Authorities received a tip about a ‘small army’ being loaded into a U-Haul truck at a hotel on Saturday afternoon, said Lee White, police chief of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, a town of about 50,000 near the border with Washington state. Local and state law enforcement stopped the truck about 10 minutes later, White said during a press conference.
Many of those arrested bore logos of the Patriot Front, which changed its name after one of its members rammed his car into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville in August 2017, killing anti-racism protester Heather Heyer.
The group’s founder, Thomas Ryan Rousseau, was among those arrested, according to prison records. Like the others, Rousseau was arrested on charges of conspiracy to riot, a misdemeanor. Those arrested were held on $300 bail.
In pictures and videos posted on social media, a group of men dressed in hats, sunglasses, white balaclavas and the Patriot Front’s signature khaki pants were seen kneeling on the ground with their hands tied behind their backs as officers were watching.
White said people were heading to City Park, which was hosting Pride in the park. Event organizers did not immediately respond to phone and email requests for comment from The Washington Post on Saturday night, but wrote in a Publish on the group’s Facebook page that it was a “successful” event. The group, North Idaho Pride Alliance, urged people to “stay aware of your surroundings this afternoon and evening” in the city.
Authorities were aware of the online threats before the weekend, White said, so police had increased their presence in downtown Coeur d’Alene. Two SWAT teams and city, county and state officers assisted in the arrest.
Nearby, the Panhandle Patriots, a local motorcycle club, had held a “Gun d’Alene” event the same day as the Pride event to “take on these people”, an event organizer said in a statement. latest video. month.
A Press release on the group’s website encouraged the community to “take a stand” against the LGBTQ “agenda”. The statement also suggested without evidence that “extremist groups” were trying to hijack the event to provoke violence and said the group would change the name of the event to “Northern Idaho Day of Prayer” in response. . Panhandle Patriots declined to comment on the day’s events.
White, the police chief, noted that authorities’ understanding of the situation was still developing. He did not mention a connection between the Panhandle Patriots event and the arrests.
He said those arrested had come from multiple states “to riot downtown.” with riot gear, at least one smoke grenade and documents “similar to an operations plan that a police or military group would put in place for an event”.
He did not see any firearms at the scene of the arrest, he said, but stressed the situation was “very recent”. We haven’t started doing interviews. However, firearms were present near the park, White said.
More information from officials likely won’t come until “Monday at the earliest,” White said, but other charges are possible. Kootenai County Sheriff Bob Norris said their first court appearances would likely be on Monday.
White said police had been in contact with the FBI “all day.”