US Capitol riot: Proud Boys face seditious conspiracy charges

Former leader and four other members of far-right group face new charges over January 6, 2021 riot in Washington, DC.

Proud Boys leader Henry "Enrique" Tarrio wears a hat that says The War Boys during a rally in Portland, Oregon.
Former Proud Boys leader Henry 'Enrique' Tarrio and four other group members face new charges in relation to the January 6, 2021 riot at the US Capitol [File: Allison Dinner/AP Photo]

The former leader of the far-right Proud Boys and four members of the group have been charged with seditious conspiracy in relation to the deadly riot at the United States Capitol building in January of last year.

Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, the former Proud Boys chairman, and four others linked to the group are charged in the latest indictment against them, US authorities said on Monday.

All five defendants have already pleaded not guilty to other criminal charges related to the riot on January 6, 2021.

The new indictment accuses the men – Tarrio, Dominic Pezzola, Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs and Zachary Rehl – of plotting to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential victory over Donald Trump.

Trump had repeated false claims the election was “stolen” due to widespread voter fraud, including in an incendiary speech delivered to a large crowd of his supporters in Washington, DC, shortly before the Capitol riot.

US prosecutors say Tarrio played a leading role even though he was not in the US capital when the riot erupted.

Police had arrested him in Washington, DC, two days before the attack and charged him with vandalising a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic Black church during a protest in December 2020.

Tarrio was released from jail on January 14 after serving his five-month sentence for that case.

The new indictments against Proud Boys members are among the most serious filed so far, but they are not the first of their kind.

Eleven members or associates of the anti-government Oath Keepers militia group, including its founder and leader Stewart Rhodes, were indicted in January on seditious conspiracy charges in the Capitol attack.

Three members of the Oath Keepers have already pleaded guilty to those charges, while several others, including Rhodes, have pleaded not guilty and are due to stand trial later this year.

On the morning of January 6, Proud Boys members met at the Washington Monument and marched to the Capitol before Trump finished speaking to thousands of supporters near the White House.

Just before Congress convened a joint session to certify the election results, a group of Proud Boys followed a crowd of people who breached barriers at a pedestrian entrance to the Capitol grounds, an indictment says. Several Proud Boys also entered the Capitol building after the mob smashed windows and forced open doors.

Prosecutors have said the Proud Boys arranged for members to communicate using specific frequencies on Baofeng radios.

More than three dozen people charged in the Capitol siege have been identified by federal authorities as Proud Boys leaders, members or associates.

Top Biden administration officials have promised to do “whatever it takes” to ensure justice and accountability for the attack on the Capitol.

About 800 people have been charged with taking part in the riot, with about 250 guilty pleas so far.

Meanwhile, a special committee of the US House of Representatives investigating the riot will hold its first public hearing later this week as part of its ongoing probe.

The panel has issued subpoenas to several top Trump administration officials and advisers, as well as Republican legislators, to provide information about what happened on January 6 and in the days leading up to the riot.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies