A judge ordered far-right Proud Boys militia members to pay over $1 million for their 2020 racist attack against a church in Washington, D.C. The attack was one of the bold actions of the militia linked to Donald Trump and a significant participant in the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill.
On July 1, Superior Court Judge Neal E. Kravitz issued a default judgment against several Proud Boys members who had been sued for attacking the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church on Dec. 12, 2020. Judge Kravitz condemned them for their “hateful and overtly racist conduct” in the “highly orchestrated” attack against the Metropolitan AME Church. During this attack, members of the Proud Boys jumped a fence onto the church’s property, where they tore down and stomped upon a Black Lives Matter sign in the church’s yard. In ruling against the Proud Boys for the attack, the judge noted the group has “incited and committed acts of violence against members of Black and African American communities across the country,” as well as having “victimized women, Muslims, Jews, immigrants, and other historically marginalized people.”
The Metropolitan AME Church filed a $22 million lawsuit against the Proud Boys earlier this year concerning the attack. Former Proud Boys leaders Joseph Biggs and Enrique Tarrio were held liable for the attack, as were members Jeremy Bertino and John Turano. The Proud Boys International LLC, the group’s incorporated entity, was also found liable. The judgment of over $1 million was assessed not only to repair the destroyed sign but also to pay for additional security that Metropolitan AME Church has had to hire in the wake of the incident. In their complaint, one of the church’s lawyers stated, “The ultimate goal of this lawsuit was not monetary windfall, but to stop the Proud Boys from being able to act with impunity, without fear of consequences for their actions.”
The Proud Boys have been operating for several years and gained national notoriety when then-President Donald Trump shouted them out during a debate with Joe Biden. Since then, the group has been involved in several provocative or violent incidents. In addition to the attack on Metropolitan AME Church, leader Enrique Terrio also attacked the Asbury United Methodist Church that same night, burning its Black Lives Matter banner; he was ultimately convicted and sent to prison in that case. Tarrio was in jail for the Asbury attack when several other members of the Proud Boys participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection the following month. In May, four members of the Proud Boys, including Tarrio and Biggs, were convicted of seditious conspiracy for their role in the Jan. 6 attacks, with Bertino providing testimony against them.
Even with these losses in court, the Proud Boys remain a prominent and threatening force of the far-right. They seem to have connections with other right-wing groups, such as Moms for Liberty, and together these organizations are forming an ecosystem of far-right movements that challenge American democracy and values. With their extremist goals and aggressive tactics, members of the Proud Boys and other similar organizations may face more court appearances.