Time seems to have gone slower for Enrique “Henry” Tarrio.
Miami native and former leader of the right-wing extremist Proud Boys has spent the last 128 days in a Washington, DC, jail after pleading guilty in August 2021 to burning a Black Lives Matter Flag and possession of high-capacity firearms magazines. For more than four months, Tarrio has been sitting in a cell and at times enduring what he described as “shit” conditions awaiting his return to the South Florida political scene.
But with only days until his release on January 14, the former leader of the infamous hate group says the time behind bars has given him time to think – and to decide he no longer wants to lead the proud boys.
“When I come back and organize the mess in the South Florida Proud Boys, I want to take a step back from leadership. It’s something I should have done before, and that was my fault,” Tarrio says. New Times in a phone call from inside the DC jail.
Prior to his imprisonment in September, Tarrio was president and public face of the Proud Boys, a militant organization that describes itself as a drinking club for men with “Western chauvinist” values and often fights with left-wing protesters at political events.
Proud Boys members – including a number from Florida – have been implicated in the January 6, 2021 uprising at the US Capitol. Although Tarrio himself was not involved in the riot (due to his arrest on January 4 for flag burning), the former president has been sued in his capacity as Proud Boys leader by a host of private parties and government entities for the events that took place. place that day and is currently subject to a subpoena from the U.S. House of Representatives January 6 committee.
He compares all lawsuits against him to a “war of attrition.”
Because of his ties to the organization and loyalty to its members, Tarrio says he will never completely leave the proud boys, but aside from the day-to-day membership, his life after imprisonment will be focused on broader political activism at a local level.
“I have a vision of what I need to do next time and I’m dying to get started. We’ve been federal protesters for a long time and I want to get us hyperfocused at the local level,” Tarrio said. though he is deliberately vague as to the details of his plan, including who he is referring to when he says “we.”
He specifically wants to target youth and women, demographics that were not always available from the confines of a supposed men’s drinking club like the Proud Boys.
Without going into details, Tarrio says he intends to create a new organization that focuses on “political activism” and organization around right-wing issues – not unlike one of his previous ventures, Latinos for Trump, a grassroots nonprofit organization. where he served as state. director of Florida and then chief of staff. His idea is to use the experience of Latinos for Trump and the connections he made with the proud boys to organize people in local politics, including school board meetings, city council meetings and local elections.
Tarrio sees this new venture as the next step in the arc of what he calls the “MAGA movement” that started with former President Donald Trump. While the ideology of the group he wants to rally leans to the right of center, he does not describe it as strictly “Republican” or “conservative,” but more as a collection of people who supported Trump after feeling deprived of justice. .
He specifically wants to target young people and women – demographics that were not always available from the frontiers of a seemingly men’s drinking club.
“Mothers are a very, very strong force. They count for about 80 to 90 percent of the protesters on the school board,” Tarrio explains. “I want people who want to knock on the door, who want to run for office, people who think the same and just want to grab a sign and a bullhorn and get them organized.”
As for the proud boys, Tarrio says he will remain a spokesman for the organization if asked, even if he does not want to give his name. Vice City, the Proud Boys chapter that Tarrio co-founded and eventually turned against him under new leadership, is no longer recognized by the broader Proud Boys organization, according to an official Proud Boys Telegram channel. Still, Tarrio says he wishes that chapter good luck and will help them raise money to attend events when he comes out.
Tarrio is due to be released from prison on Friday, January 14 and return to Miami over the weekend.