Over the weekend, 31 members of the white supremacist Patriot Front were arrested on their way to a Pride event. The arrests have renewed the far-right arguments over whether the Patriot Front is an actual organization or a group clandestinely run by the government.
Police arrested Patriot Front members Saturday on their way to an LGBTQ pride event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The group reportedly planned to protest and disrupt the event. Authorities say they have shields, helmets, spears and at least one smoke grenade.
Members, including Patriot Front founder Thomas Rousseau, have been accused of plotting a riot. They are due to appear in court on Monday. It is not known how they intend to invoke the misdemeanor charges.
Videos of the arrests show the handcuffed men in khaki pants, blue shirts, white face masks and hats, the quasi-uniform of the Patriot Front.
News of the arrests sent shockwaves through extremist online communities.
Rumors are circulating that the Patriot Front is not a true white supremacist group, but a law enforcement operation aimed at seducing people on the far right, who tend to pop up whenever the Patriot Front is in the news. Others resist these unfounded allegations.
The episode unleashed another wave of power struggles.
The Gateway Pandit is among those who promote the unsubstantiated but persistent theory that the Patriot Front is actually run by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The far-right newspaper based its claim on reports that police were briefed on Patriot Front’s plans by whistleblowers within the group and that one arrestee allegedly carried a megaphone with the FBI logo on it.
“Here is video of her arrest,” the outlet wrote. “Count the federal agencies.”
Others repeated the same and similar claims.
While many are convinced that the Patriot Front is actually a law enforcement agency, others argue that the real conspiracy is to convince people they are cops.
The latter argument seems to be gaining more traction. Several major Telegram channels, including Steve Bannon’s War Room Pandemic, published the same claim that it was “the oldest trick in the world”.
“Most people who call groups like the Patriot Front ‘fed honeypots’ know they are lying,” the post reads. “…They do this because they realize that if they were actually going to criticize those groups for what they stand for, then they realize that their audience will get curious and even want to join a nationalist organization.”
Other extremists aimed directly at the Gateway Pandit. “Why does Gateway Pandit tell stupid lies? What’s in it for them anyway?” wrote one on Telegram.
Several pointed out that the megaphone, which the Gateway Pandit took as proof that the Patriot Front is with the federal authorities, actually appears to be saying, “Abolish the FBI.”
“Do you really think the FBI puts FBI property stickers on their megaphones?” wrote one.
Patriot Front supporters reacted angrily. One went so far as to say they “wouldn’t shed a single tear” if a person the group accused of being a federal operation became “a bullet-riddled corpse.”
Meanwhile, Nick Martin from the informant reported that some Patriot Front sympathizers have begun targeting the officers blamed for their arrest in Idaho. Far-right figures have berated and slandered authorities they believe were involved in the case.
On Monday, the Daily Dot found posts purporting to have the officers’ home addresses and phone numbers, as well as various unsubstantiated claims about the officers themselves.
A commenter on a Proud Boys-friendly Telegram channel described a police captain as an “anti-American and pedophile apologist” and accused him of “arresting anyone who tries to peacefully protest against LGBT child care”.
The far right may disagree as to whether Patriot Front is actually a police or FBI dragnet, but there’s one thing that unites both sides of the extremist ecosystem: a distaste for law enforcement.
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*Initial publication: June 13, 2022 at 10:55 am CDT
Claire Goforth is a staff writer at the Daily Dot and covers all topics related to politics and technology with a focus on far right and conspiracy theories.
https://www.dailydot.com/debug/patriot-front-arrests-divide-far-right/ Patriot Front arrests have divided far-right extremists over whether they are cops