Dozens of individuals with ties to a white supremacist group were arrested as they prepared to wreak havoc on Pride festivities in Idaho on June 11, local police said.
North Idahoans were anticipating the Coeur d’Alene Pride celebration after two years of COVID-related restrictions — and around 1,000 people were expected to attend the annual Pride in the Park festivities in downtown Coeur d’Alene. That excitement, however, turned to fear when police said they received a call from someone who described seeing an “army” of people nearby.
Responding to that tip, police then apprehended a U-Haul truck near the park — but before it arrived on site at the Pride event — and opened the back door, where they allegedly found suspects donning masks, shields, a smoke grenade, and clothing emblazoned with the branding of Patriot Front, a white supremacist group.
“We made a decision to make the stop downtown prior to their arrival to prevent a riot from happening,” Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White said during a press conference on June 13. “I have no doubt in my mind that had that van stopped at the park or near the park, we still would have ended up in a riot situation.”
In total, 31 people were arrested and charged with conspiracy to riot — and they were all released over the weekend. The individuals hail from several states, including Colorado, Illinois, Oregon, Virginia and Texas. Just one of the individuals is from Idaho.
Thomas Ryan Rousseau, who leads the Patriot Front, was one of the individuals arrested. The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that Rousseau founded the group as a teenager and he was known for writing about his support for carrying guns on campus as well as North Carolina’s transphobic bathroom law.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, members of the Patriot Front believe their ancestors took over America and left it exclusively for them. In 2020, the scope of their bigotry expanded from anti-Semitic and white supremacist language to a broader theme of “patriotism” including xenophobia, fascism, and — as evidenced by the Pride incident — anti-LGBTQ beliefs. The group has roots in Texas and spun off from another related organization, Vanguard America.
White said law enforcement agencies were prepared for potential disruptions to the Pride event. The FBI, state police, and local sheriffs were on hand — and other hate groups did show up in the area. A Christian nationalist group known as America First movement gathered less than a mile away, according to NPR, and men carried guns around the Pride event.
The Pride event, meanwhile, went ahead as planned. The North Idaho Pride Alliance issued a statement on Facebook praising the community for a successful event.
“We thank the many Pride in the Park vendors, volunteers, performers, partners, supporters, sponsors, and event attendees for their role in ensuring a safe event for ALL by joining us yesterday in the spirit of love, kindness, and inclusion,” the group said in a written statement.