Idaho political leaders, groups react to reports of Patriot Front arrests in Coeur d’Alene

Most of Idaho’s elected officials and lawmakers have yet to speak out on arrests of white nationalist group members

By: and - June 13, 2022 11:39 am
Idaho state capitol building

Idaho’s capitol building is located in Boise. (Kelcie Moseley-Morris/Idaho Capital Sun)

Law enforcement officers in Kootenai County arrested a truckful of men on Saturday on suspicion of conspiracy to riot during a Pride in the Park event in Coeur d’Alene. The group included a leader and members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front, according to reports.

The 31 men came to North Idaho from at least a dozen states and piled into a U-Haul truck with shields, at least one smoke grenade and a detailed riot plan, multiple local and national news outlets reported. The men all were released from jail on bond by Sunday afternoon, according to The Spokesman-Review.

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The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office said the men came from states including Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. They wore clothing associated with the Patriot Front group.

Gov. Brad Little calls it ‘a potentially terrible situation’

Idaho’s governor issued a statement on Twitter Sunday afternoon:

“Intimidation, scare tactics, and violence have no place in our great state. All Americans should be able to peacefully express their constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech without the threat of violence. It is what has always set America apart from other nations. I thank the many, many Idahoans from across the political spectrum committed to peacefully demonstrating. I commend our brave men and women in law enforcement for their swift action in Coeur d’Alene this weekend. Their diligence and quick response helped avoid a potentially terrible situation.”

Idaho’s congressional delegation is mostly mum

Just one of Idaho’s representatives in the U.S. House and Senate offered a statement on the arrests.

Sen. Mike Crapo said on Twitter Monday morning:

“Hate, violence and bigotry are (unacceptable) in any form. I applaud the efforts of local law enforcement for their measured response in deescalating what could have been a dangerous situation.”

From state leaders in the Idaho Legislature

Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, commented on the arrests in a campaign email Monday morning. She wrote:

“Chills (went) down my spine when I read about police arresting 31 members of that white nationalist organization in CDA ‘on a charge of conspiracy to riot. The men were packed into a U-Haul truck and detained a short distance away from the gathering, which was being held at (a) public park.’ We cannot let this hate and violence infiltrate our state any longer. I will be reaching out to my colleagues across the aisle to consult on ways that we can counter this very ugly and violent threat to our democracy.”

The Idaho Democratic Party also spoke out on Twitter, Monday morning.

“Pride is about celebrating the right of every Idahoan, and American, to be proud, love openly, and live authentically,” the party wrote. “Idaho Democrats won’t be intimidated by hateful extremism and we won’t stop fighting for our rights and the rights of all Idahoans.”

The Idaho House and Senate Democrats echoed the party’s tweet, writing, “Hate has no place in Idaho.”

Former Alabama senator says groups feel empowered by political rhetoric

Former U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, who represented Alabama as a Democrat from 2018 to 2021, also served as the state’s prosecuting attorney from 1997 to 2001 and prosecuted two members of the Ku Klux Klan for the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church that killed four Black children. Jones spoke to the Capital Sun on Monday prior to his visit to the state this weekend for the Idaho Democratic Convention, and said he is always appalled by events like this, especially at this point in history.

“Those are the kinds of things you’d see in the Jim Crow era in the South 150 years ago. You should not be seeing this today,” Jones said.

Jones said the rhetoric of politicians at the state and federal level has empowered hate groups to think they will not be punished for their actions, including recent legislation targeting transgender children and abortion access in Idaho.

“There’s a reason they felt like they could do this. There’s a reason that a guy from Alabama went all the way out there,” Jones said. “There are gay pride events going on all over the country. Why did they pick Idaho? It’s because of a conservative government that they felt like they could do it and they would be part of the community as opposed to being an outlier. And … I believe all people in Alabama and Idaho are much better than that, and they believe in decency, civility and giving everybody equal opportunities.”

Many Idaho government leaders have not commented on the arrests

A political group that advocates against extremism in the state also issued a statement on the arrests over the weekend.

“Idaho’s leaders are not doing enough to make sure that a group like Patriot Front does not feel welcome here,” Mike Satz, executive director of the Idaho 97 Project, said in one part of a statement the group issued Sunday. “In fact, some of our leaders appear to be encouraging these groups through their statements, conduct, and associations. Our civil, political, business and religious leaders need to condemn the hatred we see spreading across our state.”

Most of Idaho’s elected officials had not issued statements as of Monday morning.

Those who haven’t yet commented publicly include:

  • Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin
  • Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden
  • Idaho House and Senate leadership
  • The Idaho Republican Party
  • U.S. Reps. Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson
  • U.S. Sen. Jim Risch

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Audrey Dutton
Audrey Dutton

Audrey Dutton was a senior investigative reporter with the Idaho Capital Sun after 10 years at the Idaho Statesman. Her favorite topics to cover included health care, business, consumer protection issues and white collar crime. Before coming home to Idaho, Dutton worked as a journalist in Minnesota, New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Dutton's work has earned dozens of state, regional and national awards for investigative reporting, health care and business reporting, data visualization and more.

Kelcie Moseley-Morris
Kelcie Moseley-Morris

Kelcie Moseley-Morris is an award-winning journalist who has covered many topics across Idaho since 2011. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and a master’s degree in public administration from Boise State University. Moseley-Morris started her journalism career at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, followed by the Lewiston Tribune and the Idaho Press.