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D.C. Police Arrest Leader Of The Proud Boys Ahead Of Far-Right Protests

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Demonstrators wearing clothes linked to the far-right extremist group  Proud Boys attend a pro-Trump rally in Washington last month.
Luis M. Alvarez, AP

Demonstrators wearing clothes linked to the far-right extremist group Proud Boys attend a pro-Trump rally in Washington last month.

Updated at 8:44 p.m. ET

The head of a far-right extremist group, the Proud Boys, was arrested in Washington, D.C., Monday evening less than a day before thousands of pro-Trump and far-right demonstrators are expected in the city.

Enrique Tarrio, 36, was taken into police custody and charged with destruction of property, according to a statement from the Metropolitan Police Department.

The charge is related to his actions during last month's pro-Trump demonstration in D.C. that turned violent. Tarrio admitted to removing and burning a Black Lives Matter banner from a historically Black church, an action the Proud Boys are now being sued over.

According to the police statement, Tarrio is additionally being charged with possession of a high capacity feeding device. Officers found two high capacity firearm magazines with him upon arrest.

The FBI says the Proud Boys have "ties to white nationalism" and the organization has previously been associated with acts of violence.

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Three conservative groups have officially submitted permit applications to the National Park Service for events on Tuesday and Wednesday, as reported by USA Today. Women for America First and the Eighty Percent Coalition requested permits for thousands of people each. A third event run by the organization The Silent Majority filed a permit for several hundred attendees.

The protests are timed to come as the newly sworn-in 117th Congress officially counts the Electoral College ballots on Wednesday, marking the last step in the election before President-elect Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20.

President Trump is supporting the protests and vows to attend.

Meanwhile, city leaders are preparing for possible violence, especially as reports show members of the Proud Boys are planning to attend the march dressed incognito.

In the lead-up to the demonstrations, unnamed individuals have also posted information online advising people how to secretly bring guns to the protests, according to The Washington Post.

In a statement Sunday, Mayor Muriel Bowser advised D.C. residents to avoid areas near downtown and issued a reminder that firearms are illegal while in National Park Service areas, including the National Mall and Freedom Plaza, two areas protesters are expected to gather.

Open possession of a firearm is also illegal throughout the city.

Bowser has also requested assistance from the National Guard for both Tuesday and Wednesday. According to the mayor's office, there will be around 114 members available "at any given time" and 340 available in total.

Bowser submitted the request to the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, William Walker, on New Year's Eve, according to a copy of the letter provided to NPR by the mayor's office. The Guard members will be unarmed and responsible for duties such as traffic control, in order to free up police.

Many streets in downtown D.C. will also be closed off starting Tuesday.

National figures have also expressed concern about the upcoming demonstrations.

Former Defense Secretary William Cohen told NPR's Morning Edition on Monday he thinks the events will present "a real challenge to maintain order and stability."

Cohen, who served in the Clinton administration, joined the other nine living former defense secretaries in an opinion piece that ran in The Washington Post Sunday condemning Trump's attempts to subvert the election, and reaffirming that the military plays no role in political disputes. Cohen is concerned civil disruption could be used as a pretext to deploy military forces in the streets.

"There are things taking place which pose, I think, a threat to our domestic tranquility and security, and that is the president encouraging some of the more right-wing extremists to march on Washington and to protest," Cohen said. "And the indication is he's urging them to - it's going to be wild."

In a statement Monday evening, Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine condemned groups that plan to incite violence at the protests, referring to them as entities that "promote hate on a racial and religious basis." He did not specifically name any groups.

"While we respect their right to protest, we will not tolerate criminal behavior—and we should deny them the opportunity to cause chaos," he said.

Racine also echoed Bowser's request for residents to stay away from the area.

"Hate has no home in the District," he added, "Let's keep the peace, rather than provide this band of agitators any more attention than their divisive and hateful demonstrations will otherwise receive."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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