Court documents allege white nationalist group Patriot Front had tactical plans to disrupt a Pride in the Park event in Coeur d’Alene, force a confrontation, then regroup and leave.
Thirty-one Patriot Front members were arrested Saturday en route to downtown Coeur d’Alene on suspicion of conspiracy to riot. They bonded out of jail by Sunday on $300 and await an arraignment. The men are expected to make court appearances through the end of August.
Police discovered riot gear, metal shields, a smoke grenade, long flagpoles and loudspeakers inside a moving truck carrying the Patriot Front members Saturday. Police also discovered a document that outlined locations, checkpoints, “drill times,” “prep times,” “observation windows” and “GPS coordinates for a drop point with two backup plans.”
According to Patriot Front’s plan, the smoke grenade would be used at the discretion of one of the group’s coordinators. The group’s outlined exit strategy was to be implemented “once an appropriate amount of time and confrontational dynamic has been established,” the court document said.
The plans said Patriot Front’s goal was to oppose the “moral depravity which permits events such as this,” in apparent reference to Pride in the Park.
Thomas Rousseau, the 23-year-old founder of Patriot Front, was in the passenger seat of the U-Haul truck when police made the stop. He told police they were in Coeur d’Alene to exercise their First Amendment rights.
Wesley Van Horn, 34, of Lexington, Alabama, allegedly told police, “We go where we are needed.”
Patriot Front is a white nationalist hate group that is best known for distributing patriotic-themed racist propaganda and “flash demonstrations” meant to intimidate minorities, according to a report from the Anti-Defamation League. The group has a national reach but is recognized as one of six hate groups in Idaho, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The members arrested in Coeur d’Alene gathered from across the country.
Police arrested them after finding them packed into the back of the U-Haul. They were wearing khakis, blue shirts or jackets, including many with patches, baseball caps and white balaclavas to mask their faces. Police stopped the truck near the Paul Bunyan restaurant on Northwest Boulevard after a citizen phoned in a tip Saturday that a group of men wearing masks and uniforms was piling into the back of the moving truck near Spring Hill Suites at 2250 W. Seltice Way.
Patriot Front members were also seen wearing cameras and recording devices. Part of Patriot Front’s propaganda efforts include sharing online videos of its members engaged in confrontation, according to researchers familiar with hate groups in the region. The group has been documented spreading propaganda in the Inland Northwest in the past.
Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White told reporters Monday that he and other law enforcement officers were surprised by Patriot Front’s level of preparation.
White said his department has been subject to numerous death threats and threats of doxing since the arrests.