February 2021 Church & State Magazine | People & Events

An historically Black church in Washington, D.C., has sued a violent group of white supremacists who vandalized the house of worship during a Dec. 12 rally.

Members of the Proud Boys were in the nation’s capital that day to support President Donald Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen from him. After their march, several of its members engaged in acts of vandalism and street brawling.

The group targeted the Metro­politan African Methodist Episcopal Church. Members of the Proud Boys climbed over a fence surrounding the church and tore down a large Black Lives Matter sign, which they later destroyed.

At least three other churches were attacked by members of the group, among them Asbury United Methodist Church.

Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio later told The Washington Post that he was involved in the vandalism and said he would gladly return to Washington if charges were filed against him.

“I’ll fly there on my own dime,” Tarrio told The Post. “I have nothing to hide. So let me make this simple: I did it.” (On Jan. 4, Tarrio traveled to Wash­ington for another pro-Trump rally that took place two days later and was promptly arrested by D.C. police.)

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law announced on Jan. 4 that it is suing Tarrio and the Proud Boys.

“White supremacists like the Proud Boys would rather see the country burn than to see it united together under justice and freedom for all,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee. “Black church­es and other religious institutions have a long and ugly history of being targeted by white suprema­cists in racist and violent attacks meant to intimidate and create fear. Our lawsuit aims to hold those who engage in such action accountable. We are proud to represent Metropoli­tan A.M.E., which has a long history of standing against bigotry and hate and whose courage and determination to fight back is a beacon of hope for the community.” 

The defendants in the lawsuit, Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church v. Proud Boys International, include Proud Boys International, Tarrio and the unidentified individual Proud Boys members who joined him in the vandalism.

Despite the group’s incendiary language and tendency for violence, Trump refused to disown its members. During a Sept. 29 presidential debate, Trump told members of the group to “stand back and stand by.”