Erique Tarrio, former leader of the far-right group Proud Boys, was sentenced this Tuesday (5) to 22 years in prison for his involvement in the invasion of the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Outside the court, in Washington , just steps from the Capitol, his lawyers criticized the sentence at a press conference.
“While we respect the judge’s ruling, we respectfully disagree. But we respect it,” said Nayib Hassan, one of the lawyers, “and we will appeal in due course.”
At the time of the invasion, Tarrio was not in Washington, but the prosecution was able to prove that, from a distance, he was responsible for planning and coordinating the group’s actions.
He was arrested two days earlier for burning a Black Lives Matter flag in a church, which the investigation said was intended to make him a martyr. The objective would be to generate greater indignation among group members.
The court where Tarrio received the record sentence is the same one where Donald Trump will be tried in March next year for attempts to reverse the 2020 election, including the invasion of the Capitol. The accusation asked for 33 years in prison for Tarrio, but the judge ordered less. The judge in Trump’s case, however, is known for giving even higher sentences than requested.
To preserve democracy, we must go beyond
Brazilian Jean Goldenbaum, social analyst, specialist in the extreme right and councilor in Solingen, Germany, for the Social Democratic Party spoke with the Brazil in fact about the subject.
“In principle, I see it as one of the essential steps,” said Jean, “but we do not lose sight of the fact that, in hierarchical terms, these groups are below the supreme leader, who is Donald Trump. He is the creator, in terms of concept, of everything that happened.”
The former president refused to condemn the Proud Boys in the 2020 election. During one of the debates, he said that the violent groups were those on the left, not those on the right. More recently, Trump even stated that he would consider pardoning members of the group if he were elected president.
For Jean Goldenbaum, Trump’s comment reveals what could come in the coming months: “I think this shows that Trump is taking his position with these groups. I still think that, in the year 2024, I believe we will see the worst Donald Trump we have seen to date. Because this type of person always needs to overcome themselves.”
The mutualism of the extreme right
The support of far-right groups for Republican candidates is not new, but it is something that is becoming increasingly common in the United States.
More than once, neo-Nazis have rallied in Florida with Ron DeSantis flags, and extremist groups like the Proud Boys and QAnon conspiracists are common figures at Donald Trump rallies.
“The term I use for this relationship between these groups and these leaders, all within the sphere of neofascism, is brotherhood” explains Goldenbaum, “they are brotherhoods. They realize, they quickly detected that ideologies embrace each other, with their variations and different scopes”.
For candidates, far-right groups become true militant armies for their campaigns. For groups, campaign advertising becomes an opportunity to attract new members.
The difficult fight against extremist groups
In addition to Tarrio, other members of the Proud Boys were convicted. Participants from other extremist groups were also arrested for the invasion of the Capitol, such as Stewart Rhodes, from the Oath Keepers, who received 18 years in prison.
The fight against these groups, however, faces barriers in the country. The first is the tactic of growth based on conservative agendas, such as the attack on LGBTQIAPN+ rights. The other is the very idea of freedom of expression in force in the United States, which allows these groups to spew hatred with impunity.
For Jean Goldenbaum, there is a lack of understanding about the limits of this freedom of expression, especially when it attacks others. And the issue is not just legal, but also about educating society.
“‘God hates gays‘ (God hates gays, in English). This is a crime, it is not freedom of expression”, says the analyst, “you are inciting, at different stages, on different floors, crimes. Someone can attack a gay person, kill a gay person, after all there is some justification, God hates gay people. It is written, it is said. How many people will see this and perhaps use it as justification for killing a gay person? So, what I’m explaining, which is an elementary thing, in fact, it will never be elementary in a society that is not educated”.
Editing: Thales Schmidt