Historian lays out the far right’s violent game plan for 'overturning democracy'
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On Saturday, June 11, 31 members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front were arrested in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho for allegedly planning to attack a local gay pride event. Historian Thomas Lecaque, in an article published by the conservative website The Bulwark on May 13, stresses that this alleged plot shouldn’t be viewed as an isolated incident, but as one example of the far right’s campaign for “overturning democracy.”

“The arrest of dozens of members of extremist group Patriot Front over the weekend shines a light on the new agenda for the militant factions of the far right,” Lecaque explains. “Their energies are now being focused on another goal: prosecuting a renewed culture war against sexual minorities. Packed tightly into the back of a rented U-Haul truck with their flags and weapons, members of the accelerationist fascist group were en route to the Coeur d’Alene Pride rally when they were pulled over and arrested.”

The historian adds, “Police made the stop on the basis of a tip from local residents. Images of the men, kneeling and zip tied in a field next to their truck, spread quickly on social media.”

Lecaque, a professor at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, describes Patriot Front as part of the openly violent wing of the far right; other examples include the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.

“As has been the case at other times in history when political instability has drawn extremist groups into open street-fighting — a Proud Boys calling card — these groups represent the sharp end of the ax that the far right is driving into American society,” Lecaque warns. “On January 6, 2021, their goal was to overturn the results of the recent presidential election. In June 2022, however, their goals have shifted.”

Lecaque notes that Patriot Front was founded in 2017 by Thomas Rousseau, who is among the members charged with conspiracy to riot. Rousseau had been a member of Vanguard America, one of the white supremacist and white nationalist groups that was part of the infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that year. But after that event, where activist Heather Heyer was murdered, Rousseau left Vanguard America to start his own group.

“Patriot Front members believe themselves to be the ruling heirs to the continent by dint of their racial connection to its European colonizers and consider their racial identity essential to American identity more broadly,” Lecaque observes. “Of course, this is just the sort of blood genealogy nonsense one expects from Nazis…. What makes them significant, however, is their media savvy.”

Lecaque stresses that Patriot Front should be viewed as part of a broader far-right anti-democracy movement.

“Patriot Front is just one distinctive group of many,” Lecaque warns. “Other extremist groups gathered in Coeur d’Alene to watch and harass the pride march, including Three Percenters, Ammon’s Army, PDX Liberation, Proud Boys, and Atomwaffen. These groups have their own ideologies, own brands of violence, and many of them — Atomwaffen being an incredibly clear example — are much readier to engage in violence first, foremost, and often.”

Lecaque adds, “The Coeur d’Alene pride event was not the only target. Christian fascists in Dallas protested at an LGBTQ bar at the beginning of the month as part of a coordinated far-right assault on Pride Month. American Nationalist Initiative, a neo-fascist group, planned to link up with Proud Boys to flash mob outside of a Planned Parenthood in Plano, Texas this weekend, while other planned to harass a Pride Drag event in Arlington.”

The push for anti-gay violence, according to Lecaque, “goes beyond the White supremacists and militias” — and he cites far-right evangelical pastor Dillon Awes as an example. During a June 5 sermon, Awes called for murdering gays.

“Violent fantasies about murdering marginalized communities and overturning democracy are not new,” Lecaque writes. “We have seen them before.”