“Make no mistake. We did this.”
That’s what Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, the Miami-made Proud Boy insurrectionist, wrote on social media during the deadly riot that overran the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Now, make no mistake, he’s paying for his betrayal of our country.
A judge Tuesday sentenced the former chairman of the far-right extremist group who wanted a “revolution” to 22 years in federal prison for seditious conspiracy. It’s the longest sentence for any Jan. 6 defendant so far. And it’s fitting for a man who prosecutors said acted as “a general rather than a soldier” when a mob stormed the seat of our government, attempting to steal a legitimate election on behalf of Donald Trump and attacking democracy in the process.
Yes, Trump incited the assault on Congress — and encouraged the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” in 2020 — but Tarrio was instrumental in carrying it out. That’s what a jury decided in May, when Tarrio and three others in his ill-begotten group were convicted of seditious conspiracy. Tarrio was the leader of Proud Boys who tried to topple democracy in this country. As the judge noted during sentencing, Tarrio told his followers, while they were still in the Capitol, “Don’t f---ing leave.”
That’s what the long sentence was for. The others got between 15 and 18 years behind bars.
A warrant in D.C.
Tarrio’s trial lasted nearly five months. His lawyers argued that he was not a leader or organizer of the Jan. 6 attack and not even in Washington that day. Anyone following this case should be able to see right through that: Tarrio was in Baltimore on Jan. 6 because a judge ordered him to stay out of Washington after his arrest two days earlier for burning a Black Lives Matter banner stolen from a historic African American church during a pro-Trump rally. Tarrio knew there was a warrant — thanks to intel from a Washington, D.C., cop who has since been charged — and prosecutors said he deliberately timed his arrest to amp up his followers. Also, it was awfully convenient to be out of town if there was a prosecution later.
On Tuesday, his lawyers tried to tell the judge — U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, appointed by Trump in 2017 — that Tarrio was merely a “miguided patriot” who thought he was saving the country. But a jury didn’t believe that. Neither did Kelly.
And neither do we.
That’s because Miami already knew about this guy. Tarrio was a stain on this community long before Jan, 6, when he was parading around with a bullhorn and a bunch of other black-shirted men, his extremism on full display during gatherings at places like Versailles. As far back as 2018, we knew the ugliness that he harbored inside: He was in that infamous GOP mob pounding on the door of the Miami campaign headquarters for congressional candidate Donna Shalala when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was visiting, screaming expletives and yelling: “Open up, it’s the Proud Boys in here.”
But, right, he’s just a “misguided patriot.”
That Miami allowed someone like this — a two-bit criminal-turned-police-informant and then hatemonger — to exist in plain sight is both reprehensible and an embarrassment. Community leaders keep trying to cast Miami as the city of the future. How does that forward-looking ideal square with tolerating an Enrique Tarrio, who — until he was charged — was happy to stand with those who tried to subvert the peaceful transition of power for the first time in U.S. history? And where was the Miami GOP’s condemnation of Tarrio back when he was pounding on doors or shouting through a bullhorn?
The arrests in the Jan. 6 insurrection continue, and they must. About 1,100 people have been charged so far, with about 300 sentenced. Last month, a couple living on a houseboat in the Florida Keys were taken into custody on grounds that they took part in the attack on the Capitol.
Everyone involved must be called to account. Otherwise, we cannot move on. Dominic Pezzola proves the point. He’s the Proud Boy, one of the three others already sentenced, who stole a police shield and used it to break a window on the West Terrace of the Capitol, the first member of the mob to breach the building. He sobbed in court during sentencing last week. But after the judge left, he raised his fist and shouted, “Trump won!”
Tarrio, during his protracted sentencing hearing on Tuesday, actually admitted that Trump lost. He tried to walk back ridiculous statements he made comparing Pezzola to George Washington. He acknowledged that invoking 1776 and the U.S. Constitution as justification for the attack was a “perversion.”
This once, he got it right. But his words are meaningless, just Proud Boys theater. His sentencing, though, is part of a national reckoning we must continue to go through if we ever are to regain our footing in democracy.
The attempted overthrow of our government must be met with serious consequences, and that’s what happened Tuesday. Tarrio deserved every year he got.
Still, Miami let him flourish.
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