The leader of the Proud Boys activist group has been arrested on misdemeanor destruction of property charges relating to the burning of a Black Lives Matter flag from a historic black church during protests in December.
Enrique Tarrio, chairman of the group, was also charged with possessing a high-capacity feeding device after police found two clips of ammunition in his possession.
Tarrio could receive up to 180 days in prison and be fined $1,000.
Tarrio was among those who burned a Black Lives Matter banner that was taken down from Asbury United Methodist, a historic Black church, last month, he previously told The Washington Post, saying he would plead guilty to any destruction of property charges.
Under the misdemeanor charge, Tarrio could face up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Protesters also took down a sign with the same phrase from the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Police indicated at the time of the protest that they may add “hate crime” charges to any vandalism charges.
At the time, police said they would investigate the vandalism as potential hate crimes. MPD spokesperson Dustin Sternbeck told the Post on Monday that prosecutors would determine whether to file hate charges.
Tarrio had previously told the Post he would not admit to committing a hate crime, saying he and other Proud Boys members did not target the church because it has a predominantly Black congregation. Instead, he said, he was protesting the Black Lives Matter movement that “has terrorized the citizens of this country.”
The prosecutors may be hesitating in charging Tarrio with a hate crime because Mr. Tarrio happens to be black (he “identifies” as Afro-Cuban). Charging a black man with a hate crime against blacks would be ludicrous.
The BBC reports that Tarrio was stopped shortly after his vehicle entered the district for the protest on Wednesday, leading to the conclusion that they were looking for him. He admitted his involvement to the Washington Post at the time.
The mostly peaceful demonstration ended in isolated scuffles as confrontations with counter-protesters broke out. Police said more than three dozen people were arrested and four churches were vandalized.
Mr Tarrio – who lives in Miami, where he also reportedly runs a grassroots organisation called Latinos for Trump – told the Washington Post at the time that he had burned the Black Lives Matter flag.
“Let’s make this simple,” he said. “I did it.”
I find it fascinating that protesters can burn the American flag without fear of prosecution but get arrested for burning the flag of a radical racist organization that espouses violence against police and white people.