Authorities in Idaho arrested 31 people Saturday who were seen gathering near a Pride parade in the city of Coeur d’Alene and are believed to be affiliated with the White nationalist group Patriot Front.
“Based on the gear that the individuals had with them, the stuff they had in their possession, the U-Haul with them, and paperwork that was seized from them, it is clear to us that they came to riot downtown,” Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White said during a news conference.
According to FBI Public Affairs Specialist Sandra Yi Barker, the FBI is assisting local police with their investigation. According to Barker, Coeur d’Alene police are the primary law enforcement agency investigating the situation.
According to police, the people arrested were all wearing Patriot Front-related clothing, including identical insignia, and had at least one smoke grenade in their possession.
Patriot Front, according to the Anti-Defamation League, is a white supremacist organization whose members believe their forefathers conquered America and left it to them. According to the ADL, the group split from another white supremacist group, Vanguard America, in late August 2017.
White stated that the group was armed with “shields, shin guards, and other riot gear,” as well as papers “similar to an operations plan that a police or military group would put together for an event.”
The 31 people arrested were charged with conspiracy to riot, a misdemeanor, according to White, who added that the suspects came from at least 11 different states.
In a statement, Coeur d’Alene Mayor Jim Hammond stated that “hate and violence have no place” in the city. According to Hammond, all 31 people were from outside the area, and the police department “did a great job of staffing for the event to ensure that they could respond to outsiders attempting to cause trouble.”
Authorities released mugshots of the arrested individuals on Sunday, and all of them have since posted bond and been released from custody, according to the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office. They will appear in court again at a later date.
According to Sgt. Shane Moline of the sheriff’s office, Patriot Front leader Thomas Ryan Rousseau was among those arrested. Rousseau has since been released on bond from the Kootenai County Jail.
“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 difficult of circumstances,” the North Idaho Pride Alliance said in a statement on Sunday.
“We are deeply grateful to law enforcement agencies who were present and professionally responded throughout the day to keep our community safe,” the statement continued.
Rousseau led several dozen Vanguard America Texas members during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, according to the ADL.
The operation in Coeur d’Alene began when a concerned citizen informed police “approximately 20 people jumped into a U-Haul. They had shields and looked like a little army,” White said.
There was no violence or significant disruption before the arrests were made, White said, adding, “Today ended up being relatively uneventful overall.”