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Proud Boys Must Pay $1 Million to D.C. Black Church for Burning Its BLM Banner

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FILE - Supporters of President Donald Trump wearing attire associated with the Proud Boys attend a rally at Freedom Plaza, Dec. 12, 2020, in Washington. A judge on Friday, June 30, 2023, awarded more than $1 million to a Black church in downtown Washington, D.C. that sued the far-right Proud Boys for tearing down and burning a Black Lives Matter banner during a 2020 protest. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez, File)

On June 30, a judge ruled that the Proud Boys organization must pay $1.03 million to a historic Black church in Washington, D.C. During a December 2020 protest about outcome of the U.S. presidential election, members of the far-right Proud Boys tore down and burned a Black Lives Matter (BLM) banner at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in the nation’s capital.

In his ruling, D.C. Superior Court Judge Neal Kravitz referenced the “emotional trauma” that church members endured because of the incident. He also banned the Proud Boys from going near Metropolitan AME and from making derogatory statements or threats against the church and its leaders for five years. Because the defendants were no-shows in court, the ruling was a default judgment. Another hearing in the case is scheduled for August.

Judge Described ‘Attack’ on Black Church

Metropolitan AME displayed its BLM banner in June 2020, following the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis. Later that year, during a rally by supporters of former president Donald Trump, Proud Boys members tore down and burned the banner. According to the church’s lawsuit, members of the hate group also left threatening voicemail messages for the church.

In his 34-page ruling, Judge Kravitz said the “attack” on Metropolitan AME “resulted from a highly orchestrated set of events focused on the Proud Boys’ guiding principles: white supremacy and violence.”

Metropolitan AME sued the Proud Boys to recoup the costs of replacing its BLM banner and hiring additional security. Although those items amounted to about $36,600, the judge noted that “compensatory damages alone will not address the defendants’ reprehensible conduct or the extraordinary emotional trauma suffered by the church and its congregants.”

Kravitz added,

To the members of the church, the burning of the Black Lives Matter sign represented a complete negation of their right to worship as they please and, more fundamentally, to participate fully in the life of the community—and forced them to harken back to the long and painful history of white supremacists committing wanton acts of violence against Black churches.

D.C. Pastor Calls Lawsuit ‘a Beacon of Hope’

Metropolitan AME, which just celebrated its 185th anniversary, “refused to be silenced in the face of white supremacist violence,” according to its pastor. In a statement following Friday’s ruling, the Rev. William Lamar IV said, “Our courage and and determination to fight back in response to the 2020 attack on our church is a beacon of hope for our community and today’s ruling showed us what our collective vision and voice can achieve.”

The congregation’s courage, however, “does not mean real trauma and damage did not occur,” the pastor added. “Merely that congregants and the church have and will continue to rise above it.”