One of the men arrested on suspicion of vandalizing Gonzaga property with white supremacist graffiti on Saturday is a known affiliate of the racist Patriot Front group.
Joshua R. Plotner, of Craigmont, Idaho, was arrested on Saturday evening when campus security suspected that he and two other people were responsible for spraying Patriot Front logos on a mural wall on Gonzaga University’s campus. Plotner bailed out several of the group’s members from the Kootenai County Jail in June.
George G. Dugas was also arrested on suspicion of vandalism.
Both men were released on Saturday night and face third-degree malicious mischief charges. They were released at 8:30 p.m. that night. A third person also was suspected of vandalism but was not arrested, according to an email sent to staff.
Plotner is known for bailing out several other members of Patriot Front after they were arrested in June this year on suspicion of conspiring to riot during a Pride celebration in Coeur d’Alene. Plotner paid more than $2,000 in bail money for seven of the group’s members.
The arrests came not long after similar Patriot Front vandalism in the same location was discovered on campus a couple weeks ago.
“Flyering and vandalism of this kind tend to play a couple of different roles for groups like Patriot Front,” said Kate Bitz, a trainer and organizer at the Western States Center who studies white supremacist groups in the area. “When it comes to university campus context, they are definitely looking at this as a potentially recruiting opportunity.”
Another reason is intimidation, Bitz said.
The group is well known for spreading racist propaganda and vandalizing murals throughout the U.S. in an attempt to scare minority groups.
“They intentionally go after neighborhoods and areas that are more diverse and seen as socially liberal to try and intimidate people,” she said.
The vandalism on Gonzaga’s campus on Saturday was tagged over a mural that said “We reside on Native land,” according to the Gonzaga Bulletin.
The vandalism by Patriot Front has been ongoing throughout Spokane, Coeur d’Alene and other cities in the Inland Northwest since at least 2018. Bitz said that it’s important to see the incidents, including the failed skirmish in Coeur d’Alene this summer, not as isolated, but part of a larger pattern of events.
“The other thing that I think is really important here is what is likely a misdemeanor vandalism charge is probably not going to dissuade someone who is part of Patriot Front from going out and participating in vandalism,” she added.
Earlier this year, the Western States Center requested in a public letter that the Department of Justice investigate the white supremacist organization for criminal actions under federal law.
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