A far-right group that vandalised a church’s Black Lives Matter (BLM) banner in Washington DC has been ordered to pay over $1million ( (£787,000) in punitive damages.
Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E) filed a lawsuit against Proud Boys after it claimed members of the extremist group broke into the church’s predominantly black campus in Washington and
destroyed a BLM sign.
The events took place during clashes between supporters and opponents of President Donald Trump, following his election defeat in 2020.
On Friday, a judge awarded the historic church – part of the country’s first independent African American religious body - $1.03 million (£1,02m) for the destruction of property.
Judge Neal Kravitz made the default ruling after the defendants failed to appear in court, describing the 12th December 2020 rally as a “highly orchestrated” and “hateful and overtly racist” attack.
In the 34-page ruling Kravitz said the group’s actions infringed on the church’s “right to worship as they please” and “to participate fully in the life of the community”.
The court heard that members of the group, which Kravitz described as focused on “white supremacy and violence”, tore down the sign that the church had put up in June 2020 in response to the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
The New York Times reports that the defendants - which include former chairman Henry “Enrique” Tarrio and leaders John Turano and Ethan Nordean - have been banned from coming within 100 yards of the church for five years and from making threats or defamatory remarks against it or its pastor.
In 2021, Tarrio was sentenced to over five months in jail after pleading guilty to destroying property at another black-majority church in Washington, where a BLM sign was set on fire.
Proud Boy leader John Turano has not been charged with any crime, while leader Ethan Nordean’s judgement has been delayed, according to the Washington Post.
A further court hearing is scheduled for August 2023.