Historic Black church in DC sues Proud Boys over property destruction

1/7/2021, 6 p.m.
A historic Black church has filed a lawsuit against members of the Proud Boys after a leader of the white ...

WASHINGTON - A historic Black church has filed a lawsuit against members of the Proud Boys after a leader of the white supremacist group took credit for burning a Black Lives Matter sign belonging to the Washington church.

“We are suing the Proud Boys and their members for the racist attack on Metropolitan A.M.E. church in Washington D.C.,” Kristen Clarke, head of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, wrote Monday in a tweet announcing the lawsuit filed on behalf of the church.

The burning of Metropolitan A.M.E. Church’s sign was one of several attacks against churches supporting the Black Lives Matter movement during December protests in D.C., Ms. Clarke said.

The lawsuit, which was filed in D.C. Superior Court on Monday, accuses the Proud Boys of attacking Metropolitan A.M.E. Church and “engaging in acts of terror and vandalizing church property in an effort to intimidate the Church and silence its support for racial justice.”

The suit targets events of Dec. 12 when thousands of Trump supporters descended on Washington to protest Democrat Joe Biden’s victory over the president in the Nov. 3 election. Among them were Proud Boys, who were filmed destroying and burning Black Lives Matter signs that belonged to churches.

Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, who is named in the Metropolitan A.M.E. lawsuit along with eight unnamed members, has since claimed responsibility for the burning of a Black Lives Matter sign belonging to Asbury United Methodist Church. That sign was replaced before it was stolen again in late December.

The suit was filed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, on behalf of the church.

Footage from Dec. 12 taken outside Metropolitan A.M.E. Church, a historic Black church in downtown Washington that has hosted famous preachers and politicians, showed men dressed in black and gold — the Proud Boys’ chosen colors — jumping the church’s fence, tearing down a Black Lives Matter sign and destroying it as a crowd cheered.

In a news release, the Rev. William H. Lamar IV, pastor of Metropolitan A.M.E. Church, pointed to several historical instances when Black churches rejected white supremacist ideology and theology.

“We, the descendants of these extraordinary women and men of God, will not allow white supremacist violence to go unchecked by the laws of the land,” he stated. “On Jan. 4, 2021, I declare that we will be victorious against these white supremacists because God is with us, Jesus Christ is on our side and our ancestors surround us. We are on the side of justice and justice will prevail.”

Washington police are investigating the sign destructions as potential hate crimes.

When asked about the complaint by a national newspaper reporter, Mr. Tarrio reportedly said that he “welcomes” the lawsuit. Mr. Tarrio was then arrested Monday apparently in connection to the burning of Asbury UMC’s sign.

Mr. Tarrio was charged with destruction of property related to an offense that occurred on Dec. 12, according to a statement Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department sent to RNS on Monday. It stipulated that the offense occurred on the same block where Asbury is located.