The 31 people arrested in Idaho have ties to a white nationalist group and were planning to riot at a Gay Pride event, police say.  This is what we know

The 31 people arrested in Idaho have ties to a white nationalist group and were planning to riot at a Gay Pride event, police say

After an alarmed 911 caller reported a group dressed as a “small army” getting into a moving truck, police in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, arrested 31 men believed to be linked to a group. white nationalist, who had plans to riot at a Pride weekend event, authorities said.

The large group, which police believe was affiliated with the Patriot Front, was seen at a hotel piling into a U-Haul truck in riot gear, the person who called the 911 operator said. They were later detained and arrested, the prosecutor said. Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White.

The group was on its way to a Pride in the Park event at Coeur d’Alene City Park, police said. The event included a Pride walk and performances by local musicians, dancers and drag artists.

Local and state police were swarming and on high alert Saturday because they wanted to “make sure this event goes by safely,” Mayor Jim Hammond said. They had also received threats about a separate group meeting in another city park; threats that turned out to be unfounded, he said. Hammond praised the police response but said Monday that he had no new information.

“I haven’t heard anything else,” he said. “Police have not released the information.”

Hammond referred to those arrested as young people who “seem to have no purpose.” Asked what he thought the group might have done had their alleged plans not been foiled by police, he said: “I haven’t seen these people have guns, so I think it would have just been a disruption and an attempt to cause fear”.

Police found at least one smoke grenade, White said.

All 31 people were from outside the local area, Hammond said previously. At least one of those arrested is from Idaho, investigators said. It’s unclear why they chose Coeur d’Alene out of all the Pride events taking place across the nation, but Hammond said they may have thought they could “get away with it” in a smaller community like Coeur d’Alene. Alene, a city of about 56,000 people just over the Washington border from Spokane.

The Northern Idaho Pride Alliance, which organized the event, released a statement Sunday saying its members were resting “after successfully hosting a momentous, joyous and SAFE community celebration of Pride under the most challenging of circumstances… We are deeply grateful to the law enforcement agencies that were present and responded professionally.”

Here’s what we know about the arrests.

Police received a report of a group dressed as “a small army”

There was a large police presence at the Pride event after authorities received information that “there were various groups” planning to disrupt activities on Saturday, White said. It is not clear if the police were aware of the apparent plans of the Patriot Front.

A concerned citizen called police Saturday afternoon to report “approximately 20 people got into a U-Haul” in a local hotel parking lot, the chief said.

The group was equipped with shields and masks and “looked like a small army,” the caller said, according to White.

About 10 minutes after the call, officers stopped the U-Haul and took 31 people into custody, White said. They were charged with misdemeanor conspiracy to riot, he said.

The group was similarly dressed, wearing khaki pants, blue shirts and hats with plastic inside, the chief said. They were also equipped with “shields, shin guards, and other riot gear,” along with papers that White described as “similar to an operations plan that a police or military group would prepare for an event.”

“It is clear to us, based on the equipment that the individuals had with them, the things that they had in their possession in the U-Haul with them, along with the paperwork that was seized from them, that they came downtown to protest. White said.

Police from the city, state and Kootenai County responded with two SWAT teams, White said.

It is believed that those arrested were part of a nationalist group that was going to disturb public order at the gay pride parade.

“I don’t think this would have been as successful if we hadn’t had an extremely astute citizen who saw something they were very concerned about and reported it to us,” he said.

The men were released after posting bond, the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office said. They must return to court at a later date. The individuals hailed from at least a dozen states, including Idaho, Alabama, Oregon, Michigan and Texas, the sheriff’s office said.

Coeur d’Alene police are conducting an investigation with the assistance of the FBI, FBI spokeswoman Sandra Yi Barker.

Police arrested at least two other people in connection with the Pride event, authorities said. They were charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing, police said.

Those arrested were men affiliated with a white nationalist group, police say

In addition to clothing associated with the Patriot Front, most of the men had logos on their hats “consistent with the Patriot Front group,” and some wore arm patches associated with the organization, White said.

The Patriot Front believes that their white ancestors conquered America and “left it behind as a legacy,” according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Members espouse fascist and anti-Semitic beliefs, which they spread through propaganda campaigns, says the ADL.

The Texas-based group was formed after the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, when members of the white supremacist group Vanguard America broke away to form their own organization, the ADL says.

Among those arrested Saturday was Patriot Front leader Thomas Ryan Rousseau, Kootenai County Sheriff Sgt. Shane Moline said.

Rousseau led several dozen members of Vanguard America Texas during the Unite the Right rally and later led a contingent of VA members to create the Patriot Front.

Coeur d’Alene residents and businesses have long made it clear that the city is “too great to hate,” going back to the early years when the Southern Poverty Law Center helped the city shut down a group of Aryan Nations with a compound north of the city, Hammond told.

Melissa Galbraith
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.