Thirty-one members of a white nationalist group were arrested on Saturday in Idaho after they were caught planning to riot at a local Pride event, police said.
The 31 Patriot Front members were packed into a U-Haul truck and detained a short distance from the gathering, which was being held at a public park in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
‘It is clear to us based on the gear that the individuals had with them, the stuff they had in their possession and in the U-Haul with them, along with paperwork that was seized from them, that they came to riot downtown,’ said Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White.
A concerned citizen had seen the large group piling into the rented U-Haul truck donning riot gear and called the police, telling authorities the group ‘looked like a little army,’ according to White.
Members of the group wore khaki pants and blue shirts as well as hats with plastic inside of them, White said. They were equipped with ‘shields, shin guards and other riot gear.’
Police also found papers ‘similar to an operations plan that a police or military group would put together for an event’ and at least one smoke grenade.
The men, who traveled from at least 10 other states, are being charged with conspiracy to riot, a misdemeanor. They are expected to be arraigned Monday.
Of those arrested include Thomas Ryan Rousseau of Grapevine, Texas, who has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as the founder of the group. Rousseau, 23, reportedly founded the white supremacist group after the deadly ‘Unite the Right’ rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.
The Patriot Front group is a white supremacist neo-Nazi organization whose members perceive Black Americans, Jews and LGBTQ people as enemies, according to Jon Lewis, a George Washington University researcher who specializes in homegrown violent extremism.
There was already a large police presence at Saturday’s Pride event after authorities in Coeur d’Alene received information that there were ‘a number of groups that were planning to disrupt’ the activities. It’s unclear if police were aware of Patriot Front’s plans.
All 31 men have posted bond and were released from custody. Members of the group traveled to Idaho from across the US to reportedly riot at the Pride event, coming from at least 10 states, including Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and Virginia. Only one member was from Idaho.
The Coeur d’Alene police are leading an investigation into the incident, and are being assisted by the FBI.
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