COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho – The group of white men, arrested for conspiring to riot at Saturday’s gay pride event in Idaho, strategically planned their operation and dressed for a fight, court documents show. .
Kootenai County prosecutors say Coeur d’Alene police believe the 31 men, suspected of being part of a national white supremacist group, intended to incite physical confrontation and stir up trouble at the North Idaho Pride Alliance’s Pride in the Park event. Court documents obtained by FOX 13 indicate that the group had been strategizing for this altercation for some time, complete with military-style drills and a preview of the operation.
CONTEXT: Idaho police arrest dozens suspected of conspiring to riot at gay pride event
It was discovered through online reports that Thomas Rousseau, one of the members arrested on Saturday, was believed to be the leader and founder of the Patriot Front. Upon his arrest, authorities seized documents from him outlining a detailed plan of attack for the June 11 event.
Court records show Rousseau’s papers included a manifesto that discussed the group’s purpose for being there, which was to raise a voice against the moral depravity that allows events, such as pride events, to have venue.
Investigators also found documents describing call locations, key checkpoints, drill times, preparation times and viewing windows. There were GPS coordinates for a drop point with two backup plans, referring to the use of smoke grenades at the discretion of a “column coordinator”, according to court documents. The exit strategy was also described saying, “Once an appropriate time frame and confrontational dynamic has been established.”
RELATED: 5 Washington men among 31 arrested near Idaho Pride event
On Saturday, a concerned citizen called police saying a group of men, who looked like “a small army,” were loading into the loading area of a U-Haul truck. The caller reported members of the group wearing similar clothing, masks and even riot shields. According to court documents, the identity of the caller will remain anonymous throughout the investigation, as the group is believed to be part of the Patriot Front, a white nationalist and neo-fascist hate group known to be violent.
Local law enforcement recruited additional personnel on Saturday due to credible intelligence that groups were coming to town intending to seek opposition contacts with other crowds gathered in downtown Coeur d’ Awl. When the U-Haul carrying the group was stopped by authorities, several officers, soldiers and SWAT officers responded out of concern for safety, as there were more than 20 people in the truck.
Idaho State Patrol Trooper Archer was one of the first officers on the scene during the arrest, and he noted the group’s attire and equipment:
“As I observed each person, I noted the similarity and uniformity of their clothing. They wore mostly blue shirts and beige pants. Several of the individuals had a ‘Patriot Front’ patch on the arm of their shirt .a hat, face mask and sunglasses.Several of the people were wearing hard plastic shin guards and other protective gear.The majority of the hats had a hard plastic type insert inside the hat, similar to a hard core worn by construction workers. The ornate gear was similar in nature to our law enforcement riot gear used when we anticipate a physical altercation.”
Authorities say they found a smoke grenade, several shaped metal shields, flags on abnormally long metal poles and voice amplification devices in the back of the U-Haul.
Those arrested came from at least 11 states, including Washington, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Arkansas. Thomas Rosseau, who had a Texas driver’s license, told officers he had traveled to Coeur d’Alene to peacefully exercise his First Amendment rights. Another suspect, Wesley Van Horn of Alabama, was told by an officer that he had come a long way for his cause. Van Horn replied, “We go where we are needed.”
Among those arrested, five had ties to Washington State: Colton Brown of Ravensdale, Michael Buster of Spokane, James Johnson of Concrete, Justin O’Leary of Des Moines and Spencer Simpson of Ellensburg.
Patriot Front is a neo-Nazi white supremacist group whose members perceive black Americans, Jews and LGBTQ people as enemies, said Jon Lewis, a George Washington University researcher who specializes in grassroots violent extremism.
Their playbook, Lewis said, is to identify local grievances to tap into, organize on platforms such as the Telegram messaging app and ultimately show up to events marching in neat columns, by blue or white collar uniforms, in a show of force.