Idaho Pride Event: 31 Patriot Front-linked men arrested after planning a riot at a Pride event, police say

The large group – which police believe was affiliated with the Patriot Front – were seen in a hotel piled up on a U-Haul with riot gear, the caller told an emergency services switchboard. They were subsequently stopped and arrested, Coeur police chief d’Alene Lee White said.

The group was headed for a Pride in the Park event at Coeur d’Alene City Park, police said. The event included a Pride walk and performances by local musicians, dancers and dragon artists.

Local and state police were plentiful and on high alert Saturday because they wanted to “make sure this event took place safely,” Mayor Jim Hammond said. They had also received threats about a separate group reunion in another city park; threats that turned out to be unfounded, he said.

Hammond referred to those arrested as young men who “seem to have no purpose”. Asked what he thought the group could have done had the police not foiled their alleged plans, he said: “I didn’t see these people having firearms, so I think it would have been mostly just a nuisance and an attempt to cause fear “.

Police found at least one smoke grenade, White said.

All 31 people were from outside the local area, Hammond previously said. Only two are from Idaho, according to a booking summary from the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office.

It is unclear why they chose Coeur d’Alene out of all the ongoing Pride events in the nation, but Hammond said that perhaps they thought they could “get away with more” in a smaller community like Coeur d’Alene, a city of about 56,000 inhabitants. residents located just across the Washington border from Spokane.

The North Idaho Pride Alliance, which organized the event, released a statement on Sunday saying its members were resting “after successfully staging a momentous Pride in the Park community celebration, joyful and SAFE in the circumstances. more difficult. … We are deeply grateful to the police who were present and responded professionally “.

Here’s what we know about the arrests:

Police received a complaint from a group dressed as a “small army”

There was a large police presence at the Pride event after authorities received information that “there were a number of groups” intending to shut down activities on Saturday, White said.

Police had no information on the arrival of Patriot Front members, White said Monday.

“We had some information that there may be some, some people who are loosely affiliated with some of the groups that were planning to protest the Pride event that day, and so we had adequate staff for that, but we had no information that we it would have been a rebel group that would have come to this event before the call to the emergency services we received, “he said.

A concerned citizen called police Saturday afternoon to report that “about 20 people jumped into a U-Haul” in the parking lot of a local hotel, the chief said.

The group was equipped with shields and masks and “looked like a small army,” the caller said, according to White.

About 10 minutes after the call, officers stopped U-Haul and arrested 31 people, White said. They were charged with conspiracy for minor offenses, she said.

The group was dressed similarly, wearing khakis, blue shirts and hats with plastic inside, the leader said. They were also equipped with “shields, shin guards and other riot gear”, along with documents that White described as “similar to an operational plan that a police or military group would put together for an event.”

“It is clear to us, based on the equipment that the people had with them, the things they had in their possession in the U-Haul with them, along with the documents that had been seized from them, that they came to rebel downtown”, the white said.

“I think some of us were a little surprised not only by the level of preparation we saw, but also by the equipment that was being carried and worn by those people, along with the large amount of equipment that was left in the van when we went. checked the stop, “White said at a press conference on Monday.

“That level of preparation isn’t something you see every day,” the boss said.

Kootenai City, State, and County police responded with two SWAT teams, White said.

“I don’t think this would have been a success if we hadn’t had an extremely astute citizen who saw something that concerned them a lot and reported it to us,” he said.

Officials aren’t releasing the caller’s identity to protect that person, White said.

“Since I and other members of our agency have received threats, including death threats, I think it is appropriate to withhold that person’s information at this time,” the chief said.

The men were released after bail was paid, the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office said. They will have to go back to court at a later time.

The people were from a dozen states, according to a sheriff’s office booking summary. Seven are from Texas, six from Utah, five from Washington and three from Colorado. One came from as far away as Alabama. The youngest is 20 and the oldest 40, according to the summary.

Law enforcement officers arrested 31 men believed to be affiliated with a white nationalist group.

Coeur d’Alene police are conducting an investigation with the assistance of the FBI, FBI spokesperson Sandra Yi Barker.

Police have arrested at least two other people in connection with the Pride event, authorities said. They were charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing, police said.

Men affiliated with the white nationalist group, police say

In addition to the suits associated with the Patriot Front, most of the men had logos on their hats “consistent with the Patriot Front group” and some wore patches on their arms associated with the organization, White said.

The Patriot Front believes their white ancestors conquered America and “bequeathed it,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. Members espouse fascist and anti-Semitic beliefs, which they spread through propaganda campaigns, the ADL says.

The Texas-based group formed following the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, when members of the white supremacist group, Vanguard America, split to form their own organization, the ADL says.

Thomas Ryan Rousseau

Among those arrested on Saturday was Patriot Front leader Thomas Ryan Rousseau, the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Sergeant. Shane Moline said.

Rousseau led several dozen members of Vanguard America Texas during the Unite the Right demonstration and later led a contingent of VA members to create Patriot Front.

CNN contacted Rousseau’s attorney but did not respond immediately.

Coeur d’Alene residents and businesses have long made it clear that the city is “too big to hate,” dating back to the early years, when the Southern Poverty Law Center helped the city shut down an Aryan Nations group with a north of the city, Hammond told CNN.

“We will not go back to the days of the Aryan Nations,” Hammond said at the press conference on Monday.

“We have been through this and we will do everything we can to make sure we continue to overcome these kinds of problems,” said the mayor. “We are a culture of love and kindness and will continue to be.”

CNN’s Eliott C. McLaughlin, Andy Rose, Joe Sutton, Raja Razek, and Theresa Waldrop contributed to this report.