Coeur d’Alene, ID – Police arrested 31 men who allegedly belong to the white supremacist Patriot Front group after they were found in the back of a U-Haul near a gay pride event in Idaho on Saturday.
Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White told reporters at a press conference that police were alerted to the suspicious group at about 1:38 p.m. on June 11 by a witness who saw the masked group getting into the back of a U-Haul, CBS News reported.
Chief White said the concerned citizen said the group “looked like a little army,” NPR reported.
The police chief said officers stopped the truck about 10 minutes later and unloaded its human cargo.
Videos posted to social media and news coverage saw police handcuffing a group of men wearing khakis, navy blue shirts, beige hats, and light-colored facial coverings.
Patriot Front Fails are always what makes a good day. pic.twitter.com/xBnfaX5pwB
— Daryle Lamont Jenkins (@DLamontJenkins) June 12, 2022
The police chief said that at least one of the suspects had a “Patriot Front” arm patch on his clothing, CBS News reported.
He said other suspects had logos associated with the white supremacist group on their hats.
The Patriot Front group has previously conducted numerous “flash demonstrations” where they have shown up unannounced to events around the country. At the group’s recent demonstrations, they arrived in moving trucks and their members wear beige hats, white face gaiters, blue shirts, and khaki pants.
The Anti-Defamation League estimates the self-described fascist group is responsible for 80% of the white supremacist propaganda incidents in the country.
Both right-wing & #Antifa members went to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho today in response to the LGBTQIA+ Pride event. Far-right group Patriot Front was arrested. Violent Portland Antifa member Alissa Azar, who has a pending felony case, filmed this clip.pic.twitter.com/3cIvsqdZVu
— Andy Ngô 🏳️🌈 (@MrAndyNgo) June 12, 2022
Police found ballistic shields and at least one smoke grenade in the back of the U-Haul, CBS News reported.
“It is clear to us, based on the gear the individuals had with them… along with paperwork that we seized from them, that they came to riot downtown,” Chief White told reporters.
The police chief said all 31 men had been charged with conspiracy to riot, CBS News reported.
He said additional charges against the suspects could be forthcoming.
“In my opinion, I would gladly arrest 31 individuals who are coming to riot in our city for a misdemeanor, rather than have them participate in some sort of seriously disruptive event, which is exactly what they were planning in the downtown area,” Chief White said.
The chief said police had information that the men had planned to riot at the gay pride event being held at a nearby park and in other places as well, CBS News reported.
He said paperwork found in the possession of group members “appeared to be very similar to an operations plan that a police or military group would put together for an event.”
Chief White said the men in the group originated in at least 10 other states and all met up in the parking lot of a motel in Idaho to board the U-Haul truck, NPR reported.
The police chief said the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office, the Idaho State Police, and Federal Bureau of Investigation assisted Coeur d’Alene police with the operation.
Pride organizers expressed their gratitude for efforts by area law enforcement to keep things peaceful for their events, NPR reported.
“Law enforcement really came through today, and I think this is a really important message and also a healing message that’s needed in this country,” North Idaho Pride Alliance Outreach Director Jessica Mahuron said. “I know that a lot of law enforcement members actually had to delay their vacations and this was stressful on all throughout the city.”