On Monday night, Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the far-right extremist group the Proud Boys, was arrested in Washington, D.C. for allegedly burning a Black Lives Matter banner at a historically black church. He faces misdemeanor destruction of property charges for the alleged offense, which took place at a pro-Trump rally last month.
Since the arrest, aided by social media platforms like Parler, Tarrio has raised more than $90,000 for his legal defense on the so-called Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo, more than 90 percent of his crowdfunding goal of $100,000. The campaign received a boost on the social media platform Parler, where the official account for the Proud Boys posted a link to the fundraiser with the exhortation, “FREE ENRIQUE TARRIO!”
As Rolling Stone has previously reported, the Proud Boys is a violent crypto-fascist extremist organization that has encouraged political violence at protests across the United States, including at Black Lives Matter protests. Although the group has experienced some internal strife in recent years, it got a boost during the first presidential debate when Donald Trump, after being pressed by Joe Biden to denounce the organization, instead appeared to encourage it, urging the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”
Previously, GiveSendGo attracted intense scrutiny for hosting a crowdfunding campaign for Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager charged with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, and attempted first-degree intentional homicide, among other charges, after opening fire at the August Kenosha, Wisconsin protests. (He is expected to plead not guilty to the charges at an arraignment on Tuesday.) The crowdfunding campaign raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, well beyond its goal and well beyond similar crowdfunding campaigns for the victims of the shooting.
Despite a viral petition from the Christian group Faithful America beseeching GiveSendGo to take down the Rittenhouse crowdfunding campaign, the platform defended its decision to keep it on the website, with cofounder Jacob Wells telling Religion News Service, “Everyone has already judged [Rittenhouse] without allowing the court system to actually judge him based upon evidence. It’s fascinating to me that we, as a society, have come to a place where everybody is the judge and jury.”
On social media, people have expressed outrage that GiveSendGo, an ostensibly Christian fundraising website, would provide a platform to fundraise for the legal defense of the leader of an accused violent hate group. As some have pointed out, the campaign seems to violate GiveSendGo’s terms of service, which prohibit “the promotion of hate, violence, racial or other forms of intolerance that is discriminatory.” In particular, much ire has been focused on payment processors like Stripe and WePay for working with the platform, especially in light of the fact that GiveSendGo has reportedly permitted other people linked to the Proud Boys to crowdfund for their legal defense in the past.
Stripe did not immediately return requests for comment. According to a WePay spokesperson, WePay no longer processes payments for the crowdfunding industry and denied processing payments for the Proud Boys through GiveSendGo. GiveSendGo did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment regarding why Tarrio’s fundraiser was allowed on the platform.
Thurs., Jan. 7, 2021, 4:48 p.m. This story has been updated.