Police arrested 31 members of the group Patriot Front near an Idaho LGBTQ+ event after they were found packed into the back of a U-Haul truck with riot gear.
The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies Patriot Front as “a white nationalist hate group” that formed after the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.
All 31 suspects were booked on suspicion of conspiracy to riot. “They came to riot downtown,” Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White said at a news conference. Among those in custody late Saturday was a man with the same name as Patriot Front’s Dallas-based founder, Thomas Ryan Rousseau.
Authorities say the group was planning to riot in several areas of downtown, not just the park. Police found riot gear, one smoke grenade, shin guards and shields inside the van, White said. They wore arm patches and logos on their hats that identified them as members of Patriot Front, he said.
The suspects “looked like a little army,” White said, quoting the caller who reported the suspicious activity. Ten minutes after that 1:38 p.m. U-Haul report, police stopped the vehicle and a total of 31 people in “similar attire” were arrested, White said.
Videos of the arrest posted on social media show the men kneeling on the grass with their hands zip-tied behind their backs. “Reclaim America” was written on the back of one shirt.
Suspects resided in multiple states, including Texas, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, South Dakota, Illinois, Arkansas, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon and Virginia, he said.
Two other suspects at or near the day’s Pride events were cited for separate allegations of disorderly conduct and trespassing and released, the chief said. Both suspects are from Oregon.
Organizer of Pride in the Park, the North Idaho Pride Alliance, warned supporters on Facebook Saturday to “make sure to stay aware of your surroundings.”
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: CNN