With over two dozen members charged in connection to the deadly violence, the leader of the Proud Boys argued in an Associated Press interview published Wednesday that members of the far-right group are being too harshly punished for the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection, which he said has put them “through the wringer.”
Though he deemed the Capitol riots “horrible,” Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio told the AP he believes his group members are being overcharged and politically persecuted.
At least 25 leaders, members and associates of the Proud Boys face charges tied to Jan. 6, with some accused of conspiring to obstruct the certification of President Biden’s Electoral College victory.
Tarrio said he put a still ongoing halt on Proud Boys rallies after the insurrection, in part to focus on helping the indicted members.
The group, which claims to have 30,000 members nationwide, has also suffered from splintering since the riots, as several local Proud Boys chapters—including Seattle, Las Vegas, Indiana and Alabama—have since declared independence from the organization.
Tarrio claimed he has been able to patch up differences with those chapters and that the group has not been weakened.
“We’ve been through the wringer,” Tarrio said. “Any other group after Jan. 6 would fall apart.”
While not specific to the Proud Boys members, a Guardian analysis found 70% of people charged in the Capitol attack were awarded pre-trial release, a rate significantly higher than the 25% of the general population allowed to be released while they wait for trial.
The Proud Boys, a once fringe group for “western chauvinists” started by Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes, gained national prominence under the Trump administration. During racial justice protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd last May, members of the far-right group would show up and spar (sometimes violently) with left-wing activists. Buoyed by a major shoutout from former President Donald Trump, the group also engaged in large-scale Stop the Steal rallies in the run-up to Jan. 6, which would often end in violence.
It was at one of the December Stop the Steal rallies that Tarrio was arrested and charged for burning a Black Lives Matter banner torn down from a historic Black church in Washington, D.C. Tarrio was temporarily banned from D.C. and was therefore not present on Jan. 6.
“Charges after US Capitol insurrection roil far-right groups” (The Associated Press)