Metro Weekly

Idaho Police Arrest 31 For Allegedly Conspiring to Riot Near Pride Parade

Coeur d'Alene Police say they seized a smoke grenade, riot gear, and a military-style "operations plan" from a U-Haul in a downtown parking lot.

Thirty-one alleged Patriot Front men arrested (Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office)

On Saturday, Idaho police officers arrested 31 people, who are believed to be affiliated with the white nationalist group Patriot Front, for alleging conspiring to riot near a Pride Parade in the city of Coeur d’Alene.

Police were initially tipped off by a concerned citizen who saw a large group of people wearing masks and carrying shields “like a little army” jump into a U-Haul truck in a hotel parking lot, reports CNN. Ten minutes later, police pulled over the truck and searched it, seizing a smoke grenade and riot gear from the truck.

“I don’t think this would have been as successful had we not had one extremely astute citizen who saw something that looked very concerning to them and reported it to us,” Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White said during a news conference.

White also said it was “clear,” based on the gear in the truck, as well as paperwork seized from the group that was “similar to an operations plan that a police or military group would put together for an event.”

He said the group planned to riot in downtown Coeur d’Alene, where a six-hour-long “Pride in the Park” event, featuring booths, food, live music, a drag show, and a small march of about 50 participants, was being held at City Park.

The 31 individuals — who hailed from 11 different states, and only one of whom was from Idaho — were arrested for conspiracy to riot, a misdemeanor. Those arrested were all wearing similar clothing associated with Patriot Front, including identical insignia, and had at least one smoke grenade in their possession, according to police.

On Sunday, police released mugshots of those arrested, all of whom have posted bail and been released from custody, according to the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office. They will be due back in court at a later date.

Among those arrested was Patriot Front leader Thomas Rousseau, the sheriff’s office reports. According to the Anti-Defamation League, Rousseau previously participated in the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, as part of a contingent from Vanguard America, a supremacist group from which Patriot Front reportedly split. 

Idaho white nationalists arrested during protest against “Pride in the Park” in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho – Photo: CNN

At least two other individuals, both from Oregon, were arrested at City Park for disorderly conduct and trespassing, and three others received warnings.

The FBI is assisting the Coeur d’Alene Police Department with the investigation, which remains ongoing. Those arrested could potentially face additional charges once the case is closed. 

Police had been stationed at City Park and nearby McEuen Park to ensure the “Pride in the Park” event ran smoothly, reports the Spokesman-Review, a Spokane-based newspaper. The Panhandle Patriots Riding Club, whose members ride motorcycles to “uphold the Constitution,” had reportedly planned a rally at McEuen Park opposing the Pride event, which drew about 100 people seeking to support freedom of speech, as well as the right to bear arms and other values.

“The drag queen thing, they’re preying on our children and that’s my target,” Tom Meyer, a member of a separate, smaller group that held signs and sang hymns at City Park, told the Spokesman-Review. “I want to focus on the kids to give them a chance and give them a way out so they don’t get caught up in all this. It’s horrible. What they’re doing is they are grooming children for pedophilia, in my belief.”

Coeur d’Alene Mayor Jim Hammond said in a statement that “hate and violence has no place” in the city, and praised police for their quick response.

The North Idaho Pride Alliance released a similar statement on Sunday.

“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,” the group said in its statement. “We are deeply grateful to law enforcement agencies who were present and professionally responded throughout the day to keep our community safe.”

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