A US church has been awarded over $1 million in punitive damages after a far-right group vandalized its Black Lives Matter (BLM) banner.
Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E) filed a lawsuit against the Proud Boys, claiming that members of the extremist group broke into the predominantly black church campus and destroyed the BLM sign. The incident occurred during clashes between supporters and opponents of President Donald Trump following his election defeat in 2020.
On Friday, Judge Neal Kravitz issued a default ruling in favor of the historic church, awarding them $1.03 million for the destruction of property. The defendants, who failed to appear in court, were described by Judge Kravitz as orchestrating a “highly orchestrated” and “hateful and overtly racist” attack during the December 12, 2020 rally.
In his 34-page ruling, Judge Kravitz emphasized that the group’s actions infringed upon 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 Proud Boys, a group focused on “white supremacy and violence,” tore down the sign that the church had erected in June 2020 in response to the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
According to The New York Times, the defendants, including former chairman Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, and leaders John Turano and Ethan Nordean, have been prohibited from approaching within 100 yards of the church for five years. They are also banned from making threats or defamatory remarks against the church or its pastor.
Henry Tarrio had previously been 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 faced any charges, while the judgment regarding leader Ethan Nordean has been delayed, as reported by the Washington Post.
A further court hearing has been scheduled for August 2023 to address any pending matters related to the case.
The Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church is part of the country’s first independent African American religious body and has been a pillar of the community for generations. The ruling has been widely regarded as a victory for the church and a significant step in holding individuals and groups accountable for their actions that target marginalized communities.
The damages awarded to the church not only seek to compensate for the property destruction but also send a strong message that acts of vandalism and racism will not be tolerated.