On August 23, Superior Court Judge Harold Cushenberry sentenced the Proud Boys’ International Chairman, Enrique Tarrio, to five months in jail for two misdemeanors. He will begin serving that sentence next week.
Much has been written in the mainstream media about Enrique and the Proud Boys in an attempt to define and characterize who and what they are. Terms commonly used in MSM reporting are racist, fascist, neo-Nazi, and alt-right. Human Events News is consistent in its efforts to remind readers to bring their skepticism along when considering all matters of politics and to especially be skeptical when it comes to MSM reporting.
In that spirit, HE News sat down last week with Enrique and let him share his story, in his words, and in his way.
“I’m going to write a book.” That is what 37-year-old International Chairman of the Proud Boys Enrique Tarrio says he is going to do during his upcoming five-month sentence in the infamous D.C. Jail. “It is going to tell my story of the last five years.” That story will take readers through Enrique’s journey from joining a fledging Proud Boys organization, being elected as its chairman, and growing it to its current membership, which Enrique places at roughly 45,000 worldwide with 35,000 of those members here in the U.S.
Enrique was sentenced on August 23 for the misdemeanor charges of burning a Black Lives Matter flag back on December 12, 2020 that belonged to the Asbury United Methodist Church in D.C., and another related to possession of a high capacity magazine clip. That charge had been reduced from two felony counts (there were two magazines) and consolidated into a single misdemeanor as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.
“The day after the flag burning, the FBI made a request for any video or information relating to the incident. They indicated they were exploring it as a possible hate crime. I knew they were targeting Proud Boys. I posted on social media that I did it. They arrested me but they did not have any actual video evidence. They never have. The hate crime charge never happened and they had to settle for the misdemeanor.”
While it has been over the past five years that Enrique has become something of a household name to many politically interested Americans, and a known adversary to the violent domestic terror group known as Antifa, his involvement in political activism dates back to 2004 when he worked on the Presidential campaign for George Bush, followed by efforts to assist first Ron Paul, then John McCain in 2008. “Since 2004 I have worked on every election campaign. I have gone door to door, been a poll watcher, and even served as a local campaign manager.”
Family history helped set his political fate
While his official “start-date” as a political activist might be2004, Enrique says the roots of his activism and his political values can actually be traced back to the 1950’s, decades before he was born, and his grandfather and family’s experience during the Cuban Revolution.
“My family is Cuban and prior to the revolution they owned significant farmland in Cuba. There was a day as they were tracking across the island when Che Guevara and his men stopped at the edge of one of my family’s properties. Che sent a couple of men to ask the family to use their land as a base of operation. They refused. After the men reported their decision to Che, he sent men back to the farmhouse and had the two oldest males brought outside. They were knelt down, hands tied, and executed.”
When he learned of the news, Enrique says his grandfather gathered his family and fled Cuba for America, settling in Miami upon their arrival. That is where Enrique ultimately was born and spent his youth. “I grew up on the streets of Miami in not the best of neighborhoods,” he says. “I wasn’t a bad kid, but I was mischievous. We’d break windows, that sort of thing.” Regarding political associations, Enrique recalls, “My family was very anti-communist. We flew an American flag only, not a Cuban one.”
At the age of 17, Enrique got married and moved to northern Florida where he started a poultry farm. Becoming something of a serial entrepreneur he owned other businesses including a gas station and a security company where he became a DOD contractor. “Being a government contractor was fun. They treated me well. I got a chance to travel and meet a lot of people,” he says. Enrique also eventually started an online medical supply business. It was that venture that ultimately led to his frequently referenced stint as an FBI “informant.”
“In 2012 the company originally got hit for operating without the proper licenses. After some digging, the investigators came up with other violations that were more serious. My brothers and I were at risk for going to jail and the Feds decided to use my brothers as leverage against me. They wanted me to help them catch some other people they were pursuing, including a human trafficker. In exchange, they would ease up on my brothers. If I didn’t cooperate, my brothers would face jail. I was pinned into a corner. I took the deal. It was my choice. I’m not proud of it, but my brothers did no jail time. Ultimately, they made choose between my family or others. I chose my family.”
Staying active in politics, Enrique would find himself working enthusiastically on soon-to-be-President Donald Trump’s campaign. “I knocked on 40,000 doors personally,” he says. “The Republican Party was on life support, literally, before he came along. I was a big supporter, but I was shocked when he actually won. Everyone thought Hillary had it locked up.”
The journey with the Proud Boys begins-despite the name
Enrique was also doing political security work in 2016 when he met a Proud Boys member who suggested he join. “I didn’t want to join at first,” Enrique states. “I didn’t like the name. I thought, ‘couldn’t you have picked something else?’ But after running into the same guy a second time, and doing some research, I thought it sounded cool and I decided to join.”
Prior to the first meeting he planned to attend, he got a call from the person who got him interested telling him that they had lost their meeting venue. Enrique offered up the backyard of his home as an alternative. On the day of the meeting, only two members showed up at his home. “I asked where are the rest of you? They said ‘this is it.’ I thought to myself what kind of an organization is this with only a couple of members in a major metropolitan area?”
Enrique decided to stick around. At the time he estimates there were only about 150-250 Proud Boy members, so he started recruiting and he started doing things. “We got active. For example, we helped people during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. The media even decided to criticize for that, by the way.” Enrique continued to recruit members and gain notoriety within the Proud Boy group up until 2018 when the organization needed to choose a new chairman. “Our attorney was going to run for the position, and I felt that there should be someone running in opposition to give members a choice. I tried to recruit some people, but nobody would run. So, I did.”
On Thanksgiving Eve, 2018, Enrique learned he had been elected Chairman. The man who thought of himself more as a writer than a speaker was now the public face of a very high profile and publicly controversial organization.
Who are the Proud Boys?
There have been many characterizations made of the Proud Boys by the mainstream media, virtually all derogatory. Ask Enrique to define what the Proud Boys really are, and he quickly quips, “I like to refer to us as a drinking club with a patriot problem.” He also quickly adds, “I am representing the best group of men I have ever met.”
When discussing what the Proud Boys stand for, Enrique gets reflective. “The group has been very organic in nature. It has grown up with a diverse group of members. When I joined, I noticed that Gavin [Proud Boys founder, Gavin McInnes] did not really have a direction set for the group. I thought at first that was a mistake. Other groups have a mission such as a 2nd Amendment group, or a pro-life group. When it comes to politics, we are kind of like a Swiss Army Knife. We even have some Bernie supporters. Not many, but a few.”
Enrique says the Proud Boys have certain key tenets to “live by.” Some are intuitive like their belief in the First and Second Amendments, others less so such as their call for the abolishment of private prisons and the end of the drug war. They also hold the veneration of the housewife as a core belief. “This is the one that gets us labeled as misogynistic. We are not. We are not saying that women should be barefoot in the kitchen and pregnant. Woman should do whatever they want, but if they come home one day and say, ‘I just want to bake cookies,’ then it is the man’s job to provide for them.”
The Proud Boys are also “Western chauvinists” according to Enrique. “The term chauvinist is usually associated with males. The actual definition is ‘extreme or excessive patriotism.’ We are extreme patriots. That is the chauvinist part. The Western part is our support for Western civilization. It is what has provided us with all of the technology and other comforts of our life. We are in that sense libertarian-minded, just not pure libertarians.”
He likens the Proud Boys to what he describes as another famous drinking club with a patriot problem, the colonial Sons of Liberty. “Our founding fathers were heroes, but some people like to paint a perfect picture of them. They were rebels and people who did not necessarily like authority. We are like Sons of Liberty ‘light.’ We don’t want to overthrow the government, only shrink it.” Asked if he considers the Proud Boys to be a secret society, he says, “No. We have some rituals that are high school-like, but we don’t take ourselves as seriously as the people in government or the media do.”
He continues on describing the nature of the organization by saying, “I don’t have power over individual chapters. That is why I am a chairman and not a president. We are very autonomous and have varied cultures. In some ways I am really the P.R. arm of the Proud Boys. I like to say we are an idea that wears a shirt.”
Asked how it is that the Proud Boys have come to be sometimes labeled as a white supremacist group despite their mixed-race membership, he says, “We’re scary. And we are men. To borrow from Fight Club, we are your carpenters, policemen, postmen. We are regular working-class Americans. That scares people in the establishment on both political sides. It should scare them. We are not going away. You can’t kill an idea”
He goes further in adding, “Proud Boys are known for being the security force that fights against others, like Antifa, who show up in places to cause violence. The news about us focuses on fisticuffs. That is not what we are about, but we are not afraid to fight back and we never will be. We get called a hate group but what we hate is authoritarian groups, like Antifa.”
