Thirty-one members of a white supremacist group have been arrested near a pride event in the US after they were found packed into the back of a truck with riot gear.
The men, part of the Patriot Front group, were standing inside the hire truck wearing khakis, navy blue shirts and beige hats with white balaclavas covering their faces when Coeur d’Alene police in Idaho stopped the vehicle and began arresting them on the side of the road.
“They came to riot,” Coeur d’Alene police chief Lee White said at a news conference.
All 31 were charged with conspiracy to riot and are expected in court on Monday.
Mr White said that based on evidence collected and documents, authorities believe the group was planning to riot in several areas of the city centre.
Police found riot gear, one smoke grenade, shin guards and shields inside the van. The men wore arm patches and logos on their hats which identified them as members of Patriot Front, Mr White said.
Police learned about the truck from a tip-off, with the person reporting “it looked like a little army was loading up into the vehicle” in the car park of a hotel, Mr White said. Officials spotted the truck soon after and pulled it over.
Videos of the arrest posted on social media show the men kneeling on the grass with their hands cable-tied behind their backs.
“Reclaim America” was written on the back of one shirt.
Police led the men, one by one, to the front of patrol cars, took off their masks and then brought them to a police van.
Those arrested came from at least 11 states, including Washington, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Illinois, Wyoming, Virginia, and Arkansas, Mr White said.
Only one was from Idaho, he added.
The truck was stopped near where the North Idaho Pride Alliance was holding the Coeur d’Alene Pride in the Park event. Police had stepped up their presence in the area during the event.
“It appears these people did not come here to engage in peaceful events,” Kootenai County Sheriff Bob Norris told a Coeur d’Alene Press reporter.
Patriot Front is described by the Southern Poverty Law Centre as “a white nationalist hate group” that formed after the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
“Patriot Front focuses on theatrical rhetoric and activism that can be easily distributed as propaganda for its chapters across the country,” the centre said of the group.
The group’s manifesto calls for the formation of a white ethnostate in the United States, the Southern Poverty Law Centre said.