Proud Boys did not ‘stand back and stand by’ on Jan. 6, prosecutors say as sedition trial begins

Former Proud Boys leader Henry (Enrique) Tarrio and four lieutenants charged with seditious conspiracy in the U.S. Capitol attack “took aim at the heart of our democracy” on Jan. 6, 2021, a federal prosecutor told jurors on Thursday as their high-profile trial opened in Washington.

Jurors began hearing attorneys’ opening statements more than two years after members of the far-right extremist group joined a pro-Donald Trump mob in attacking the Capitol.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason McCullough said the Proud Boys knew that Trump’s hopes for a second term in office were quickly fading as Jan. 6 approached. So the group leaders assembled a “fighting force” to stop the transfer of presidential power to Joe Biden, McCullough said. Tarrio saw a Biden presidency as a “threat to the Proud Boys’ existence,” the prosecutor said.

McCullough showed jurors a video clip of Trump infamously telling the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during his first presidential debate with Biden in 2020.

“These men did not stand back. They did not stand by. Instead, they mobilized,” the prosecutor said.

The trial comes on the heels of the seditious conspiracy convictions of two leaders of the Oath Keepers, another far-right extremist group. Several other Oath Keepers members were charged with plotting to stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power from Trump, a Republican, to Biden, a Democrat.

The case against Tarrio and his four associates is one of the most consequential to emerge from the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. The trial will provide an in-depth look at a group that has become an influential force in mainstream Republican politics.

Defence lawyers have said there was never any plan to go into the Capitol or stop Congress’s certification of the electoral vote won by Biden. Tarrio’s lawyers have not said whether he will take the stand in his defence.

Tarrio’s co-defendants are Ethan Nordean, of Auburn, Wash., who was a Proud Boys chapter president; Joseph Biggs, of Ormond Beach, Fla., a self-described Proud Boys organizer; Zachary Rehl, who was president of the Proud Boys chapter in Philadelphia; and Dominic Pezzola, a Proud Boy member from Rochester, N.Y.

McCullough told jurors they will see the defendants’ private communications, their public statements, their co-ordinated actions at the Capitol and their celebrations of the riot before they tried to cover their tracks.

A message that Tarrio posted on social media before Jan. 6 said, “Lords of War” over a photo of Pezzola with hashtags “#J6? and “#J20.”

“These lords of war joined together to stop the transfer of presidential power,” McCullough said.

Contentious jury selection process

The Justice Department has charged nearly 1,000 people across the United States over the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection, and its investigation continues to grow.

The Proud Boys’ trial is the first major trial to begin since the House committee investigating the insurrection urged the department to bring criminal charges against Trump and associates who were behind his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss.

Proud Boys leader Henry (Enrique) Tarrio is shown in Portland, Ore., on Sept. 26, 2020. Tarrio had been embroiled in another legal matter that resulted in his not being at the Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot. (Allison Dinner/The Associated Press)

While the criminal referral has no real legal standing, it adds to political pressure already on Attorney General Merrick Garland and the special counsel he appointed, Jack Smith, who’s conducting an investigation into Jan. 6 and Trump’s actions.

Jury selection in the case took two weeks as a slew of potential jurors said they associated the Proud Boys with hate groups or white nationalism. The Capitol can be seen in the distance from parts of the courthouse, where a second group of Oath Keepers are also currently on trial for seditious conspiracy, which carries up to 20 years behind bars upon conviction.

Tarrio not at Capitol that day

Tensions bubbled over at times as jury selection slowed to a crawl and defence lawyers complained that too many potential jurors were biased against the Proud Boys. Defence attorneys challenged jurors who expressed support for causes such as Black Lives Matter, saying that could indicate prejudice against the Proud Boys.

Tarrio, from Miami, wasn’t in Washington on Jan. 6 because he was arrested two days before the riot and charged with vandalizing a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic Black church during a protest in December 2020. He was ordered to leave the capital, but prosecutors say he remained engaged in the extremist group’s planning for Jan. 6.

WATCH l Trump’s infamous 2020 debate comment:

‘Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,’ Trump says in debate

U.S. presidential debate moderator Chris Wallace asks U.S. President Donald Trump if he will condemn white supremacist groups involved in violent clashes over policing and racism in some U.S. cities. Trump replies, ‘Sure’ and asks ‘Who would you like me to condemn? Who? Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,’ referencing one of the groups involved.

Communications cited in court papers show the Proud Boys discussing storming the Capitol in the days before the riot. On Jan. 3, someone suggested in a group chat that the “main operating theatre” be in front of the Capitol. “I didn’t hear this voice note until now, you want to storm the Capitol,” Tarrio said the next day in the same chat.

Tarrio’s lieutenants were part of the first wave of rioters to push onto Capitol grounds and charge past police barricades toward the building, according to prosecutors. Pezzola used a riot shield he stole from a Capitol Police officer to break a window, allowing the first rioters to enter the building, prosecutors allege.

Prosecutors say Tarrio cheered on the actions of the Proud Boys on the ground as he watched from afar.

“Do what must be done. #WeThePeople.” he wrote on social media as the riot unfolded. “Don’t (expletive) leave,” Tarrio wrote in another post.

Source link

Denial of responsibility! planetcirculate is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.