A pastor from the far-right church led by former state Rep. Matt Shea denounced the recent actions of the hate group Patriot Front during an anti-abortion worship service at the clock tower in Riverfront Park on Saturday. About 100 people gathered for the event on the cold morning.
On Fire Ministries Pastor Gabe Blomgren strongly condemned Patriot Front, whose members were arrested by law enforcement last weekend while seemingly en route to antagonize the city’s annual Pride in the Park event.
Thirty-one members of the group, who were travelling in a U-Haul truck and equipped with riot gear, were arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy to riot. Shea was also in Coeur d’Alene that day to lead an alternative “prayer walk” in opposition to the Pride event.
“The organization Patriot Front has nothing to say about the lord Jesus Christ – not one exalting word in their garbage manifestos, which frankly make me sick,” Blomgren said. “I’ll say publicly that Patriot Front needs to have the word ‘patriot’ scrubbed from it, because there’s nothing patriotic about hating other races, and they are clearly a racist organization. We denounce everything they stand for.”
However, Blomgren also offered the hate group a path to redemption. If Patriot Front followed Christianity, “there would be the ability to kick down doors and to move into fronts they’d never seen or imagined,” he said.
Patriot Front, which has branches across the country, primarily focuses on spreading racist propaganda through stickering and vandalism to intimidate minority groups. The group’s founder, 23-year-old Thomas Rousseau, said they were going to the Pride event to oppose what they described as “moral depravity,” according to court documents from the arrests. The potential for a conflict at the event had come up last month when a member of another group, Panhandle Patriots, announced during a public meeting hosted by state Rep. Heather Scott that they needed to confront the Pride event.
Originally, Shea claimed that the U-Haul was filled with antifa who were going to ambush his prayer walk. But one of the men arrested, Mishael Buster, was a member of On Fire Ministries, according to a video of a church service. Josiah Buster, his brother, was also arrested.
Blomgren confirmed that a former member had been arrested and that the two are sons of a good friend of the church, Matt Buster, a few days later on a broadcast that he co-hosts with Caleb Collier, a former Spokane Valley councilman.
The two expressed sympathy for the Patriot Front members and said they had been duped by a racist organization, with Collier saying the men had “righteous anger” at the state of the country.
Unrelated to Patriot Front, Collier also announced on Saturday the formation of a “watchmen” group to help with safety concerns in the city. Collier said that the group would not accept “hot heads” or people wearing camouflage and carrying rifles. The group would be designed to help improve security at businesses and to escort women, he said.
A Spokane Police Department spokesperson on Saturday was unable to say whether such a group was legitimate or if one had contacted the department.
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