A group of men associated with a white nationalist group, Patriot Front, piled themselves into a U-Haul in a scheme to riot a Pride event in Idaho, according to CNN. All of them have been arrested and police say they were equipped with shields, masks and at least one smoke grenade. The 911 caller said they looked like a “little army.”
The event, like other Pride parades, featured music and dance performances along with a drag show, per CNN. However, a frantic 911 caller noticed a group of men in riot gear near Coeur d’Alene City Park where the event was being held. Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White said 31 people were pulled over and arrested 10 minutes after the call. They were charged with misdemeanor conspiracy to riot.
Mayor Jim Hammond said local and state police were “plentiful” and on “high alert” to make sure the event went off safely. He also thinks because he didn’t see any of the men with firearms, their motive was disruption and “trying to cause fear.”
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The group was dressed similarly, wearing khaki pants, blue shirts and hats with plastic inside them, the chief said. They were also equipped with “shields, shin guards and other riot gear,” along with papers White described as “similar to an operations plan that a police or military group would put together for an event.”
“It is clear to us, based on the gear that the individuals had with them, the stuff they had in their possession in the U-Haul with them, along with paperwork that was seized from them, that they came to riot downtown,” White said.
City, state and Kootenai County police responded with two SWAT teams, White said.
One of the guys arrested, Thomas Ryan Rousseau, led Vanguard America Texas members to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, reports say. Others came from various states including Texas, Alabama and Oregon. The men have been released after posting bond, per the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office, but they are due for a later court date.
The North Idaho Pride Alliance, the event organizer, responded to the incident in a statement via Facebook. “We are deeply grateful to law enforcement agencies who were present and professionally responded throughout the day to keep our community safe,” they wrote.
Two more LGBT events have been interrupted by white nationalist protestors this month. Those events were targeted because children were attendance, however, it seems anything LGBT-related is fair game now. The movement to “make American great again” is really to just silence the voices that fought for decades to be heard.
If you’re celebrating Pride, be safe out there.