COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — Police stopped a U-haul in downtown Coeur d'Alene on Saturday afternoon and arrested 31 people who were found inside. Police said they believe the people arrested have ties to a white nationalist hate group, Patriot Front.
"They came to riot downtown," Coeur d'Alene Police Chief Lee White said at a news conference.
Police were alerted to the group when a concerned person called police around 1:38 p.m. That person reported seeing the group loading into a U-haul that was parked at the Springhill Suites. The group had masks and shields and police said the caller told them it "looked like a little army."
Police spotted the U-haul about 10 minutes later and stopped it on Northwest Boulevard near the skate park and Paul Bunyan, not far from the area where a Coeur d'Alene Pride event was taking place. Police had stepped up their presence in the area during the event.
Police and deputies surrounded the truck and when they opened it up they found dozens of men in the back, all wearing the same clothes, including khakis, with navy blue shirts, beige hats, and a white cloth covering their faces.
Based on evidence collected at the scene and documents police found in the U-haul, Chief White said that they believe the group was planning to riot in several areas of downtown Coeur d'Alene, not just the park.
"It appears they did not come here to engage in peaceful events," Kootenai County Sheriff Bob Norris told our partner the Coeur d'Alene Press.
Chief White said all 31 people were arrested on charges of conspiracy to riot. Those arrested came from at least 11 states, including:
- South Dakota
The men are being booked into the Kootenai County Jail. They are expected to appear in court on Monday.
Before it was towed away, the back of the U-haul was filled with evidence bags from police. Still visible were what appeared to be a homemade riot shield and some protective equipment. Police said they also found at least one smoke grenade.
Police said it will take several days for them to book all the evidence.