WASHINGTON — Civil rights groups announced Monday in a press conference that they will file a lawsuit against the Proud Boys after the group allegedly targeted the District’s Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Video taken at the scene shows agitators tearing down and burning the Black Lives Matter banner at the District’s historic Black church on Dec. 12 after a day of pro-Trump protests.
The lawsuit defendants include the chairman of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, as well as Proud Boys International, LLC and a number of unidentified Proud Boys members involved in the incident. The claims are being brought under the D.C. crime statute that forbids trespassing and conversion as well as a federal statute that prohibits intentionally damaging or destroying property of a place of religious worship.
The lawsuit comes just days before a pro-Trump rally is set to kick off again in downtown D.C. on Jan. 6 as Congress votes to certify President-elect Joe Biden.
The Trump March website says they plan to "demand transparency and protect the election integrity" after President Trump warned via Twitter that there would be a "very big" and "wild" protest on Jan. 6. The president has yet to concede the election, due to unfound allegations of election fraud.
The pastor of Metropolitan AME Church, Rev. William H. Lamar IV, said that he had been in contact with Mayor Bowser's office and he was assured the church would have adequate police protection at the upcoming rally.
Lamar added that he hopes people will stay safely inside during the rally, all while showing solidarity with the church and the cause by displaying Black Lives Matter flags and signs in windows.
“Solidarity with not only the Black Lives Matter movement, but all movements that seek to end exploitation, oppression, and injustice,” he said.
President and Executive Director of Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Kristen Clarke, emphasized the importance of Black churches’ impact on the community
“We know that black churches have long played a central role in organizing for racial justice," she said. "They're often at the heart of black community organizing."
Clarke said she hopes the lawsuit will send a message to future instigators.
“The Proud Boys and other violent extremists must understand that they cannot unleash violence with impunity," Clarke said. "We are prepared to use the courts to hold them accountable and stand up for the institutions and people targeted by their racist actions.”