Via Dazed Digital
Last Saturday (June 11), dozens of white supremacists were detained and charged with conspiracy to riot in Idaho. According to the police, the group was planning to disrupt a Pride event being held nearby in Coeur d’Alene City Park.
After being tipped off by a concerned citizen, the police arrested 31 members of the far-right group Patriot Front. Described by a local sheriff as being “dressed like a small army”, the group was travelling with shields, shin guards and smoke grenades. The members arrested hailed from a number of states including Texas, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Illinois, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon and Virginia, while at least one member lived in Idaho. The leader of the group was found to have a seven-page document which outlined an operational plan in extensive detail. Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about Patriot Front and the wider context of escalating queerphobic hostility in which this event took place.
WHO ARE THE PATRIOT FRONT?
Patriot Front are a far-right, antisemitic and white supremacist group that was formed following the infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, 2017 (you’ll have seen the pictures of angry men screaming while clutching Tikki torches.) According to the Anti-Defamation League, an NGO which tracks extremism, they’re a breakaway group from a different organisation, Vanguard America, and the split took place following Charlottesville.
Shortly after forming, the group posted a manifesto to their website calling for “American Fascism”, in the form of a “return to the traditions and virtues of our forefathers.” According to the manifesto, people who aren’t white cannot be considered American. In terms of their aesthetics, there is a heavy focus on American symbols.
WHAT DO THEY DO?
Patriot Front mostly spread their propaganda through the internet, and by distributing banners, fliers, posters, and stickers. They have left fliers at a Black church, stickered an LGBTQ+ community centre and more recently vandalized memorials for George Floyd and other anti-racism murals across the US.
They’re also known for organising “flash demonstrations” across the US, in which members wear masks and occasionally use smoke bombs, signal flares and torches, in the hope of creating viral videos. During these actions, members regularly chant “blood and soil”, a fascist slogan associated with Nazi Germany.
HOW SIGNIFICANT ARE THEY?
According to the ADL, they’re responsible for a staggering 80 percent of white supremacist propaganda in the US, meaning their reach shouldn’t be underestimated. But at the same time, leaked internal emails reveal that the group is concerned over its low membership numbers. The founder wrote, “We are absolutely desperate for new people. We’ve been in the 220s to 230s membership rut for nearly a full year,” and the emails suggested the group has inflated its influence by using fake social media accounts.
HOW DOES THIS TIE INTO WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING IN THE US?
This event comes amid a growing climate of hostility towards LGBTQ+ people in the US, from Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill’ to the rise of ‘groomer’ being used en-masse as a queerphobic slur. This atmosphere threatens to spill out into real-world violence: last month, two right-wing extremists filmed themselves threatening to hunt down “LGBT supporters” in Arizona, while attendees of a Pride event in Dallas last Saturday were harassed by a crowd of self-described “Christian fascists.” This is part of a wider moral panic about family-friendly drag shows which has already inspired the creation of a new far-right group and a Republican politician in Texas pledging to introduce “a bill to ban drag shows in the presence of minors.” The most troubling thing of all, in fact, is that while groups like Patriot Front and the anti-drag fascists might still be fringe, many of their concerns are shared by mainstream politicians and find a welcoming home on media outlets like Fox News. For LGBTQ+ people in the US, it’s an increasingly dark and ugly time.