Gov. Spencer Cox on Thursday condemned the alleged actions of six Utahns arrested last week in a large group of what police say were white supremacists accused of planning a riot during an LGBTQ pride event in northern Idaho.

"I thought it was sickening, disgusting. There's just no room for that in our society today," Cox said when asked for his thoughts on the report during his monthly PBS Utah news conference.

He said he hopes the men arrested will "reevaluate their lives" and "find a better path."

On June 11, a "concerned citizen" reported that about 20 people "jumped into a U-Haul wearing masks." The group had shields and "looked like a little army," Coeur D'Alene police said.

Officers made a traffic stop about 10 minutes later and detained 31 people in the van suspected of being part of the neo-Nazi group Patriot Front. They were wearing shields, shin guards and other riot gear, including "at least one smoke grenade," police said. The men also had paperwork of what appeared to be "operation plans" for a riot.

Investigators say the group included people from numerous states including Texas, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Illinois, Arkansas, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon and Virginia.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at the PBS Utah monthly press conference at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at the PBS Utah monthly press conference at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Utah law enforcement does a "great job" of trying to monitor those types of hate groups, to prevent violence from happening, Cox said.

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"Everyone has their First Amendment rights, I understand that. But there's just no place for that in our state," the governor said.

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

Cox said the arrests are indicative that there is a "small, very extreme" group of people associated with such groups in Utah.

"But they exist nonetheless. I wish they didn't. They've always been there," Cox said, adding that northern Idaho has historically been an "enclave" for white supremacist movements.

"But certainly troubling to see that, I think there was a training video that came out that was occurring in southern Utah somewhere, I saw a portion of that. It was evil and sad at the same time, I don't know. It was embarrassing," Cox said, referring to a video shared on social media by a reporter that shows a small group of men huddling against a mock attacker, who is shouting profanities at them.

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