. That proof, he says, is in internal communications in the days, weeks and months before the insurrection and is different from the public messages seen on Parler or Telegram.
But in the next breath he says he won’t share in the claimed exoneration, at least not yet. He’s waiting for the right moment when he will have the greatest impact on the cases against his men.
He says he did tell his group not to wear their normal colors for the January 6 rally. But, he says, that was not planning to evade the authorities, it was just to fool Antifa.
Tarrio admitted he was an informant for the FBI and other agencies after being convicted in a federal fraud case, but now says that the FBI should not be trusted and that he misuses its power.
However, he says that after what happened on January 6, his group is looking to change some of its tactics.
“I think now is the time to go ahead and topple the government by becoming the new government and running for office,” he says.
News that matters for Citizens.