Following its highly publicized Dec. 4 march on the Lincoln Memorial, the white supremacist group Patriot Front held a national call with about 135 members on the conferencing platform Mumble.
The insular white supremacist group is known for its furtive nighttime stickering, postering and spray-painting campaigns and highly choreographed flash mob-style rallies, both of which are repackaged as heavily stylized social media propaganda campaigns with fascist aesthetics designed to appeal to alienated, young white men. Footage of banner drops is interspersed with members engaged in fight scenes, hiking and scaling mountains, meant to convey that they’re conquering their destiny.
As with their rallies, members are typically masked when they embark on nighttime propaganda raids that entail slapping stickers on light poles or in some cases more ambitious efforts involving wheat-pasting posters in public locations or painting over murals and then using stencils to spray-paint their logo on the whitewashed surface. Members have vandalized murals celebrating Black Lives Matter, and their targets have included a synagogue, LGBTQ pride center and Hmong cultural center.
The videos, which are compiled by a team of editors and distributed through the organization’s social media platforms, leave no doubt that members are fully aware that their activities are illegal. If anything, defiance of law enforcement is part of the appeal: A recent Patriot Front video posted on BitChute with the title “Patriot Front September-October 2021 Activism” opens with a snippet from a TV news story about the FBI asking for the public’s assistance in reporting hate crimes. The same video includes footage of members defacing a mural in Pennsylvania with a local news headline noting that authorities are offering a cash reward for tips leading to an arrest.
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Beyond the propaganda videos, comments by Patriot Front’s 21-year-old leader during the 51-minute meeting on Dec. 10 shed light on the degree of coordination and approval from the top leadership.
“So, when it comes to large-scale mural coverups, make sure you are always consulting a director for something like that, or you are consulting me,” Rousseau said during a brief Q&A near the end of the meeting. “Generally, as the activism becomes higher in risk and scale, the more you need to get consultation. Things like billboards, big murals and things like that, you’d want to be careful — you want to run it by me.”
Michael Edison Hayden, a senior investigative reporter and spokesperson at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the level of organization revealed in the audio recording raises questions about whether the group could face legal repercussions.
“Patriot Front is a hateful group of racists interested in getting a rise from regular people going about their day,” Hayden told Raw Story. “They have engaged in vandalism and distributing unwanted propaganda across the country. The audio appears to be a valuable resource for anyone seeking to tie the acts of individual group members to Patriot Front’s leadership. If it were not obvious by their performative shock rallies, this group is highly organized.”
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Distributing propaganda is a core activity for members of Patriot Front, and Rousseau made it clear during the conference call that no one is exempt.
“Every single one of us places promotional material,” he said. “If you do not, please let me know; I need to have a talk with you. You may do it on the weekends or the weekdays — or both. With or without locals. But you do it!”
Rousseau’s comments while appointing a new photo coordinator reveal that the top leadership exercises tight control over videos that are publicly distributed to share members’ propaganda efforts.
“It’s easy to think that we dump them in the channel, and they sprout like flowers on social media of their own volition,” he said. “But let’s not forget the long hours of editing, formatting, classifying and sorting that goes into this gargantuan task. Nor are those who coordinate these efforts beyond our gratitude. I hereby appoint Jesse-Colorado to the role of photo coordinator. I will work closely with him to ensure our editors are productive and creative.”
Patriot Front’s propaganda videos chronicle roughly a dozen incidents that appear to depict members committing vandalism across the country since the beginning of the year by defacing murals, mainly art that memorializes George Floyd and other Blackpeople killed by law enforcement, but also murals celebrating the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Black tennis star Arthur Ashe and the LGBTQ pride flag. In one incident that took place in September, Patriot Front members filmed themselves spilling white paint from the back of a pickup truck over a “Black Lives Matter” mural painted on a public street in Ypsilanti, Mich.
