COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — Six of 31 members of a white supremacist group who were arrested near a pride event in northern Idaho last month will be in court Monday afternoon, facing misdemeanor conspiracy charges of riot.
Patriot Front members were arrested June 11 with riot gear after a tipster reported seeing people loading into a U-Haul in a hotel parking lot in Coeur d’Alene, IA. Idaho, police said.
Josiah Buster and his brother Mishael Buster and Connor Moran, all of Watauga, Texas, were due in court on Monday; Derek Smith of Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Dakota Tabler of West Valley City, Utah; and Justin O’Leary, of Des Moines, Washington.
Each had posted $300 bond and were released after their arrest.
Among those arrested was Thomas Ryan Rousseau of Grapevine, Texas, who was identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as the 23-year-old who founded the group after the deadly ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. , in 2017.
Also among those arrested was Mitchell F. Wagner, 24, of Florissant, Missouri, who was previously charged with defacing a mural of famous black Americans on a college campus in St. Louis last year.
Michael Kielty, Wagner’s attorney, said the Patriot Front does not have a reputation for being violent and the case may be a First Amendment issue.
“Even if you don’t like the speech, they have every right to do it,” Kielty said after the arrests.
Patriot Front is a neo-Nazi white supremacist group whose members perceive black Americans, Jews and LGBTQ people as enemies, said Jon Lewis, a George Washington University researcher who specializes in grassroots violent extremism.
Their playbook, Lewis said, is to identify local grievances to tap into, organize on platforms such as the Telegram messaging app and ultimately show up at events marching in neat columns, by blue or white collar uniforms, in a show of force.
Although Pride celebrations have long been the picket line for counter-protesters citing religious objections, they have not always been a major focus for armed extremist groups. Still, that’s no surprise, given that anti-LGBTQ rhetoric has increasingly become a powerful rallying cry in the far-right online ecosystem, Lewis said.
The arrests come amid a flurry of charged rhetoric around LGBTQ issues and a flurry of state legislation targeting transgender youth, said John McCrostie, the first openly gay man elected to the US Legislative Assembly. Idaho.
In Coeur d’Alene, police found riot gear, a smoke grenade, shin guards and shields inside the van after stopping it near a park where the North Idaho Pride Alliance was hosting a Pride in the Park event, the Coeur d’Alene police chief said. said Lee White.
The group arrived at the scenic lakeside resort wearing Patriot Front patches and logos on their hats and T-shirts reading “Reclaim America” according to police and videos of the arrests posted on social media.
Those arrested came from at least 11 states, including Washington, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Illinois, Wyoming, Virginia and Arkansas.
Although there is a history of far-right extremism dating back decades in northern Idaho, once home to the Aryan Nations group, White said only one of those arrested was from the State.
The six-hour Pride event generally went according to plan.