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If the Fascists Lose in North Idaho They Lose Everywhere

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A concerned citizen in Coeur D’Alene Idaho allegedly reported 31 Patriot Front members as they piled into a U-Haul dawning matching uniforms of white masks, blue shirts, and khakis, armed with smoke grenades and riot shields. Local police pulled over the U-Haul enroute to North Idaho Pride’s event in downtown Coeur D’Alene. 

A lot has been said about the incident as it went viral and made national headlines. There are laughs to be had to be sure, seeing the chuds damasked and mugshots posted for the entire internet to see. Making it clear that dozens of men had traveled, some thousands of miles, but almost all across state lines, in order to disrupt a pride event. The call came months ago from a biker group “Panhandle Patriots” associated with neofascit Idaho state House Rep Heather Scott. 

There’s something particularly sweet about identifying fascists as antifascists from around the Northwest watch on in person. But from the left’s perspective broadly, from the vantage point of the ongoing fight against neofascism, there are important takeaways from the Patriot Front arrests that are worth discussing. Namely if the fascists can lose in North Idaho they can lose anywhere. 

Since the 1990’s Idaho has been well known as a reactionary ground zero, home to Ruby Ridge and a well publicized Aryan Nation compound that made appearances in downtown Coeur D’Alene from time to time. A lot has been done to try to shed that image and an influx of out of state voters and visitors has changed the state since the 1990’s. But in many ways it is still ground zero for reactionary politics and there was an explicit attempt to continue that tradition by disrupting North Idaho Pride. 

In fact some of the Patriot Front members who were arrested had plans with them that likened the disruption of North Idaho Pride to the Unite the Right rally which infamously lead to the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville Virginia in 2017. The original flyer promoting the counter protest of pride stated “if they want war let it begin here.”  Patriot Front was not the only group present and other groups attempted to disrupt the event. One such group dawned a banner of significant size calling attendees groomers, though they were quickly chased out of the park and away from the event. 

Given the size of their group, and the shields, armor, and smoke grenades Patriot Front carried with them, it’s not clear their plan could have been foiled by North Idaho Pride attendees similar to how they chased out other disruptors. They clearly came to fight, armed with shields and plans to meet any such attempt to chase them out with retaliatory violence. The entire plan was one meant to terrorize LGBTQ people and their allies in North Idaho. It was an explicit attempt from the far right to lay claim to North Idaho as their own, a project that has been ongoing for decades. That plan however, did not come to fruition. 

Again a concerned citizen reported Patriot Front as they were loading into a U-Haul concerned with their attire and demeanor. Police intercepted the U-Haul less than a mile from the park where numerous pride events were being held. All 31 were arrested on conspiracy to riot. From a left perspective this is complicated, we can’t fall into a reactionary approval of police and policing just because in this one instance they cracked down on the right people and our political enemies. The dragnet that is policing and the people who get caught up in the criminal legal system still justify abolishing the police and reimagining community in a way that translates to real investment in real people. That said, both at the pride event where other fascists tried to crash and in reporting Patriot Front, the community stood strong and protected itself. Meeting these people in the streets and protecting marginalized people is what needs to happen and that’s exactly what many in Coeur D’Alene did. 

That sort of community presence is what is required to beat fascism anywhere, not just in North Idaho. These groups chose North Idaho Pride as a target for a reason, because they feel empowered in an extremely conservative community. But even a few people standing tall and meeting the harassment head on was enough to chase many would be disruptors out of the park and away from the event.

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