Donald Trump

"Not a Political Club": Without Tarrio, Miami Proud Boys President Moves Group in New Direction

Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio
Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio Photo courtesy of Enrique Tarrio
Enrique "Henry" Tarrio, former national chairman of the far-right group Proud Boys, was slapped with two new charges this week in a federal indictment connected to his involvement with the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol: seditious conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, and conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duties, which carries a maximum sentence of six years in prison.

Though Tarrio, a Miami native, was not in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, owing to an arrest two days prior for burning a Black Lives Matter flag and carrying high-capacity firearm magazines, authorities claim that he conspired with others "to corruptly obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding, the certification of the Electoral College vote," according to the federal complaint.

Following the January 6 attack, Reuters reported that Tarrio had cooperated with federal law enforcement in 2012 after he was indicted for selling stolen and mislabeled diabetic test kits. Coupled with other ongoing internal disputes, the news divided the Proud Boys' Vice City chapter in Miami, and some members began to turn on their leader and call him a "rat." This prompted Tarrio to split off from the Vice City chapter, which he'd founded in 2018, and form a second Miami Proud Boys chapter: Villain City.

Tarrio remains incarcerated in a federal facility awaiting trial.

And in a recent interview with New Times, Villain City's current president says the chapter is distancing itself from the political activities and demonstrations that the group was known for under Tarrio's leadership.

"We are not a political club, we are not doing anything that’s political," says the Villain City chairman, who spoke on the condition that New Times identify him only as Deplorable51, his handle inside Proud Boys chats. "We are what this club started out to be: a fraternal men's drinking club."

In September 2016, Vice Media cofounder-turned-far-right-provocateur Gavin McInnes founded the Proud Boys as an ostensible "men's drinking club." But the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil-rights advocacy organization, designated the Proud Boys as a "hate group" for the club's repeated brawls with leftist protesters at political rallies and ties to white-nationalist and neo-Nazi groups when Tarrio was chairman.

Tarrio moved the Proud Boys in a decidedly more political direction — acting as security for right-wing political figures and attending rallies and protests on hot-button political topics including COVID-19 mask mandates and the 2020 presidential election. New Times quoted Tarrio in 2018 as describing the group as "a frat with a political lean." (Read more about Tarrio in that story as well as in the 2021 New Times profile, "Before He Was Proud.")

Two days prior to the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Tarrio was arrested for the burning of the BLM flag and carrying the high-capacity magazines, misdemeanor charges to which he pleaded guilty in exchange for a sentence to 155 days in a D.C. jail. He was released in mid-January of this year but was arrested again in March by federal authorities for his alleged role in coordinating the insurrection.

Tarrio's Miami Lakes-based attorney, Nayib Hassan, tells New Times Tarrio is being held at a facility in Washington, D.C., but will be transferred to the Federal Detention Center in Miami in the near future.

"Mr. Tarrio will have his day in court and we will vigorously represent our client through this process. Mr. Tarrio looks forward to being vindicated of these allegations," Hassan tells New Times via email.

Tarrio's latest charge, seditious conspiracy, is levied against people who attempt to overthrow or forcibly destroy the government of the United States. Stewart Rhodes, leader of the Oath Keepers militant group, has also been charged with seditious conspiracy for his role in the Capitol attack.

With the arrests of numerous Proud Boys (including Tarrio) charged for their alleged roles in the January 6 insurrection, Deplorable51 wants the Villain City chapter to step back and re-evaluate, even going so far as to criticize the group's history of attacking anti-fascist, or "antifa," protesters at rallies.

"It's hypocritical to go after antifa when we support free speech," he asserts. "We’re not supporting any politician. We're not hunting antifa, and we're not out on the streets."

Deplorable51 declined to comment about Tarrio specifically but said Villain City supports its "brothers" who remain incarcerated in the aftermath of January 6, 2021.

Miami Proud Boys members have recently made national news for infiltrating the Miami-Dade GOP and for a scuffle that broke out at the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach this past April during a Republican Party fundraiser.

Deplorable51 continues to separate himself from such political and violent activities, asserting that the participants belong to the Vice City chapter, which Proud Boys leadership have disavowed, both nationally and in the state of Florida.

Vice City was previously led by Gabriel Garcia and Gilbert Fonticoba, both of whom face charges related to January 6 but are not in custody. The New York Times reports that Garcia claims to have left the group.
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Joshua Ceballos is staff writer for Miami New Times. He is a Florida International University alum and a born-and-bred Miami boy.
Contact: Joshua Ceballos