The road to the D.C. Jail is paved with a judge’s intentions
When we turned the conversation to the events surrounding his arrest and freshly issued jail sentence, Enrique speaks in a calm and methodical manner not typically seen in someone who has just been railroaded through the criminal “justice” system. “The number one concern for Americans today should be the government of the United States and its use of selective prosecution. Our own government is turning against us. One thing that the Proud Boys have in common with BLM is that we are both understanding who the real villain is. It’s the federal government.”
Enrique had come back into D.C. on January 4th knowing he would be arrested and figuring he would be out the next day as D.C. is a ‘no bail’ jurisdiction. What he did not figure on happening was having a SWAT team stop him on a D.C. highway and treat him as though he were a domestic terrorist. A conspiracy theory has developed around his arrest for carrying gun magazines that day and it centers around the past stories of his FBI informant role.
“There are people who think that the entire magazine arrest was a setup by the FBI and my ‘handlers’ so they could keep me out of trouble on January 6th. The problem with that theory is that I had already been banned from D.C. by the judge who said my presence created too much anxiety for BLM folks. It had nothing to do with the magazines.”
After his arrest on the felony charges, Enrique and his attorneys came to reach a plea deal with prosecutors. “Since they couldn’t get me on any sort of hate crime or conspiracy charge, and since they had no evidence showing I actually burned the flag, they offered me a plea wherein they would reduce the two felony charges to one misdemeanor charge and leave the destruction of property misdemeanor. Two misdemeanors instead of two felonies and a misdemeanor. That is the deal we accepted.”
Part of that plea agreement was a recommendation for a three-month jail sentence. According to Enrique, the pre-sentencing report actually recommended only probation and no jail. Regardless, that ultimately led to the August 23 sentencing appearance before Judge Cushenberry.
“I made my statement which was lengthy and where I apologized profoundly for having destroyed private property. I made it clear I did not realize it was the property of the church, but that ignorance was no excuse. I brought along a character witness but they were not allowed to testify. The prosecution made their recommendation for three months in jail and the pre-sentencing report was issued recommending simple probation. The Pastor of the Asbury congregation spoke and talked about the horrible impact on his parishioners and about racism and white supremacy. I mean, I’m brown as s***, but this was about white supremacy.”
Then it was Judge Cushenberry’s turn. “He said that he did not believe that I was remorseful or sincere. He spent considerable time scolding me before he got around to issuing my sentence.”
It was in issuing his sentence that the judge revealed his predetermined bias in the case. “At first he turned to the prosecutors and said that my sentence was too light. He said he was sentencing me to 18 months. The prosecutor told him that he couldn’t do that because the felony charges had been reduced. He then shuffled his papers and said my sentence would be eight months. The prosecutor again had to tell him he couldn’t do that because I had only been charged now with two misdemeanors and not three. He shuffled his papers again and sentenced me to five months, two more than the plea agreements.”
“This was three sentences in about three minutes. That’s a jail sentence per minute!”
Enrique continues. “The very least that a judge should do when they are passing a sentence on a citizen is to spend the time to read the file and know the charges. This judge just showed up knowing he wanted to punish me severely. He wanted to make an example out of me because he was mad that they couldn’t get me for anything more serious or for anything relating to January 6th.”
So unusual was his sentencing that Enrique shared during the interview he had just been contacted by the probation officer to discuss his plans post-incarceration and she expressed her bewilderment at his sentence, telling him that she just wasn’t seeing people receive prison time for misdemeanors in the D.C. jurisdiction, especially since Covid. She also expressed surprise over his post-jail probationary period being set at a lengthy three years.
Enrique points out that 24 Proud Boys have been arrested for their activities on January 6th, with seven currently sitting in jail, and none charged with any act of violence or vandalism. “They are all being held on charges for obstructing an official proceeding. They are in jail, or facing jail, over something that in 2016 people were given a $50 fine for doing as President Trump took office.”
What will life be for Enrique after he serves his time in the D.C. Jail, the site where another famous political prisoner, G. Gordon Liddy of Watergate notoriety was held after receiving an unduly harsh sentence from activist Judge John Sirica nearly 50 years ago? “I’m going to keep doing what I have always done,” he says. “They just made me a whole lot smarter and gave me a louder voice. I’m going to use it. I’ve lost everything I have over this and I’m happy about it.”
Anyone wishing to make a donation to Enrique Tarrio for costs surrounding his legal defense and prosecution can do so at www.TarrioFamilyFund.com.