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Philly Proud Boys president charged in Capitol riot

Federal authorities arrested Zach Rehl, the president of the Philadelphia Proud Boys on Wednesday on charges that he conspired with other leading members of the organisation accused in the attack of the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Agents arrived at his home in Port Richmond and took Rehl, 35, away in handcuffs shortly afterward, a spokesperson for the FBI in Philadelphia said.

The charges against him had not been unsealed as of Wednesday evening.

But sources familiar with the investigation said he has been indicted along with another Proud Boys organiser in North Carolina on conspiracy charges that also implicated previously charged members from Florida and Washington State.

Rehl is expected to have his first hearing in federal court in Philadelphia on Friday. It was not immediately clear whether he had retained an attorney.

Rehl’s arrest comes two weeks after The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on photos and videos that had circulated widely on social media showing him at the forefront of a crowd of Proud Boys and followers, many of whom had already been charged.

Wearing a camouflage “Make America Great Again” hat and a Temple Owls backpack.

Rehl and two other leaders of the organisation, Ethan Nordean, of Auburn, Washington, and Joseph Biggs, of Ormond, Florida guided a crowd of roughly 100 through the streets of Washington and eventually past police barricades, the footage showed.

Prosecutors have described Nordean, who goes by the alias Rufio Panman, as the de facto leader of the Proud Boys’ force that day and said in court filings in February he was granted “war powers” and “ultimate leadership”.

This was after the organisation’s national leader, Enrique Tarrio was arrested two days before the insurrection.

The Jan. 6, video footage showed him directing the marchers via bullhorn, leading chants of “Whose Streets? Our Streets” and “F- Antifa.

While Rehl and Biggs used raised fists to signal to the Proud Boys to stop or start their progress.

But while Nordean and Biggs were arrested in the weeks that followed and charged with obstruction of Congress, disorderly conduct, and entering a restricted area, Rehl remained free.

This prompted questions from social media sleuths who had identified him from the photos and videos early on and submitted tips to the FBI.

Calls for Rehl’s arrest only increased when a photo later published in a January edition of The New Yorker magazine showed him smoking a cigarette and checking his cellphone in a mob of rioters carousing in the office of Senator Jeff Merkley, D. Oregon.

At least two other men have been charged with trashing Merkley’s office, including Brandon Fellows, 26, of Schenectady, New York, who was arrested within two weeks of the attack.

He told CNN on his way out of the Capitol on Jan. 6, that he and others were smoking weed in “some Oregon” room.

Investigators have described the Proud Boys, a militant nationwide organisation whose members are among former President Donald Trump’s most vocal and violent supporters, as one of the primary instigating forces behind the Capitol attack.

More than a dozen of the members have been charged in connection with the insurrection so far.

Rehl, a Marine veteran and son and grandson of Philadelphia police officers, was one of the group’s most visible representatives on the East Coast.

He was one of the organisers behind the 2018 pro-Trump “We the People” rally outside Independence Hall whose attendees were eclipsed by the crowd of counterdemonstrators who showed up in response.

And when Proud Boys were spotted mingling with officers at the Philadelphia police union hall last summer after a visit from Vice President Mike Pence, Rehl was there, drinking beer and chatting with others in the parking lots that were openly carrying a Proud Boys flag.

Unlike many of those charged so far in the Capitol attack, Rehl does not appear to have shared any photos or videos of him to social media during the insurrection.

The night before the attack, he posted on his account on Parler, a social media site favored among right-wing users that he was in D.C. Hours after police had dispersed the crowds from the Capitol on January 6.

He defended what had happened there as a “historical day” but did not say he had been among the rioters. (tca/dpa/NAN)

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