6 Utahns allegedly part of white supremacist group arrested at Idaho Pride event
Six Utahns were among the 31 members of a white supremacist group arrested at an Idaho Pride event over the weekend.
The Associated Press reported they were arrested on “conspiracy to riot” charges. They showed up near the event in a U-Haul van loaded with riot gear and a smoke grenade. Photos at the scene show them wearing khaki pants, white balaclavas and shirts that say “Reclaim America.”
Authorities said the men are part of a group called Patriot Front, a white nationalist hate group created in the aftermath of the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the group formed as a sort of rebranding effort to portray themselves as “mainstream, patriotic Americans” following the widespread public condemnation of the Charlottesville rally’s participants.
Their politics, however, are “staunchly white nationalist,” the center said.
Richard Medina, a geography professor who studies hate groups at the University of Utah, said it’s not clear how big the group’s presence is in Utah. Some estimates, he noted, put the group’s total size at around 300 members.
In general, Utah has seen less extremist activity than other Mountain West states, he said. That may be why members based here traveled to Idaho even though there were local pride events.
“They're leaving the state to do this someplace where they think they might be more effective,” he said. “I think there's a bigger audience for these kinds of anti-pride activities in Idaho.”
In 2019, Patriot Front was one of two hate groups that tried to recruit new members from the University of Utah and several other colleges in the region. They put up posters and pamphlets around campus with slogans like “Not Stolen, Conquered” — a reference to their claim that white Europeans ‘conquered’ America rather than stole it from indigenous people.
Medina said like other white supremacist groups, they’re trying to appeal to young, white men fearful of the changes they’re seeing across society. The country’s population is becoming less white and traditional notions of masculinity are being questioned.
“This isn't just a hate movement, it's kind of this masculine movement, too,” he said. “These groups are trying to capitalize on the loss that these young men are feeling. They want to go back to some America that they perceive was better, without really thinking about what type of America it was at the time.”
It has worked to a certain extent, he said, though membership still appears relatively small, particularly in Utah. The bigger question is how many people not explicitly affiliated with these groups sympathize with their message.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.