Patriot Front members charged with planning riot in Idaho, police say

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Idaho police arrested 31 people who wore face coverings, white supremacist badges, shields and a “plan of operations” to riot near an LGBTQ Pride event on Saturday afternoon. Police said they were affiliated with the Patriot Front, a white supremacist group whose founder was among those arrested.

Authorities received a tip about a ‘small army’ being loaded into a U-Haul truck at a hotel on Saturday afternoon, said Lee White, the police chief of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, a town of about 50,000 near the border with Washington. Local and state law enforcement stopped the truck about 10 minutes later, White told a news conference.

Many of those arrested bore logos representing the Patriot Front, which changed its name after one of its members rammed his car into a crowd of people protesting a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017, killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens.

The group’s founder, Thomas Ryan Rousseau, was among those arrested, according to prison records. Like the others, Rousseau was arrested on charges of conspiracy to riot, a misdemeanor. Those arrested were held on $300 bail. Some of the other men arrested have also been linked to the group.

In pictures and videos posted on social media, a group of men dressed in hats, sunglasses, white balaclavas and the Patriot Front’s signature khaki pants were seen kneeling on the ground with their hands tied behind their backs as officers were watching. A spectator mocked the group by shouting “Losers!”

White said people were heading to City Park, which was hosting Pride in the Park, an event advertised as a “family-friendly community event celebrating diversity and building a stronger, more unified community for ALL”. Organizers did not immediately respond to phone and email requests for comment from The Washington Post on Saturday night, but wrote in a post on the group’s Facebook page that it was a “successful” event. “.

The group, North Idaho Pride Alliance, urged people to “stay aware of your surroundings this afternoon and evening” in the city.

Authorities were aware of the online threats before the weekend, White said, so police had increased their presence in the city’s downtown area. Two SWAT teams and city, county and state officers assisted in the arrests.

The Panhandle Patriots, a local motorcycle club, had planned a “Gun d’Alene” event the same day as Pride in the Park to “take on these people,” an organizer said in April during an appearance with the rep for the state. Heather Scott (R).

The organizer was not identified by name in a video but wore a vest bearing the alias “Maddog” and the Panhandle Patriots band insignia. He lamented that the Pride rally was “allowed to march through all of Coeur d’Alene”, saying “a line must be drawn in the sand” against such LGBTQ protests. Scott did not immediately respond to a Post request for comment on Saturday night.

In a press release posted on the group’s website, the Panhandle Patriots encouraged the community to “take a stand” against the LGBTQ “agenda.” He also suggested without evidence that “extremist groups” were trying to hijack the event to provoke violence and said the group would change the name of the event to “Northern Idaho Day of Prayer” in response.

Reached by phone late Saturday, a representative for the Panhandle Patriots declined to comment on the day’s events, telling the Post, “We are not responding to questions at this time.

White did not mention a connection between the Panhandle Patriots event and the arrests. He said those arrested had come from several states “to riot downtown”, with riot gear, at least one smoke grenade and documents “similar to an operations plan that a police or military group would put in place for an event”.

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He did not see any firearms at the scene of the arrest, he said, but stressed the situation was “very recent”.

However, firearms were present near the park, White said. Police had been in contact with the FBI “all day,” he said.

White noted that authorities’ understanding of the situation was still developing and told the news conference that law enforcement has yet to interview those arrested. Representatives of the Patriot Front could not be reached for comment.

Other charges are possible, White said. The first court appearances for those arrested will likely be on Monday, Kootenai County Sheriff Bob Norris said.

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