Idaho’s Capitol is located in Boise. (Kelcie Moseley-Morris/Idaho Capital Sun)
Law enforcement officers in Kootenai County, Idaho, 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.
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.
The men from Colorado were Nathan Brenner, 26, of Louisville; Forrest Rankin, 28, of Wheat Ridge; and Conor James, 23, of Thornton. They were all booked on criminal conspiracy charges and released on a $300 bond.
Brenner holds two degrees from the Colorado School of Mines, according to Director of Communications Emilie Rusch. He received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 2018 and a master’s in quantitative biosciences and engineering last year. He has not been a student at the university since last summer.
The size of Patriot Front’s presence in Colorado isn’t clear. Leaked video of the group posted earlier this year by the progressive nonprofit Unicorn Riot shows eight members doing drill exercises in a public park. A leaked internal message also posted by Unicorn Riot shows a user named “Ben CO” telling someone in Connecticut that the state’s group has nine members as of Nov. 13, 2021.
‘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.”
Read more at the Idaho Capital Sun.
Newsline’s Sara Wilson contributed to this report.
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