Authorities arrested 31 members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front near an Idaho pride event Saturday after they were found packed into the back of a U-Haul truck with riot gear.

Among those booked into jail were three men from Colorado:

Nathan David Brenner, a 26 year-old from Louisville.
Forrest Clark Rankin, a 28 year-old from Wheat Ridge.
Connor James Ryan, a 23 year-old from Thornton.

The men were standing inside the truck wearing khakis, navy blue shirts and beige hats with white balaclavas covering their faces when Coeur d’Alene police stopped the U-Haul and began arresting them on the side of the road.

“They came to riot downtown,” Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White said at a news conference.

All 31 were charged with conspiracy to riot, a misdemeanor, White said. The men were going through the booking process Saturday afternoon and are scheduled to be arraigned on Monday, he said.

Based on evidence collected and documents, authorities found that the group was planning to riot in several areas of downtown, not just the park, White said.

Police found riot gear, one smoke grenade, shin guards and shields inside the van, White said. They wore arm patches and logos on their hats that identified them as members of Patriot Front, he said.

Police learned about the U-Haul from a tipster, who reported that “it looked like a little army was loading up into the vehicle” in the parking lot of a hotel, White said. Officials spotted the truck soon after and pulled it over, he said.

Videos of the arrest posted on social media show the men kneeling on the grass with their hands zip-tied behind their backs. “Reclaim America” was written on the back of one shirt. Police led the men, one by one, to the front of patrol cars, took off their masks and then brought them to a police van.

Those arrested came from at least 11 states, including Washington, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Illinois, Wyoming, Virginia, and Arkansas, White said. Though there is a history of far-right extremism dating back decades in northern Idaho, White said only one of those arrested Saturday was from the state.

The truck was stopped near where the North Idaho Pride Alliance was holding the Coeur d’Alene Pride in the Park event. Police had stepped up their presence in the area during the event.

“It appears these people did not come here to engage in peaceful events,” Kootenai County Sheriff Bob Norris told a Coeur d’Alene Press reporter.

Patriot Front is a white supremacist neo-Nazi group whose members perceive Black Americans, Jews and LGBTQ people as enemies, said Jon Lewis, a George Washington University researcher who specializes in homegrown violent extremism.

Their playbook, Lewis said, involves identifying local grievances to exploit, organizing on platforms like the messaging app Telegram and ultimately showing up to events marching in neat columns, in blue- or white-collared-shirt uniforms, in a display of strength.

Though Pride celebrations have long been picketed by counterprotesters citing religious objections, they haven’t historically been a major focus for armed extremist groups. Still, it isn’t surprising, given how anti-LGBTQ rhetoric has increasingly become a potent rallying cry in the far-right online ecosystem, Lewis said.

“That set of grievances fits into their broader narratives and shows their ability to mobilize the same folks against ‘the enemy’ over and over and over again,” he said.

The arrests come amid a surge of charged rhetoric around LGBTQ issues and a wave of state legislation aimed at transgender youth, said John McCrostie, the first openly gay man elected to the Idaho Legislature. In Boise this week, dozens of Pride flags were stolen from city streets.

“Whenever we are confronted with attacks of hate, we must respond with the message from the community that we embrace all people with all of our differences,” McCrostie said in a text message.

Sunday also marked six years since the mass shooting that killed 49 people at the Orlando LGBTQ club Pulse, said Troy Williams with Equality Utah in Salt Lake City.

“Our nation is growing increasingly polarized, and the result has been tragic and deadly,” he said.

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