A judge has granted a default judgment against the Proud Boys for having ignored a lawsuit the group faced over the burning of a “Black Lives Matter” sign belonging to a church in Washington, D.C.
Lawyers for Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historic Black church in the District, had sued the Proud Boys and its leader, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, after its sign was set ablaze in December. Members of the all-male group were filmed setting the sign on fire, and Mr. Tarrio acknowledged days later that he was among them and said he was “damn proud” to have done it and would do it again.
Lawyers for Metropolitan AME Church subsequently filed suit in D.C. Superior Court in January against both the Proud Boys and its leader, seeking unspecified compensatory damages.
Precisely a month later, the church’s lawyers asked for a default judgment to be entered in their favor because the Proud Boys had failed to respond to the civil suit as required by the court. Later on, last month, plaintiffs said a default judgment should be entered against Mr. Tarrio, too, citing an interview where he told The Washington Times that he did not care about losing the case.
D.C. Superior Court Judge Heidi M. Pasichow ultimately agreed Friday to enter a default judgment against the Proud Boys, although she refrained from ruling, for now, with respect to Mr. Tarrio.
Mr. Tarrio, a Florida resident, had explained during the hearing that he was unsure how to go about responding to the civil suit due to facing separate criminal charges in D.C., WTOP reported after.
“I’m afraid anything I would say in the civil case would affect my criminal case — I don’t know how to respond,” Mr. Tarrio said while defending himself in court, as reported by WTOP.
“Your concern for the criminal matter pending is certainly an appropriate response for you,” the judge replied, according to WTOP. “I will give you a chance to get counsel and respond.”
The judge told Mr. Tarrio that he must file a response to the suit, “sooner, rather than later,” and said time “is of the essence,” WTOP reported.
“Even if you don’t have a lawyer, there needs to be a responsive pleading,” she added, according to the outlet. “There will be consequences in terms of your liability, if you don’t move this along.”
Another hearing in the matter is currently scheduled for June 4.
“We will continue to move forward with this case to ensure justice is served so that the Proud Boys and similar groups are put on notice that they are not above the law,” said Damon Hewitt, acting president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan coalition representing Metropolitan AME Church in the lawsuit.
“We declare that we will never allow the forces of death and destruction — the forces that animate the Proud Boys and their kin — to prevail,” added Rev. William H. Lamar, IV, the church’s pastor.
The Proud Boys, a group of self-described “Western chauvinists,” gained notoriety last September when former President Trump mentioned them by name, saying they should “stand back and stand by.”
More than two months later, the “BLM” sign was stolen and set on fire as Proud Boys from across the U.S. participated in pro-Trump demonstrations held in D.C. to protest Mr. Trump’s election loss.
Proud Boys including Mr. Tarrio later returned to D.C. in early January to protest the joint session of Congress in which its members would count the electoral votes certifying Mr. Trump’s defeat.
Mr. Tarrio was arrested shortly upon arriving, however, and was ordered to leave the city before the electoral votes were counted. An appeals court upheld that stay-away order earlier this week.
Several other leading Proud Boys later breached the U.S. Capitol building as Congress met to count the electoral votes on Jan. 6 and have since been charged with related federal crimes.