Authorities arrest members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front near an Idaho pride event Saturday, June 11, 2022, after they were found packed into the back of a U-Haul truck with riot gear. (Georji Brown via AP)

On Saturday, Idaho police arrested 31 members of a far-right white supremacist extremist group who were packed into the back of a U-Haul van, charging them with conspiracy to riot at a Pride event in the city of Coeur d’Alene.

Here’s what we know about Patriot Front.

The group formed in 2017 after the white supremacist rally in Virginia

Patriot Front, which is headquartered in Texas, formed out of another far-right group, Vanguard America, following the deadly Unite the Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

The August 2017 rally saw violent clashes between far-right extremists and counterprotesters, resulting in the death of one woman and dozens of injuries. Some of the far-right extremists were carrying torches, wearing Ku Klux Klan hoods and chanting, among other things, “Jew will not replace us!”

Alex Fields, who killed a counterprotester after driving his car into the crowd and was later sentenced to life in prison, was seen wearing a Vanguard America uniform during the rally, according to the Counter Extremism Project. Vanguard America denied he was a member of the group.

Thomas Ryan Rousseau, the leader of Vanguard America’s Texas chapter, founded Patriot Front after internal disagreements with the older organization.

According to a Discord post reviewed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Rousseau announced he was forming Patriot Front because of Vanguard America’s “unwillingness to meet any semblance of a compromise” but said he would focus on similar goals under a new brand and name that represents “original American patriots.”

“The word patriot itself comes from the same root as paternal and patriarch. It means loyalty to something intrinsically based in blood,” he wrote.

It is identifiable visibly and has a large national presence

Traditional garb for members includes a dark blue shirt, a white bandana stretched over the face and a brown baseball cap, making them easily identifiable.

Patriot Front’s insignia is the fasces, a bundle of sticks with an axe inserted inside (with the head poking out) encircled by 13 stars, similar to those on the American flag.

The fasces symbol dates back to the Roman Empire, which used the imagery to represent authority and power. The symbol was later adopted by fascists in Italy during World War II and later readopted in the early 2000s by white supremacists seeking fascist imagery more subtle than a swastika, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

The group is active in protests and vandalism efforts across the nation. Rousseau maintains strict control over the organization, requiring active participation, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. He also does not allow members to join any rival groups.

On its website, Patriot Front includes a video of a news report showing the vandalization of a Brooklyn, N.Y., statue of George Floyd, the Black man who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020 and whose death sparked nationwide civil rights protests.

The group has also published several videos on BitChute and appears to take credit for removing Black Lives Matter signs, stenciling Patriot Front graffiti in public places and otherwise causing minor disruptions.

It also shows videos of protests and rallies held across the nation, including in Washington, D.C., last spring. Patriot Front vandalized a San Antonio Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in July 2018.

It’s unclear how many official members the group has, but Patriot Front has nearly 5,000 subscribers on Telegram and nearly 1,500 on YouTube.

It has a racist manifesto

Patriot Front says in its manifest that its objective is to overthrow a corrupt plutocracy and usher in an “era of rebirth” for the “true Americans,” which they identify as those of European lineage.

The group also appears to discuss the “Great Replacement” concept, the conspiracy theory that says liberals are replacing white Americans with minorities and immigrants for political gain.

“The same population that has been imported to supersede the nation will then be enslaved upon our ashes,” reads the manifesto, which also quotes Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The manifesto goes on to say that America is “dead” and a “bleeding carcass” that must be completely dismantled and replaced by a “new American nation state.”

It is active online

The group’s Twitter account is suspended, but members are active on nearly every underground social media site, where they have posted about a “Mexican invasion” and other perceived threats.

On Telegram, Rousseau uploads videos nearly every day about his movement. In one, he said he sees himself “in a vessel-like sense for my cause and for my ideas.”

“I’ve already made the decision to fight and fight for as long as I can,” Rousseau said on “Just Joe Radio” in a video posted in April. “I exercise this role with deep responsibility.”

Tags Extremism far-right groups Far-right militia George Floyd Idaho LGBTQ Patriot Front Patriot Front Thomas Rousseau white nationalism white nationalists White supremacist White supremacists White supremacy
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