After dozens of neo-Nazis were arrested with riot gear near an Idaho Pride event this weekend, Chicago Police Superintendent. David Brown announced on Monday that officials had “enhanced” intelligence-gathering efforts ahead of planned festivities in the city, as he “warned those who might be planning something.”
Thirty-one members of the Patriot Front, a neo-Nazi group that rallied in Chicago, were arrested Saturday in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, after being found in a U-Haul truck containing riot gear , shields, shin guards and a smoke grenade. Among those arrested was Garret Joseph Garland, 23, of Freeburg, a small town in southwestern Illinois near St. Louis.
Brown said officers from a joint terrorism task force were working with the FBI and other federal agencies to gather intelligence and monitor people on watch lists ahead of the June 26 Pride parade, the main celebration of the LGBTQ+ community in the city.
“We want our officers to not only focus on the intelligence they’re hearing about what’s going on in Chicago, [but] all potential threats so that we can deal with them so that we can quickly deal with anyone who might harm anyone there,” he told reporters at a press conference.
Brown added that resources deployed for upcoming special events should be tied directly to any new information, which he said should not be “siloed” within this working group.
He said he had a message for anyone considering disrupting the parade: “We’re going to be vigilant to make sure this event, and others, go ahead safely,” he said. “And we will hold you accountable if you plan [and] if you do anything that compromises the safety of others.
Over the past two years, large groups of Patriot Front members have staged flash mobs and showed up at anti-abortion events in Chicago. More recently, dozens of members of the far-right group were heckled in January when they gathered at the March for Life in the Loop rally. As in Idaho, they showed up wearing the band’s uniform, which includes white face-masking balaclavas.
Patriot Front also recently broadcast propaganda in Tinley Park, Naperville and other parts of Illinois, according to the group’s Telegram channel. And in April, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that Garland was among four Patriot Front members who allegedly vandalized a mural of famous black Americans at Washington University in St. Louis.
He has been charged with criminal conspiracy in connection with the incident this weekend in Idaho, according to Kootenai County Jail records. He was no longer listed as an inmate on Monday.
David Goldenberg, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Midwest office, said the Patriot Front aims to “reclaim the United States as a white nation” and generally tries to “co-opt” conservative events. Still, the targeting of the Pride event in Idaho appears to be a first, said Goldenberg, who noted that those on the far right make baseless attempts to associate the LGBTQ+ community with pedophilia.
“This is fueling a recent spike in anti-Pride events and propaganda that we’ve seen,” he said. “It’s driven by hate, it’s driven by malice, it’s driven by misinformation and lies. It is therefore important to be aware of what is happening on the ground.
This playbook was on full display Saturday in San Lorenzo, Calif., where members of the neofascist Proud Boys reportedly shouted “tranny” and “pedophile” during a Drag Queen Story Hour at a library. No arrests have been made, but authorities are investigating the disturbance as a possible hate crime and harassment of children, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The Proud Boys, some of whom face serious criminal charges for their alleged roles in the Capitol Riot, have a growing contingent in and around Chicago. In November, members of the group joined an ultimately failed effort to ban “Gender Queer” – a graphic novel by a non-binary author – from the libraries of two Downers Grove high schools.
Goldenberg said recent events show the group seemingly increasing its anti-LGBTQ push.
“We need to be aware of that and law enforcement needs to understand that,” he said. “They need to watch it, they need to follow it, and frankly, anyone trying to do what happened in Idaho needs to be stopped, just like they were.”
Contributor: Associated Press