Five members of the neo-Nazi group Patriot Front have been sentenced to just a handful of days in jail for conspiring to riot at an LGBTQ+ Pride event in Idaho.
The men – Forrest Rankin, Devin Center, Derek Smith, James Michael Johnson and Robert Whitted – were found guilty by a Kootenai County jury on Thursday (20 July) after an hour of deliberation following a three-day trial.
Judge James Stow sentenced each of the men to five days in jail with credit for two days served and one year of unsupervised probation, the Coeur d’Alene Press reported.
The Patriot Front Members must also pay a $1,000 fine, minus their original $300 bail that they posted after their arrest. They have also been barred from being within two miles of the Coeur d’Alene City Park, where the Pride event was held on 11 June 2022.
The judge also placed the men on unsupervised probation for one year. If they successfully complete probation, they will be able to have the charges dismissed, according to the Associated Press.
The men were part of the 31 Patriot Front members arrested by authorities after they tried to disrupt North Idaho Pride Alliance’s Pride in the Park event in June last year. Patriot Front founder Thomas Rousseau was among the men arrested near the LGBTQ+ event.
Authorities said the arrests came after a “concerned citizen” saw people who “looked like a little army” jumping into a U-Haul van headed toward the area and called in the tip to police.
Police found riot gear, a smoke grenade, shin guards and shields in the van after pulling it over near where the LGBTQ+ Pride was being held. The group’s documents, shared with the New York Times, outlined how the men planned to form “columns” around the park, moving forward until “barriers to approach”.
Then, the group planned to continue inwards until an “appropriate amount of confrontational dynamic had been established”.
Patriot Front is among the far-right groups leading an anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-drag campaign across the US
The Southern Poverty Law Center described Patriot Front as an “image-obsessed organisation that rehabilitated the explicitly fascist agenda of Vanguard America with garish patriotism”.
The group’s politics are “staunchly white nationalist”, calling for the “formation of a white ethnostate”.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said Patriot Front “justifies its ideology of hate and intolerance under the guise of preserving the ethnic and cultural origins of its members’ European ancestors”.
“Patriot Front often targets its perceived enemies,” the ADL added. “This has included leaving flyers at a Black church, stickering an LGBTQ community centre and more recently vandalising statues and murals memorialising Black Americans killed by police or other tributes to Black Lives Matter or diversity in general.”
In 2020, Patriot Front stickers were used to deface a memorial in Orlando, Florida created for the victims of the 2016 Pulse nightclub mass shooting.
Several family-friendly drag events have been subjected to protests by Patriot Front. At one event in Ohio, Patriot Front members joined other far-right groups and neo-Nazis in a park to wave swastika flags, throw Nazi salutes and shout “there will be blood”.