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One video shows a Patriot Front member defacing a mural entitled “Say Their Names” that includes the names Breonna Taylor, Philando Castille and Breonna Taylor that was painted on the outside wall of a furniture store in downtown Norfolk, Va.
“[They] made a point to erase the victims, who are African American, and wipe their names out, and wipe out the Black man’s head and hands to make sure there was no indication of his race,” artist Will Payne told 13 News.
A spokesperson for the Downtown Norfolk Council described the vandalism as a hate crime.
In one incident in October that was not included in Patriot Front’s most recent propaganda video, members reportedly painted over a mural featuring antiracist poetry on the storefront of the Hmong Cultural Center Museum in St. Paul, Minn. and painted the slogan “life, liberty, victory.” Similarly, the propaganda videos do not include an incident in June in which someone covered a newly unveiled George Floyd statue in Brooklyn with black spray paint and marked it with a Patriot Front stencil.
Patriot Front has also reportedly vandalized a synagogue and an LGBTQ center in Burlington, Vt. by placing their posters on the facilities during a spate of propaganda activity in early 2019. In a news release, the Burlington Police Department described the posters as “bias-motivated vandalism.”
Patriot Front could not be reached for this story.
Rousseau has exercised tight control over Patriot Front founding the organization in late 2017 as an offshoot of Vanguard America, which collapsed as a result of the public-relations fiasco when James Alex Fields Jr. rallied alongside the group at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. and then sped his Dodge Challenger into a group of antiracist marchers, killing Heather Heyer. Founder Dillon Hopper testified during a civil trial last month that Rousseau led Vanguard America members on the ground at Unite the Right, and that Rousseau told him he handed Fields a shield because he wanted to make the group “look like a larger organization.”
Following Unite the Right, the newly established Patriot Front took a more controlled approach than its predecessor by holding flash-mob style rallies to minimize the likelihood of confrontations with antifascist counter-protesters. Despite cultivating an image based on traditional American symbols and phrases, Patriot Front is overtly fascist and open about its aim of creating a white ethno-state. “Membership within the American nation is inherited through blood, not ink,” the group’s manifesto reads. “Even those born in America may yet be foreign. Nationhood cannot be bestowed upon those who are not of the founding stock of our people, and those who do not share the common spirit that permeates our great civilization, and the European diaspora.”
Rousseau’s autocratic manner is on display almost immediately in the audio recording of the Dec. 10 meeting, which was leaked by the anonymous group Atlanta Antifascists. The meeting opened with Rousseau overruling a suggestion by a subordinate to automatically mute the participants, because he wanted them to applaud when he announced appointments.
“Everybody will be just fine to use mic discipline,” Rousseau said. “I believe in them. Everybody, at this point I would like you to remain absolutely silent verbally, unless you are directly called upon to speak. If you heard and understood that, say nothing.”
The appointments announced by Rousseau during the conference call include two new “directors,” each responsible for leading regional “networks” with assistance from a “quartermaster” and “scribe.” Rousseau addressed members by their first names and state, appointing “James” to lead Network 2 in Texas, and “Christopher” to lead Network 6, covering Alabama and Florida.
Rousseau disclosed during the Dec. 10 national conference call that their new members are required to undergo two levels of vetting, an online interview and an in-person interview, with probationary members designated as “intermediates.” Rousseau acknowledged that in its efforts to grow, the organization has “a tough balance to strike” between recruitment and security.”
The directors, whom Rousseau said should be consulted about “large-scale mural coverups” and other higher-risk propaganda stunts, are also responsible for managing the vetting of new prospects, Rousseau explained.
“If you are vetting people, and you are not in a network, please make sure you can contact your nearest director and see if they would be able to help you,” Rousseau instructed members during the Dec. 10 call. “Not only help you digitally and online in terms of mentorship and counsel, but also maybe even make the trip over — maybe it aligns.”
The recent march in Washington DC yielded a recruitment bonanza, Rousseau suggested.
“Because there’s going to be a lot of new guys and we need to get them all handled — get them all processed timely and safely,” he said.