“‘A place to fund hope’: How Proud Boys and other fringe groups found refuge on a Christian fundraising website”

WaPo:

Henry “Enrique” Tarrio had already publicized his plans to participate in the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally. The 36-year-old Miami resident and national chairman of the Proud Boys posted on social media that he would direct small teams of his far-right group with a history of violence to wear black and fan out across Washington.

But when he arrived in D.C. on Jan. 4 ahead of the scheduled demonstrations, he said, “15 cop cars” swarmed his Honda Crosstour soon after he passed through the Third Street Tunnel. Tarrio was wanted on a misdemeanor charge from December accusing him of setting fire to a historic Black church’s Black Lives Matter banner.

During the traffic stop, authorities found high-capacity firearm magazines in his backpack, resulting in felony weapons charges, according to court records. And as he sat in a jail cell for 24 hours, Tarrio said, he thought about how he would need a lot of money to get out of this mess. Good lawyers, he said, don’t come cheap.

He said family members had the idea to monetize the support of his online followers through GiveSendGo.com, a niche Christian fundraising website that bills itself as “a place to fund hope.” Within a week, the “Enrique Tarrio Defense Fund” had amassed more than $113,000 from 2,359 donors, according to the site. Tarrio has pleaded not guilty.

“It’s not just Proud Boys that are raising money there,” Tarrio said in an interview Thursday, noting that his group’s chapters nationwide have used the site to fund their cause. “There’s just so many people that are raising money there.”

A review by The Washington Post shows that the self-described Christian website has become a refuge of sorts for outcasts and extremists, including fringe groups such as the Proud Boys as well as conspiracy theorists who seek to undercut the results of the presidential election by promoting debunked claims of fraud. Some of the users claim to have been booted from other crowdfunding websites for violating terms-of-service agreements.

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