This weekend 31 members of Patriot Front, a white nationalist paramilitary group, were arrested for allegedly preparing to riot at an LGBTQ Pride event in Coeur d'Alene. The group was created by Thomas Rousseau during the fallout of the “Unite the Right” rally, a deadly white supremacist event in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. Patriot Front operates nationwide, and Western States Center has tracked their escalating actions for years.
Eric K. Ward, Executive Director at Western States Center issued the following statement:
“People should be paying attention to the Patriot Front arrests far beyond Coeur d'Alene. While Patriot Front started out by engaging in flier and sticker campaigns across the country spreading white nationalist and antisemitic propaganda, in 2021 they turned to vandalism, defacing at least a dozen pieces of public art with racial justice themes. Since then, Patriot Front has started showing up in person to intimidate communities more directly, holding marches in Philadelphia and Washington D.C. last year. Patriot Front’s attempt to involve itself in a conservative anti-abortion march in Chicago early this year demonstrates the importance of gender inequality and the control of sexuality within white nationalist ideology.
“It’s important to keep in mind that Idaho is a bellwether state for where the rest of the country may be headed in terms of how anti-democracy groups try to build power and how effectively communities are able to blunt bigoted and anti-democracy organizingIn 2020, Idaho was one of the first states to turn anti-transgender attacks into law, passing a ban on gender marker changes on identity documents and barring trans kids from school sports. The Kootenai County Republican Central Committee has been working openly with influential white nationalists, and has supported candidates for the Library Board who supported pulling LGBTQ books from the collection. This institutional environment unfortunately enables and empowers bigoted organizing. It’s imperative that local leaders forcefully denounce threats and intimidation against marginalized communities. And it’s important for all of civil society to set moral boundaries against political violence of the kind apparently plotted by Patriot Front this weekend.
“North Idaho Pride Alliance has worked hard to keep its events safe and positive for the whole community. NIPA’s tireless work means that this year’s Pride in the Park was likely the largest-ever Pride event in North Idaho. Despite the difficult conditions, NIPA worked closely with local government, law enforcement, and a broad civil society coalition to ensure that Pride in the Park was a great success. That’s important to remember, and NIPA’s work shouldn’t be overshadowed by the violent plans of Patriot Front or other bigoted groups.
“The litany of arrests of those from outside of Idaho and its neighboring states is another troubling example of white nationalist and anti-democracy groups crossing state lines to engage in violence. Municipalities like Coeur d’Alene and Portland need state and federal resources and support to combat this.”
Amy Herzfeld-Copple, Western States Center’s Deputy Director of Programs and Strategic Initiatives added:
“We applaud law enforcement for taking quick action to address the immediate threat posed by this group, but we know that law enforcement can only be one part of the solution. In recent months we’ve seen more and more Idaho political leaders seek the support of groups similar to Patriot Front. Last month’s elections showed that ordinary Idaho voters reject white nationalism and paramilitary groups. We need Idaho leaders from every sector to continue to make clear that they’re committed to defending inclusive democracy.”