DALLAS — Police in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho said Monday there was “no doubt” members of a North-Texas based hate group planned to riot during the city’s Pride event.
Saturday afternoon, police arrested 31 men connected to Patriot Front, a white supremacist, neo-Nazi group. Seven of the men arrested are from Texas and six are from the metroplex, including the group’s founder, 23-year-old Thomas Rousseau of Grapevine.
Police say a concerned citizen called 911 when they saw the group wearing body armor and loading into a U-Haul truck. They were stopped and arrested and face misdemeanor charges for conspiracy to riot. In a press conference Monday, the city’s police chief said the group had shields, shin guards and a smoke grenade.
“I have no doubt in my mind that if that van had stopped at the park or near the park there would have been a riot,” Chief Lee White said. “That level of preparation is not something that you see every day. It was very clear to us immediately that this was a riotous group that had prepared in advance to come downtown and disrupt either the Pride event or the Prayer in the Park event.”
Patriot Front is a hate group formed after the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA in 2017.
“They’re essentially promoting the same kind of old-fashioned white supremacy that we’ve seen for a long, long time by groups like the Ku Klux Klan and various Nazi type groups,” Pete Simi, PhD, an extremism researcher and professor at Chapman University said. “When you peel back the layers, they are talking about violence, they are promoting violence so they are very consistent with what you see in that respect with the Proud Boys and some of the other groups that are more commonly seen carrying weapons.”
“What you see with Patriot Front is this group that really attempts to try and wrap itself in this bastardized version of American patriotism,” Jon Lewis, a research fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism said. “You see that in the iconography, you see that with their outfits, carrying American flags, dressed in patriotic colors but when you really look at the public and private messages that have been leaked by the group it’s white supremacy, it’s neo-Nazism, it’s anti-Semitism.”
Simi and Lewis said the group focuses its efforts on university campuses and trying to recruit using flyers that hide their violent rhetoric.
“They’ll present themselves in different kinds of ways using more subtle or coded messages in hopes that they’ll be more effective in terms of marketing themselves, basically, and recruiting,” Simi said.
“It’s this kind of intentional softening of the message, this kind of wink and nod, coded language to 'in-groups' that know what they’re talking about,” Lewis said.
White supremacy and hate groups are growing nationwide and both researchers say the increasingly aggressive political culture across the country and in Texas is fueling recruiting and normalizing rhetoric once considered fringe.
“In areas like Florida, like Texas, you see a very close, interconnected, almost symbiotic relationship where, again, you see that call and response, that parroting, the integration of, again, of extremist groups, domestic violence extremist groups,” Lewis said. “This kind of bourgeoning mainstreaming of this idea on the right that political violence against the enemy, against whoever is that 'out-group' isn’t just permissive, it’s acceptable. It’s needed.”
“We see congressional officials that are expressing the same ideas, basically, so that’s a huge win for groups like Patriot Front, the Proud Boys and others,” Simi said. “You have a large culture that has been able to persist over the years and is now growing because of certain kinds of political opportunities that have been made available including the Trump presidency and the potential 2024 run.”
Those arrested from Texas at the event in Idaho are:
Connor Patrick Moran - 23 from Watauga, TX
Graham Jones Whitsom - 31 from Haslet, TX
Thomas Ryan Rousseau - 23 from Grapevine, TX
Kieran Padraig Morris - 27 from Haslet, TX
Steven Derrick Tucker - 30 from Haslet, TX
Josiah Daniel Buster - 24 from Watauga, TX
Robert Benjamin Whitted - 22 from Conroe, TX