The ‘little army’ of 31 masked Patriot Front members arrested in Coeur d’Alene near Pride in the Park

Coeur d’Alene police have arrested 31 masked members of a white nationalist group suspected of conspiring to riot in the city’s downtown on the same day as a Pride in the Park event scheduled nearby.

The arrested Patriot Front men arrived in Coeur d’Alene inside a U-Haul truck that police stopped. Only one was from Idaho. The rest came from Washington, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming. Among those arrested is the group’s national leader, Thomas Rousseau, according to the Kootenai County Jail list.

The men have been jailed and are due to appear in court on Monday.

Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White said the group clearly “came for a riot downtown.” White said the group also had “documents” that looked like a police or military operations plan.

The arrests became a spectacle as onlookers watched and used cellphones to take videos and photos of scores of police officers standing while others rolled down the back door of the U-Haul near the Paul Bunyan restaurant to reveal more than two dozens of men wearing khakis, blue shirts and coats, white balaclavas and baseball caps. The U-Haul was eventually towed.

Another video also showed the men kneeling with their hands behind their backs surrounded by police in tactical gear.

WARNING: The following video contains profanity.

Police were tipped off by a citizen who said he saw a large group of people wearing masks and donning shields “like a small army” jump into a U-Haul truck on Saturday afternoon in a hotel parking lot, White said.

About 10 minutes later, police stopped the truck as it headed downtown on Northwest Boulevard. Police also seized a smoke grenade and what White described as riot gear from the truck.

“I don’t think it would have been as successful if we hadn’t had an extremely astute citizen who saw something that they thought was very concerning and reported it to us,” White said.

The Pride in the Park event had drawn many more people downtown to celebrate the LGBTQ community.

White said the Patriot Front members could face further charges after prosecutors review the evidence.

“In my opinion, I would be happy to arrest 31 people who come to riot in our city for a misdemeanor rather than have them participate in some kind of seriously disruptive event, which is exactly what they planned in the center -town,” White said. .

He said the group planned to riot in City Park, along Sherman Avenue and possibly other places downtown.

The Patriot Front is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “a white nationalist hate group” that split from a similar far-right group after the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.

“Patriot Front focuses on theatrical rhetoric and activism that can be easily disseminated as propaganda for its chapters across the country,” the SPLC said of the group.

The group has a manifesto that calls for the formation of a “white ethno-state” in the United States. His brand of activism often involves displaying flyers and other advertisements in public places that promote an extremist brand of patriotism, according to the SPLC.

Photos show one of the men wearing a shirt that read ‘RECLAIM AMERICA’, while the other read ‘Conquerors not Thieves’, an apparent reference to the belief that white colonialists were within their rights to take the Native American lands.

In addition to the Coeur d’Alene police, the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office and the Idaho State Police were involved. Two SWAT teams were part of it.

White noted that police were also in contact with the FBI on Saturday.

Sheriff Bob Norris, who spoke about overcrowding at the Kootenai County Jail and understaffing, said Saturday, “We’ll find the room for those 31 people.

Several police officers had been stationed at City and McEuen parks in downtown Coeur d’Alene on Saturday to ensure the Pride in the Park event ran smoothly. The Panhandle Patriots Riding Club, which rides motorcycles to “uphold the Constitution” according to its website, has scheduled an event at nearby McEuen Park in opposition to the Pride event.

White said at least two people, both from Oregon, were arrested in City Park for disorderly conduct and trespassing. At least three warnings were issued to others.

The six-hour Pride event included several stalls, food, live music, a drag show and a march of more than 50 people through the park.

Casiana Azzollini, a University of Idaho student who wore a “Love Wins” crown, walked holding a sign that read “here for every story” on one side and “Ally for all love” on the other .

She said she and her friends wanted to support members of the LGBTQ community who have been oppressed.

“We wanted to show our support for everyone we know and everyone we don’t know,” Azollini said. She said the growing event represents “a new era for Idaho.”

“It was really cool to see Coeur d’Alene, in particular, come together to put on this event with the threats of outside haters,” Azzollini said.

A few churches planted stalls at City Park in support of the Pride event.

Matthew Erickson, pastor of Calvary Lutheran Church in Post Falls, wore a blue shirt that read “This pastor loves you” with the word “Pastor” in rainbow colors.

Erickson said people have been demonized and intimidated by hate speech.

“I’m on the side of the people God loves,” Erickson said.

Tom Meyer was part of a small group holding signs and singing hymns in City Park protesting the Pride celebration.

“The drag queen thing, they prey on our kids and that’s my target,” Meyer said. “I want to focus on the kids to give them a chance and give them a way out so they don’t get caught up in all of this. It’s horrible. What they do is they groom children for pedophilia, in my opinion.

In McEuen Park, about 100 people, including the Panhandle Patriots and former Washington State Rep. Matt Shea, marched to several downtown buildings to protest the Pride event and support freedom of expression, firearms and other values.

“We don’t hate the person,” Gabe Blomgren, pastor of On Fire Ministries in Spokane, said through a megaphone outside the Coeur d’Alene Public Library. “God, but we hate the sin of homosexuality…it’s child grooming.”

Nearby, Patrick Runkle, Mariah Berquam and her 2-year-old daughter Aurora sported rainbow tutus and black shirts that said “Equality” in rainbow colors across the chest.

Runkle said he wanted to show that Coeur d’Alene is a welcoming place and that it can overcome the negative light some people place on the LGBTQ community.

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