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Former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio sentenced to 22 years for Jan. 6 riot role

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Enrique Tarrio, the former head of the far-right Proud Boys group, has been sentenced to 22 years in prison for his leading role in the violent events of January 6. This despite the fact that Tarrio was not at the Capitol on that day. He was monitoring events from a hotel room in Baltimore. NPR's domestic extremism correspondent Odette Yousef reports.

ODETTE YOUSEF, BYLINE: Tarrio expressed regret for his role just before receiving the sentence. He acknowledged that former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election, but he still received the longest sentence of anyone who's been charged in connection to January 6. U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly said that even though Tarrio was physically in another location that day, he was unmistakably the leader behind the Proud Boys' violent activities at the Capitol. The sentencing marks quite a downfall for Tarrio. It was during his time as national chairman that the Proud Boys brand was launched quite suddenly into the American consciousness.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.

YOUSEF: That was during the first presidential debate in 2020, when former President Donald Trump declined to disavow the street violence that the Proud Boys sought. After that, the far-right group became a mainstay at pro-Trump Stop the Steal rallies. The government's case took down Tarrio and his top lieutenants. It pinned seditious conspiracy charges against four of them. But it has not quelled a growing movement on the right that initially rallied around false claims of a stolen election. Cassie Miller is with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

CASSIE MILLER: There is a much broader authoritarian movement that's at work right now in the American political right. And, you know, the GOP needs to really vocally oppose this kind of growing authoritarian segment of their party.

YOUSEF: Miller says that since January 6, the Proud Boys have pivoted away from national issues to local activism. In doing so, they've grown and formed connections with conservative religious and parents groups. They've been involved in disinformation and harassment campaigns to undermine the safety of election workers, LGBTQ people, inclusive environments at schools and abortion rights. Miller says it will take something other than criminal prosecutions to counter this iteration of their campaign.

MILLER: We need communities to organize against groups like the Proud Boys and others, especially because so much of their activism is at the local level.

YOUSEF: Four of Tarrio's co-defendants received sentences between 10 and 18 years. Just one defendant pleaded guilty in April of last year and still awaits his sentence.

Odette Yousef, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEEB'S "FLUID DYNAMICS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Odette Yousef
Odette Yousef is a National Security correspondent focusing on extremism.