Jan 24 (Reuters) – A former member of the Proud Boys organization testified on Tuesday against the far-right group’s former leader and other members, saying a Washington jury was planning a “civil war” before the riot of January 6, 2021 at the United States Capitol.
Matthew Greene, a New York resident and veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard, said his interactions with other members of the group gave him the impression the organization was ready to use force to maintain the former US Republican President Donald Trump in office after his 2020 term. election defeat.
“I can’t say it was ever openly encouraged, but it was never discouraged, and when it happened it was celebrated,” Greene said of the use of violence by the Proud Boys.
Greene’s testimony was a key moment in the trial of former Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio and four other members of the organization – Dominic Pezzola, Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs and Zachary Rehl – who are accused of several crimes, including a seditious conspiracy.
Greene said Pezzola was praised following a violent incident at a December 2020 rally in Washington, D.C. Pezzola bragged about responding to a Proud Boy member’s stabbing by punching the assailant’s head with a motorcycle helmet, Greene said.
Prosecutors allege Pezzola was among the first rioters to enter the Capitol building after he smashed a window with a stolen police shield.
Lawyers for the defendants argued there were no plans to storm the Capitol, and the Proud Boys leadership ordered members of previous rallies to respond only to left-wing counter-protesters in the event of a legitimate defense.
Greene acknowledged that he did not know many of the defendants and that members of the Proud Boys leadership had not ordered him to use force prior to the Capitol riot. He said he was unaware of any plans to storm the building.
He described “growing anger” in the crowd as Proud Boy executives led the band in chants outside the Capitol.
Rioters then broke through police lines and stormed the building, forcing lawmakers to flee and delaying Congressional certification of the 2020 elections.
Greene pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of due process in December 2021 for his role in the attack. He agreed to cooperate with US prosecutors.
Reporting by Andrew Goudsward; Editing by David Gregorio
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