The 31 people arrested in Idaho have ties to a White nationalist group and planned to riot at a Pride event, police say. Here’s what we know.
Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN
(CNN) — After receiving an alarmed 911 call, law enforcement in the city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, arrested 31 men believed to be affiliated with the White nationalist group Patriot Front who allegedly had plans to riot at a local Pride event Saturday, authorities said.
The large group was seen piling into a U-Haul at a hotel with riot gear and were later pulled over and arrested, Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White said during a news conference.
The group was headed to a “Pride in the Park” event, police said. The event was held at the Coeur d’Alene City Park Saturday and included a Pride walk and performances by local musicians, dancers and drag artists.
Coeur d’Alene Mayor Jim Hammond said in a statement that “hate and violence has no place” in the city. All 31 individuals were from outside of the local area, Hammond said. At least one of those arrested is from Idaho, investigators said.
The North Idaho Pride Alliance, which organized the event, released a statement Sunday, saying, “As a small community nonprofit, North Idaho Pride Alliance is taking a much-needed day of rest after successfully organizing a momentous, joyful, and SAFE Pride in the Park community celebration under the most challenging of circumstances.”
“We are deeply grateful to law enforcement agencies who were present and professionally responded throughout the day to keep our community safe,” the organization said.
Here’s what we know about the arrests and the affiliations of the people involved.
Police received report of a group dressed like ‘a little army’
There was a large police presence at Saturday’s Pride event after authorities received information “over the last couple days that there were a number of groups that were planning to disrupt today’s activities,” White said Saturday, though it is unclear if police were aware of Patriot Front’s apparent plans.
Authorities received a call from a concerned citizen at 1:38 p.m. Saturday to report that “approximately 20 people jumped into a U-Haul” in the parking lot of a local hotel, White said.
The caller said the group was equipped with shields and masks and “looked like a little army,” according to White.
About ten minutes after receiving the call, officers conducted a traffic stop on the U-Haul and detained 31 people, White said. All 31 individuals were charged with conspiracy to riot, which is a misdemeanor, he said.
Members of the group were dressed similarly in khaki pants and blue shirts and were wearing hats with plastic inside them, according to the chief and video from the scene of the arrest. The men were also equipped with “shields, shin guards and other riot gear,” along with papers White described as “similar to an operations plan that a police or military group would put together for an event.” Police also found at least one smoke grenade.
“It is clear to us based on the gear that the individuals had with them, the stuff they had in their possession, and the U-Haul with them along with paperwork that was seized from them, that they came to riot downtown,” White said.
Officers with the Coeur d’Alene Police Department, Idaho State Police, Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene of the arrest along with two SWAT teams, White said.
“I don’t think this would have been as successful had we not had one extremely astute citizen who saw something that was very concerning to them and reported it to us,” he said.
All 31 men have posted bond and were released from custody, per the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office. They will be due back in court at a later date. The individuals came from at least a dozen states, including Idaho, Alabama, Oregon, Michigan and Texas, the sheriff’s office said.
Coeur d’Alene Police are leading an investigation of the people arrested and are being assisted by the FBI, according to FBI Public Affairs Specialist Sandra Yi Barker.
At least two other people were arrested Saturday in connection with the Pride event and separately charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing, police said.
Men affiliated with White nationalist group, police say
In addition to the clothing associated with Patriot Front, the majority of the men arrested had logos on their hats “consistent with the Patriot Front group” and some were wearing arm patches associated with the organization, according to White.
Members of Patriot Front believe their White ancestors conquered America and “bequeathed it to them,” according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The ADL says Patriot Front members espouse fascist and anti-Semitic beliefs, which they spread through online and real-world propaganda campaigns.
The Texas-based group was formed following the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, when members of the existing White supremacist group Vanguard America split off to form their own organization, the ADL says.
Among those arrested Saturday was Patriot Front leader Thomas Ryan Rousseau, according to Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Shane Moline.
According to the ADL, Rousseau led several dozen members of Vanguard America Texas during the “Unite the Right” rally and would soon after lead the splintering of a contingent of VA members to create Patriot Front.
CNN reached out to legal representation for Rousseau but did not immediately hear back.