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How active is the Patriot Front white supremacist group in Utah?

Anti-Defamation League reports 161 incidents of distributing propaganda in the past two years

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Authorities arrest members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front near an Idaho Pride event.

Authorities arrest members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front near an Idaho Pride event on Saturday, June 11, 2022, after they were found packed into the back of a U-Haul truck with riot gear.

Georji Brown, Associated Press

Six of the 31 members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front arrested near a northern Idaho Pride event over the weekend were from Utah, where an anti-hate organization tracked hundreds of incidents of propaganda distribution in the past two years.

In addition to identifying 161 occasions when the Patriot Front promoted its views in cities across Utah from 2020 to 2021, the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism also noted a demonstration the group held outside the state Capitol. Some of the messages read, “America First” and “Revolution is tradition.”

The Anti-Defamation League also identified 13 antisemitic incidents, a shootout with police and a murder involving white supremacists in Utah during that time.

The Texas-based Patriot Front, whose members maintain that their ancestors conquered America and bequeathed it to them, spreads propaganda on the internet and by distributing banners, flyers, posters and stickers. About 80% of all white supremacist propaganda in the country in 2020 came from the group, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

As revealed in its communications, the high propaganda numbers were driven by a weekly propaganda quota, which members are required to meet. Patriot Front was responsible for 3,992 incidents in 2021.

Patriot Front is a white supremacist neo-Nazi group whose members perceive Black Americans, Jews and LGBTQ people as enemies, Jon Lewis, a George Washington University researcher who specializes in homegrown violent extremism, told Politico. It transitioned from using explicit antisemitic and white supremacist language in its propaganda to promoting a form of “patriotism” that emboldens white supremacy, xenophobia, antisemitism and fascism, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

This past Saturday, Patriot Front members appeared intent on more than just passing out literature at the annual “Pride in the Park” event in Coeur d’Alene.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, Patriot Front frequently participates in “flash demonstrations,” which are designed to create viral video content and for which members generally wear masks and “khaki pants and a blue or white polo shirt.” They also sometimes employ smoke bombs.

Police found riot gear and shields packed into a U-Haul on Saturday after arresting 31 members of the group in what tipster told police looked like “a small army” at a hotel parking lot.

Greg Rogers, a retired FBI agent who spent 20 years working undercover in militia groups, said the Patriot Front — a relatively new group made up of mostly men in their 20s and 30s — likely wanted to use the event as a recruitment tool.

“They’re basically just trying to get notoriety. That’s what this is all about,” he said. “These kinds of groups get a lot of street cred by showing they’re actually doing something.”

Rogers said they would have lined up around the park and probably chanted some “nonsense” while being filmed. Members intentionally didn’t bring weapons with them. The worst thing authorities could do to them is not only charge but convict them of a felony so they can’t possess weapons, “which is the most important thing in their entire lives.”

Among those booked into jail on misdemeanor charges of conspiracy to riot was 23-year-old Thomas Rousseau, of Grapevine, Texas, who the Southern Poverty Law Center says founded the group after the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. The organization broke off from Vanguard America, a neo-Nazi group that participated in the chaotic demonstration.

“He’s something of a hard charger in that whole white supremacy movement,” Rogers said. “They picked Coeur d’Alene because they knew they were going to get a lot of attention. There were Pride parades all over the country. ... But they picked Coeur d’Alene because of its history.”

Why Coeur d’Alene?

Northern Idaho has never been able to escape the stigma of its unwanted ties to the Aryan Nations, an antisemitic, neo-Nazi, white supremacist organization Richard Butler established near Hayden Lake in the 1970s.

The Aryans Nations compound was demolished and turned into a peace park after the Southern Poverty Law Center won a $6.3 million lawsuit against the organization in 2000. Butler died four years later.

“It has, unfortunately, stigmatized Coeur d’Alene. A couple of the militia movements that I was in undercover were in Coeur d’Alene,” Rogers said.

A headline in the Spokesman-Review, based in neighboring Spokane, Washington, on Sunday read, “Locals condemn white nationalist group’s actions in Coeur d’Alene as potential riot adds another stain to North Idaho’s racist history.”

Will Parker, a 35-year-old Coeur d’Alene resident, said he was not surprised when he learned the Patriot Front came to town. He said many people are coming from outside the area and using north Idaho’s white supremacist history as a platform.

“That’s kind of typical here,” Parker told the Spokesman-Review. “Even back when the Aryan Nations were here, it wasn’t locals doing that stuff … I don’t think that a lot of hate comes from locals.”

Arrestees from Utah

In 2020, then-U.S. Attorney John Huber called white supremacy a “very unfortunate export of Utah.”

His comment came during a new conference announcing a 16-month, multiagency investigation of Soldiers of Aryan Culture, Silent Aryan Nation and Noble Elect Thugs that ended in 21 arrests for gun and drug trafficking. Soldiers of Aryan Culture traces its origin to the Utah State Prison in the 1990s.

The 31 arrested in Coeur d’Alene are from a dozen states including Michigan, Texas, Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Arkansas and Utah, which appears disproportionately represented with six.

The Utah men are Jared Michael Boyce, 27, of Springville; Branden Mitchel Haney, 35, of Kaysville; Cameron Kathan Pruitt, 23, of Midway; Alexander Nicholai Sisenstein, 27, of Midvale; Dakota Ray Tabler, 29, of West Valley City; and Nathaniel Taylor Whitfield, of Elk Ridge.

Rogers said they’re now proud that they were arrested. He said the misdemeanor charges will be “pled down to nothing,” adding it would be difficult for prosecutors to prove they intended to riot. He said Patriot Front members will spend the next few months bragging about it online.

“These young men in Utah now think they’re the real deal,” he said.

Describing Patriot Front as “young and aggressive,” Rogers said his biggest fear with these types of groups is that although the majority of members are just looking for “like-minded buddies” and a place to spout their views, a small percentage are dangerous.

“Without doubt, there’s going to be somebody in there that takes it too far,” he said. “You get a lone wolf kind of personality in there and something really bad happens.”