Police in Idaho say they prevented a possible domestic terror attack over the weekend when 31 men were arrested Saturday allegedly on their way to wreak havoc at a Pride event in the city of Coeur d'Alene.
All had traveled from elsewhere, and police believe they're members of a white supremacist group with links to previous violent rallies. When they were found standing in the back of a U-Haul truck, authorities recovered gear including shields, shin guards and a smoke grenade.
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CBS News senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge reports the FBI is assisting local police in its investigation.
For now, each of the 31 people arrested faces a misdemeanor conspiracy to riot charge.
Coeur d'Alene Police Chief Lee White said, "They came to riot downtown."
A witness tipped off police after watching the group load into the back of a U-Haul truck at a hotel, and said they "looked like a little army."
White said they appear to be affiliated with the group Patriot Front. Groups that monitor extremist ideology, such as Southern Poverty Law Center, say Patriot Front promotes fascism and the creation of a white ethno-state.
It was founded in 2017, after breaking off from a neo-Nazi organization that participated in the Charlottesville, Virginia "Unite the Right" rally.
The man convicted on federal hate crime charges for driving his car into a crowd of protesters, killing one of them, was affiliated with that original group.
Cynthia Miller-Idriss, who tracks domestic extremism at the Polarization and Extremism Research & Innovation Lab (PERIL) at American University, told "CBS Mornings" that Patriot Front's members are overwhelmingly young, white men. "They are twisting and manipulating and misusing the idea of patriotism, by promoting a white supremacist version of patriotism," she said.
The people arrested Saturday ranged in age from 21 to 36 and were from a dozen different states. None was local to Coeur d'Alene.
Mug shots of the men arrested on conspiracy to riot charges, including the alleged leader of Patriot Front, Thomas Rousseau (bottom). KOOTENAI COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
Herridge asked, "What does the incident in Idaho tell us about the overall threat picture?"
"We're seeing this broadening out of the targets that people across the supremacist spectrum are choosing to intimidate or harass or harm," Miller-Idriss replied. "It is part of a broader range of anti-democratic and extremist types of events that are happening."
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In this case, the apparent target was that Pride event, which organizers say was the largest north Idaho has ever seen.
As for the defendants, police say they're scheduled to be arraigned later Monday. They include Patriot Front's alleged leader, Thomas Ryan Rousseau, of Grapevine, Texas. According to White, further charges "might be pending."
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