Patriot Front members convicted for Idaho Pride threats to serve three days in jail for conspiracy to riot

The sentences arrive one year after a mass arrest of member who planned to disrupt an event in Coeur d’Alene

Alex Woodward
Friday 21 July 2023 20:55 BST
Related video: White supremacist group Patriot Front marches through Washington DC

Five members of a neo-fascist hate group that planned to disrupt a Pride event in Idaho last year will spend three days in jail after a jury convicted them of conspiracy to riot.

The men – Devin Center, Forrest Rankin, Robert Whitted, James Johnson and Derek Smith – were found guilty by a six-person jury on 20 July after an hour of deliberation following a three-day trial.

On 11 June, 2022, police arrested 31 members of Patriot Front blocks away from the annual Pride in the Park event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, after calls to 911 identified a group of people coming out of a UHaul box truck in a military-like formation.

They carried shields, metal flag poles, shin guards and at least one smoke grenade. Paperwork inside the truck appeared to show plans for a riot, according to police, and the men came from more than a dozen states, including some as far as Colorado and Texas.

The men were arrested on charges of conspiracy to riot, a misdemeanour punishable by up to one year in prison with fines of $5,000. They pleaded not guilty.

Under the sentence imposed on 21 July, the men will spend three days in jail and will have one year of unsupervised probation. They are also not allowed to go within two miles of the Coeur d’Alene City Park in that time.

Because the probation is unsupervised, those men are able to leave the state.

Images provided by the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office shows, from top row from left, James Johnson, Forrest Rankin, Robert Whitted. Devin Center and Derek Smith are pictured on the bottom row from left.
Images provided by the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office shows, from top row from left, James Johnson, Forrest Rankin, Robert Whitted. Devin Center and Derek Smith are pictured on the bottom row from left. (AP)

Despite the mass arrests of its members in Idaho, Patriot Front’s presence across the US has not diminished.

The group, which first emerged from the splintering of another white nationalist group in the aftermath of the lethal rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, was responsible for the vast majority of “hateful propaganda” efforts in the years that followed, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which designates Patriot Front as a hate group.

Over the last few years, Patriot Front has made its physical presence known at demonstrations and rallies across the country.

A month after the arrests in Coeur d’Alene, a Black artist was attacked during a Patriot Front march in Boston. This year, members have marched in Indianapolis, protested a drag brunch in Tennessee, and, in a grim display in the nation’s capital, marched in Washington DC.

A report from the Anti-Defamation League and GLAAD discovered more than 350 targeted threats against LGBT+ people within the last year from a wide array of anti-LGBT+ groups, including online harassment as well as armed protests at drag performances, bomb scares against hospitals that provide gender-affirming healthcare, and other acts of violence, including a mass shooting inside a Colorado Springs LGBT+ nightclub.

Incidents targeting drag performers and the people and venues that host them have accelerated across the US, with similar threats surfacing in the UK, according to a separate recent report from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.

The group collected 203 on- and offline threatening incidents specifically targeting drag events within the last year.

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