HOUSTON — Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio and five other leaders have been charged with conspiracy in connection to the attack on the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021.
Tarrio, a 38-year-old Cuban American born in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, was not present during the riot, having been arrested two days earlier on a warrant for burning a Black Lives Matter banner and attempting to buy high-capacity gun magazines. He was released on January 5 and ordered to stay away from Washington, D.C.
Tarrio spent four months and one week in jail after pleading guilty to the charges in August 2021.
He was arrested in Miami and made an appearance in court in the Southern District of Florida. The indictment, which was returned on Monday in the District of Columbia, also includes defendants Ethan Nordean (a.k.a. “Rufio Panman”), 31, of Auburn, Washington; Joseph Biggs, 38, of Ormond Beach, Florida; Zachary Rehl, 36, of Philadelphia; Charles Donohoe, 34, of Kernersville, North Carolina; and Dominic Pezzola, 44, of Rochester, New York.
The indictment alleges that Tarrio led the advance planning and maintained contact with other members of the Proud Boys as they breached the Capitol Building. Charges in the indictment include one count of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and obstruction of an official proceeding, in addition to two counts of assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers and destruction of government property.
Nordean, Biggs, Rehl, and Donohoe are already facing charges for their roles in the attack. The four are charged with “Conspiracy, Obstruction of an Official Proceeding and Aiding and Abetting, Destruction of Government Property and Aiding and Abetting, Entering and Remaining in a Restricted Building or Grounds, and Disorderly Conduct in a Restricted Building or Grounds.”
Dominic Pezzola (a.k.a. “Spaz,” “Spazzo,” or “Spazzolini”) is charged with “Conspiracy, Assaulting, Resisting, or Impeding Certain Officers, Civil Disorder, Government Property or Contracts, Obstruction of an Official Proceeding, Robbery of Personal Property of the United States, and Restricted Building or Grounds; Aiding and Abetting.”
The indictment also alleges that on January 5, Tarrio violated the court order barring him from D.C. and met in a parking garage with Stewart Rhodes, leader of the extremist group the Oath Keepers. Rhodes is charged with seditious conspiracy and other offenses.
A Damning Indictment
In a statement issued on March 8, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said that despite his arrest prior to January 6, “Tarrio nonetheless continued to direct and encourage the Proud Boys prior to and during the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and that he claimed credit for what had happened on social media and in an encrypted chat room during and after the attack.”
Detailed in the indictment is a thorough understanding of the group, citing the Proud Boys’ own mantra as a “pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world, aka Western Chauvinists.”
Along with chat logs from the encryption platform Telegram, the indictment places Tarrio as the national chairman of the organization. It also details how Tarrio created a special chapter of the Proud Boys known as the “Ministry of Self Defense” (MOSD) in mid-December 2020.
“As alleged in the indictment, from in or around December 2020, Tarrio and his co-defendants, all of whom were leaders or members of the Ministry of Self Defense, conspired to corruptly obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding, the certification of the Electoral College vote,” the DOJ said in its statement.
The Department alleges that, “on Jan. 6, the defendants directed, mobilized, and led members of the crowd onto the Capitol grounds and into the Capitol, leading to dismantling of metal barricades, destruction of property, and assaults on law enforcement.”
The indictment, however, details conversations with Enrique Tarrio as he takes credit for the attack on the Capitol, saying, “Make no mistake… we did this.”
When asked by a member of the Proud Boys if they were a militia, Tarrio responded, “Yep.”
Even more damning are text messages discussing the potential takeover and occupation of several federal buildings.
On December 30, 2020, an unidentified individual sent Tarrio a document titled “1776 Returns.” According to the indictment, “The document set forth a plan to occupy a few ‘crucial buildings’ in Washington D.C., on January 6, including House and Senate office buildings around the Capitol, with as ‘many people as possible’ to ‘show our politicians We the People are in charge.'”
Many have been speculating for months about Tarrio facing similar charges to Rhodes’. Tarrio responded to that speculation by telling reporters in January that he was “absolutely not” worried about being charged.
One of the more difficult factors in tracking what white nationalists say or do is their last-minute planning, often waiting to lay out official plans until just hours before an action is to take place.
On January 3, Tarrio stated that he wanted to wait until January 4 to make final plans.
According to the indictment, a “Person 3” responded by saying:
“I mean the main operating theater should be out in front of the House of Representatives. It should be out in front of the Capitol building. That’s where the vote is taking place and all of the objections. So, we can ignore the rest of these stages and all that shit and plan the operations based around the front entrance to the Capitol building. I strongly recommend you use the National Mall and not Pennsylvania Avenue though. It’s wide-open space. You can see everything coming from all angles.”
This appears to be the plan that was carried out.
Tarrio was then arrested hours later, with panic setting in among the MOSD leaders. Multiple messages were sent among leaders instructing one another on how to delete chat messages from Telegram.
In one of the conversations about covering their tracks, Donohoe responded by saying, “Well, at least they won’t get our boots on the ground plans because we’re one step ahead of them.”
On January 5, a new messaging group was created on Telegram called “Boots on the Ground” to be used by more than 60 participants including MOSD leaders.
According to the indictment, “at 2:57 p.m., Tarrio posted a message on social media that read ‘1776’ and then ‘Revolutionaries are at the Rayburn building,’ which referred to a House of Representatives office building that had been referenced in the ‘1776 Returns’ plan received by Tarrio on December 30, 2020.”
The attack on the Capitol ended shortly after.
Arturo Domínquez is a first-generation Cuban American father of three young men, an anti-racist, journalist, and publisher of The Antagonist Magazine. If you’d like to learn more about the issues covered here, follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can also support his work here and here.