Coeur d’Alene police discuss arrest of 31 Patriot Front members

The 31 men with ties to a national hate group were due to appear in court for the first time on Monday but will not appear again.

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White and Mayor Jim Hammond held a news conference Monday morning to discuss the arrests of 31 men with ties to the white nationalist hate group Patriot Front.

The men were arrested Saturday afternoon, blocks away from the Pride at the Park event. Police found the 31 men hiding in a U-Haul truck after someone spotted them loading and called to report what “looked like a small army”.

Other vehicles were seized during the arrest, but White could not specify which vehicles.

Police said they found evidence the group was planning a riot in downtown Coeur d’Alene. All 31 men were arrested on charges of conspiring to riot.

During Monday’s press conference, Mayor Hammond said the city of Coeur d’Alene will not return to “the days of the Aryan nations.”

“We’re the same city as last week, and this city is a city that respects everyone,” Hammond said. “We are not a city that wants to discriminate, we are not a city that wants to harm anyone. We will do everything we can to ensure that we continue to overcome these types of problems.”

White also spoke about the arrest and gave minor details on the investigation into the incident. During his comments, White said police received death threats from online comments.

“Of the 149 calls we’re aware of so far, they’re about 50/50 split between individuals in our community who are happy to give us their names and tell us they’re proud of our work,” White said. “And the other 50%, who are completely anonymous and want nothing more than to yell and yell at us and use some really well-chosen words, offer death threats against me and other members of our police department.”

White added that the police department had no knowledge of the Patriot Front coming to Coeur d’Alene until that first 911 call was made. In fact, White said the police hadn’t had any issues with these types of hate groups in his eight years with the department.

“Every time you like an event [Pride]there are opposing groups that decide to make some threats,” he said. “We had some information that there might be some individuals loosely connected to some of the groups planning to protest the Pride event that day, so we were adequately staffed.”

The biggest lesson White learned from this situation is that a concerned citizen can prevent something terrible from happening.

“This concerned citizen took the time to call 911 and report suspicious activity instead of pulling out his phone and filming it on YouTube or Snapchat for 15 minutes,” he said. “And as a result, we probably prevented a riot downtown.”

On Sunday, the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office released the identities of the arrested men. Among them is Thomas Rousseau, who was reported by several national news outlets as the founder of the Patriot Front.

RELATED: Names of 31 arrested for conspiracy to riot in Coeur d’Alene

Court appearances for each of the 31 men were scheduled for Monday afternoon, but KREM 2 confirmed Monday morning that not all of the men will appear as they have formed an alliance. According to the Kootenai County jail’s inmate list, bail was set at $300 for each man because they were all charged with misdemeanor charges.

All 31 men have until June 30 to contact the court and set a court date.

Those arrested are from 12 states, including Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Texas, Michigan, Alabama, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, South Dakota, Illinois and Arkansas.

Evidence police gathered from the U-Haul included shields, riot gear, at least one smoke grenade and details of the group’s plan to stage a riot.

White was asked about the group’s documented plans, but was unable to provide additional information as the investigation is ongoing. He said the plan did not specify whether the group planned to confront event staff or law enforcement.

The New York Times reports that the group’s leader had a seven-page document outlining their plan. The Times reports that it included details on how smoke would be used: “a column that forms on the outside of the park and advances inward until obstacles to the approach are met” and “once adequate confrontational dynamics have been established, the column will disengage and head for Sherman.”

Watch the moment police opened the U-Haul and found dozens of men hiding inside

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Patriot Front is a white nationalist hate group that split from Vanguard America after the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. During this event, a young counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was killed when a member of the neo-Nazi group drove his car into the crowd. Coeur d’Alene police discuss arrest of 31 Patriot Front members

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