News & Politics

Don’t Forget Enrique Tarrio’s Attempts to Intimidate DC

The Proud Boys chief led a violent bullying campaign here for months before January 6.

Photograph by Evy Mages .

Enrique Tarrio wasn’t in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021, a fact his defense lawyers pointed to as they defended him against charges related to that day’s attack on the Capitol. It didn’t work: the former Proud Boys leader received a 22-year sentence Tuesday for his conviction on charges of seditious conspiracy and obstructing the congressional proceeding meant to confirm the 2020 presidential election, with a federal judge describing him as a key figure in recruiting and encouraging people to breach the Capitol.

Dominic Pezzola DC
Dominic Pezzola among Proud Boys in DC in December 2020. Pezzola was recently sentenced to ten years for his role in the riot at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Photograph by Evy Mages .

It’s important to remember why Tarrio wasn’t in town on the day of the riot: because he’d been arrested two days earlier on charges of property destruction relating to his presence at a pro-Trump rally in December 2020, when members of his group assaulted Washingtonians and ripped banners from local churches. That was the second big rally for Trump fans after the former President lost the 2020 election and began a campaign of lies and alleged intimidation that have resulted in indictments for him and his alleged co-conspirators. The seeds of January 6’s violence were partly planted in those rallies in November and December 2020.

That fall, Proud Boys roamed DC streets looking for locals to fight. Wearing bulletproof vests and other tacticool cosplay accessories, they tramped around downtown soothing themselves with the delusion that their preferred candidate’s failure to win a second term (even though he’d lost the popular vote four years earlier) was the result of a conspiracy.

[su_youtube url=“”]

Their visits to town became more frequent over the course of the Trump administration. In 2019, members attended a bozo-filled rally to “demand free speech.” The Proud Boys turned Harry’s Bar at the Hotel Harrington into their unofficial clubhouse, and violence followed them wherever they went.

[su_youtube url=“”]

Tarrio was often with them. These videos by Washingtonian photographer Evy Mages show him among the geniuses “guarding” Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist who now faces a $1 billion judgment for harassing grieving Sandy Hook families. (You don’t often see a shirt that proclaims “Pinochet Did Nothing Wrong,” but when you do, it’s on a Proud Boy.) They chant about Joe Biden and “Antifa,” their often-imaginary enemies.

[su_youtube url=“”]

As an exercise in branding, coming to DC was pretty effective, even if Tarrio ordered the group to forgo its traditional black-and-yellow clothes ahead of January 6. By that time, our city had become wearily accustomed to visits from believers in right-wing fantasies, from the people who convinced themselves a pizza joint in Chevy Chase DC was a center for child trafficking to people who thought JFK Jr. might reappear as Trump’s running mate. The Proud Boys’ message in the fall of 2021 was that violence awaited anyone who disagreed with their warped views. They chanted “Whose streets? Our streets.”

[su_youtube url=“”]

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.