The dozens of khaki-clad white supremacists standing shoulder to shoulder in the back of a crammed U-Haul already had their hands up when police opened up the door to the moving truck.
The men were all members of Patriot Front, one of America’s most infamous white nationalist organizations, and they were quickly detained. In total 31 Patriot Front members were arrested in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho on Saturday. Police alleged the group had traveled to the city in the hopes of disrupting the town’s pride festival.
Police said they found shields, at least one smoke bomb, and a detailed plan “very similar to an operations plan that the police or military would put together for an event" inside the U-Haul.
“It is clear to us that based on the gear the individuals had with them, the stuff in their possession and the U-Haul with them, and paperwork they had with them, they came to riot downtown," said Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White.
White said they "received a call from a concerned citizen that approximately 20 people jumped into a U-Haul wearing masks, they had shields, and quote, 'looked like a little army.'"
So, after getting the tip, police officers pulled over the U-Haul near the area where the pride event was set to take place and found the fascists hiding inside. Police said they did not find firearms on the men.
"We prevented a riot by arresting 31 people on a misdemeanor," said White.
Video taken by Krem 2 News Channel shows police opening up the back of the U-Haul to show the Patriot Front members crammed closely inside with their hands already up in the air. A man holding a bullhorn is the first one out of the vehicle, he immediately laid on the ground in anticipation of being arrested.
After they were removed from the truck, Patriot Front members were photographed kneeling on a grassy hill as they waited for police to book them. One was wearing a t-shirt that said “Reclaim America.”
According to public documents, the 31 Patriot Front members were charged with Criminal Conspiracy and held on a $300 bond. Among those who were arrested and charged was Thomas Rousseau, the group's founder and leader, who was led away in handcuffs while wearing his trademark cowboy hat.
Patriot Front members generally attempt to remain anonymous as not to be publically connected to their beliefs. To protect their identity, part of the group's dress code is a white mask and beige ball cap. But as police removed their hoods,journalists and anti-fascists started connecting the court documents and mugshots of the Patriot Front members to leaked chat logs.
Patriot Front was born in 2017 after splintering off from the neo-Nazi group Vanguard America in the wake of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. The group presents itself as something akin to a more extreme version of the Proud Boys. They wear matching clothing and focus on nationalism as opposed to overt racism. A recent leak, however, showed that behind the scenes the group embraces neo-Nazism as well as shaming members for their porn and junk food habits.
Patriot Front has long worked as a recruitment funnel for harder and more openly violent neo-Nazi groups. The group regularly organizes counter-protests, flash protests meant to create propaganda videos, and puts up posters and stickers. The Anti-Defamation League found in 2021 that the group was responsible for a sizeable portion of white supremacist propaganda posted publicly in the United States.
Multiple far-right organizations had targeted Coeur d’Alene’s annual Pride in the Park festival this year, with multiple groups traveling to protest the event. White said Coeur d’Alene Police were aware of multiple groups' plans to counter-protest the festival and worked with other organizations such as the FBI in preparation for policing the event.
Members of the group had come from all over America to counterprotest the pride event. White said that the individuals arrested were from Texas, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, South Dakota, Illinois, Arkansas, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, and Virginia.
Online many members of the right spread the conspiracy that Patriot Front is actually FBI agents—an idea that was once espoused by Joe Rogan.
Official channels of Patriot Front have yet to respond to the arrests, possibly because those who run the account are likely being held in an Idaho jail cell.
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